Feeling free to flirt.

8 Oct

It has been my experience in the church that flirting is implicitly frowned upon.  Growing up, I never heard a youth group sermon denouncing flirting, but in advice columns and articles written to youth and singles, flirting is usually cast in a negative light.  Although flirting at its purest is a natural way for two people to express chemistry and attraction, it often leads to confusion, manipulation, and drama.  Women naturally interpret a man’s playful attention as romantic interest, and when that doesn’t result in a date, hearts get broken.  Men likewise can get their hopes up when a girl flirts back at their overtures, then crushed when the girl says she just wants to be friends.  Not surprisingly, the church would rather have its young people avoid all of the emotional turmoil, and so we end up with exhortations to “man up” and “take the lead” (for men) and “be available” (for women).

This advice sounds solid, if a bit staid (I always imagine an unsmiling man somberly informing a woman, pre-selected for her pristine Christian character, that he would like to court her for the possibility of marriage, and the woman gravely agreeing.  Then they both wanly smile off in the distance, content in following God’s Will For Their Lives).  It’s a complete picture, just one stripped of color.  But how does this work in practice?

Consider the following scenario:  Regular guy Mario attends a hip, modern church called The Pillar.  (It used to be called Sandals until someone realized that that was the same name as a Caribbean vacation company.)  Mario starts noticing that an attractive young woman attends the same Sunday school group.  Mario finds out, through strategic eavesdropping, that the young woman is named Peach.  After a few weeks of observation and finding Peach to pass muster, Mario begins talking to Peach on Sundays.  Peach is friendly but doesn’t give any obvious IOIs.  Mario wants to date Peach.  What should he do?  If he shows “initiative and leadership,” he could be LJBFed.  If he waits around for clear IOIs, he will be accused of lacking initiative and leadership.  Mario decides that LJBFing is a fate worse than death, so he doesn’t ask Peach out.  Peach, meanwhile, has her own conundrum.  She likes Mario, but she wants to avoid a reputation for being a flirt, so she doesn’t overtly encourage his attentions.  She also thinks that Mario might just be friendly, and flirting with someone who is not interested back would be embarrassing.  She decides to wait for a more clear-cut signal.  Mario and Peach continue in their holding pattern, at least until bad-boy Wario shows up, flirts up a storm with Peach, swoops her away, and leaves Mario grumbling that Wario is stupid and ugly and Peach is a jerk-lover like every other girl.

But what if Peach had flirted with Mario, only to turn him down when he asked her out?  Why would Peach send such mixed signals?  Well, it’s possible that Peach saw Mario as someone “safe” who would never ask her out.  I don’t know what it is about the feminine psyche, but a lot of times it’s much easier to flirt with someone you have little interest in romantically than to flirt with someone you have a crush on.  Maybe it’s because you usually feel more self-conscious around a crush, and you also don’t want it to be too easy for the crush to get you, because otherwise, how do you know if he’s actually interested in you?  Plus, again, women don’t like feeling like they are chasing the guy, and Approaching + Flirting = Chasing.

So what is the answer?  I don’t know.  I think it’s wrong to deliberately dangle the carrot in front of someone you have no intention of feeding it to, but at the same time I don’t think it’s a good idea to be so unreadable that no one figure out what you’re thinking.  Alas, there is no foolproof way to avoid bumps and bruises on the road to love.

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30 Responses to “Feeling free to flirt.”

  1. Joseph Dantes October 8, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    Your little game scenario isn’t a prisoner’s dilemma. Mario has a dominant option: behave like Wario in matters of seduction.

    For a mobile young man such as the Mario you describe, who just joined a church, social embarrassment is outweighed by obtaining a desirable mate.

    And he can always practice off-site if he wants to improve his odds of success.

    The moral of the story is, if Princess Toadstool gives you a mushroom, jump her.

  2. AM October 8, 2010 at 3:55 pm #

    modern churches are just the worst environment for men

    encourages the beta in us all to take over

  3. Thursday October 8, 2010 at 4:36 pm #

    IOIs from church girls are usually much subtler than from girls out in the world. Some church girls are so shy that they are literally paralyzed when a very attractive man talks to them. It’s like their system is overwhelmed.

    I’ve never heard of flirting being even mildly denounced in church circles. But then, I have never read Boundless or other Christian dating advice, other than a couple quick browses through I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Passion and Purity.

  4. Aunt Haley October 8, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    I don’t think shyness is just a church girl thing. Most women would be at a loss for words if an exceptionally handsome man singled them out and started flirting with them. That sort of thing just doesn’t happen, ever, for most women.

  5. Hermes October 8, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    At Boundless, the most grievous sin in the world is defrauding a woman. What is defrauding? Matt Schmucker, a church-alpha who probably had no trouble getting snapped up as soon as he wished, defined it for us in his groundbreaking article “Physical Intimacy and the Single Man”:

    Simply put, a man defrauds a woman when, by his words or actions, he promises the benefits of marriage to a woman he either has no intention of marrying or if he does, has no way of finally knowing that he will.

    Schmucker goes on to argue that among the “benefits of marriage” is any physical touch whatsoever, and therefore it is wrong to even hold hands before marriage. (Ultimately, the logic Schmucker employs would mean that it’s wrong for couples to date at all, because it’s wrong for unmarried people to date someone other than their spouse.)

  6. Hermes October 8, 2010 at 6:25 pm #

    I meant it’s wrong for married people to date someone other than their spouse -> it’s wrong for unmarried people to date, by Schmucker’s logic.

  7. Aunt Haley October 8, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

    Refresh my memory: has Boundless ever gone after women for defrauding men? It seems to me that in Boundlessland, it’s always those video game-playing, marriage-delaying manchildren who are doing all the defrauding.

  8. Keoni Galt October 8, 2010 at 7:12 pm #

    Mario wants to date Peach. What should he do? If he shows “initiative and leadership,” he could be LJBFed.

    No guts, no glory. Mario needs to assert himself and find out…not be afraid of potential rejection. In fact, by letting his fears keep him from taking the lead, he got LJBFed anyways.

    That’s what he gets for being a nice guy.

    lol

  9. Hermes October 8, 2010 at 7:48 pm #

    Admittedly I’m going by memory, but I think that while they occasionally pay lip service to the idea that women shouldn’t, for example, lead men on, they don’t preach such things nearly as often nor as forcefully, and even when they do, their argument always comes back around in the end to the idea that ultimately everything is men’s responsibility and men’s fault anyway. Just as the left argues that nonwhites can’t be racist because in order for racism to be meaningful you have to be able to oppress people and downtrodden minorities can’t be oppressors, the Boundless people think that women can’t really hurt men because men are the leaders.

    For example, consider this passage from the same Matt Schmucker article:

    We do not want a brother standing at the altar on his wedding day looking at his beautiful bride only to imagine behind her the boys and men who took advantage of her and robbed her of the trust and confidence that she now needs for her husband. We do not want a sister standing at the altar on her wedding day looking at her handsome groom only to imagine behind him a string of relationships with girls and women he failed to honor, and knowing that images in his head from pornography use and past flings may stick with him for a long time.

    On the surface, he at first seems to suggest that both men and women can be at fault. But look closely at his words. If the man has a history of improper relationships, it’s because he failed to honor those women. So far, so good. But if it’s the woman with the checkered past, then the problem is that “boys and men took advantage of her and robbed her.” She didn’t do anything wrong. In both cases, it’s men who actively committed the sin, and women were passive victims.

    Also, Boundless espouses the “headship” view of pastor Douglas Wilson. This view states that the husband, rather than needing to become the head of the wife, needing to claim that role somehow, simply is the head whether he, she, or anyone else knows it or likes it. They approvingly quoted him saying:

    When a couple comes for marriage counseling, my operating assumption is always that the man is completely responsible for the all the problems.

    Wilson goes on to clarify that what he means is that while women can be at fault, men are always responsible, much as the captain of a ship is responsible when a sailor screws up and steers the ship off course. So presumably Wilson would say, if your wife cheats on you, it ultimately comes back to your abdication of responsibility; i.e., she wouldn’t have done it if you had kept her in line/run tight enough game/whatever.

  10. Hermes October 8, 2010 at 7:49 pm #

    Oops, I meant to attribute that Douglas Wilson quote. It’s here:

    http://www.boundlessline.org/2008/03/headship-on-los.html

  11. JG October 8, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Mario needs to pursue and not make her yes or no reaction into anything more than it need or should be. Namely, it’s not the end if she doesn’t feel the same way about him.

    And if she doesn’t return his interest, he will hopefully realize that there are women who will give him a chance. And get out of that church and actively pursue such women instead of limiting his choices.

    If Mario is turned down and is really hurt because she doesn’t return his interest, his problems lie far deeper than being turned down by a girl.

  12. Augustine DeCarthage October 8, 2010 at 8:49 pm #

    Yeah, flirting should be a no-brainer.

  13. Will S. October 8, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    We need to shame Doug Wilson and evangelicals who seem to think women are children, not morally responsible for their decisions; ask them if they think the vote should be denied to women, ditto the right to own property, the right to full personhood under the law. Because that is the logical extrapolation of their arguments, whether or not they realize it.

    Sheesh! I knew Boundless and various evangelicals were like this, but I didn’t realize Wilson shared their mindset. Yet another reason for me to dislike that personal empire builder.

  14. Thursday October 9, 2010 at 7:10 am #

    I was speaking from recent personal experience, and I don’t think that I’m an exceptionally handsome man, though I am in shape and probably at least a 7 in facial features.

  15. Thursday October 9, 2010 at 7:17 am #

    They’ll stand stock still, hands at their side, barely able to get a few words out, and they won’t start performing any grooming actions like stroking their hair or fixing their clothes, but something happens in their eyes.

  16. Cane Caldo October 9, 2010 at 7:35 am #

    “We need to shame Doug Wilson and evangelicals who seem to think women are children, not morally responsible for their decisions”

    Not children, but not men either. Women are more human than human. And they are morally responsible; it’s just that they have guardians too.

    “ask them if they think the vote should be denied to women”

    Yes, a free society isn’t formed by strict, complete, democracy. In fact, it’s ruined many.

    “ditto the right to own property”

    Sure, they can own property.

    “the right to full personhood under the law”

    I reject that personhood can be established by law. Illegal aliens should not vote, nor own land. They are still people. Further, equality is not justice. God is a person, but despite the song, He is not one of us.

    “Because that is the logical extrapolation of their arguments, whether or not they realize it.”

    Oh, we do. Shaming us won’t do any good: the views of society are already vastly in your favor. We are the radicals, and we’re very aware.

    For the record, and more towards the topic: modern dating is a setup for failure. It’s theoretically possible to date chastely, but no one does it without getting bombarded with the command to “Test drive her/him, you idiot!”, even by self-described Christians. The best advice I’ve heard is to do nothing physical with a woman you wouldn’t do to your grandmother. Holding hands? Good. Kissing on the lips? Fine. Tongue? Geez, I hope not. The same goes with flirting. You can flirt, and show interest in the person without it being sexual…unless you’re a Freudian. I flirt with my daughters all the time. They love it, and me.

    I still have never heard of two physically inexperienced people, who both were attracted to each other, being disappointed with sex when it happened. Comparative knowledge is the killer.

  17. Will S. October 9, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    Cane Caldo: my point was not to make a statement about any of these things, but to embarrass them. It might be too subtle for them to get, though.

  18. Aunt Haley October 9, 2010 at 5:43 pm #

    A lot of church women, especially if they are young, don’t have much experience being approached by men. It catches them off-guard, and since no one has ever taught them how to interact with men, they end up paralyzed from brain overload.

  19. Aunt Haley October 9, 2010 at 5:47 pm #

    You’d think it would be a no-brainer, but it’s often not.

  20. tannen October 10, 2010 at 9:18 pm #

    >>”So presumably Wilson would say, if your wife cheats on you, it ultimately comes back to your abdication of responsibility; i.e., she wouldn’t have done it if you had kept her in line/run tight enough game/whatever.”<>”We do not want a brother standing at the altar on his wedding day looking at his beautiful bride, blah blah blah…..”<<

    Geez, that's real life for many people, Matt. Maybe it doesn't exist in some utopian boundlessland, where everyone is without sin. What does Matt advise non-virgins to do? Not marry? Good grief!

    Very good post; reminds me of several situations I've seen or been part of. Sometimes there's a crushing burden of guilt laid on the man, for "defrauding" or being unsuccesful. If he was turned down it's because he "wasn't in line with the spirit" or something similar. If he was in tune with God's will, he would have been successful. As you said AH, Boundless has a one sided approach to dating "fraud". No wonder people are confused. It's very dangerous to mislead people as they do.

    If you ever talk to church seniors about how they met their spouses, they just went ahead and asked; it he/she said yes, great! Marriage probably followed, if no, the parties moved on either easily or not so easily. But there was none of this guilt based agonising. Just some normal approach anxiety. God still loved both people, and they trusted him to work things out.

  21. tannen October 10, 2010 at 9:21 pm #

    Somehow half my comment above was eaten, it should read as follows:

    >>”So presumably Wilson would say, if your wife cheats on you, it ultimately comes back to your abdication of responsibility; i.e., she wouldn’t have done it if you had kept her in line/run tight enough game/whatever.”<>”We do not want a brother standing at the altar on his wedding day looking at his beautiful bride, blah blah blah…..”<<

    Geez, that's real life for many people, Matt. Maybe it doesn't exist in some utopian boundlessland, where everyone is without sin. What does Matt advise non-virgins to do? Not marry? Good grief!

    Very good post; reminds me of several situations I've seen or been part of. Sometimes there's a crushing burden of guilt laid on the man, for "defrauding" or being unsuccesful. If he was turned down it's because he "wasn't in line with the spirit" or something similar. If he was in tune with God's will, he would have been successful. As you said AH, Boundless has a one sided approach to dating "fraud". No wonder people are confused. It's very dangerous to mislead people as they do.

    If you ever talk to church seniors about how they met their spouses, they just went ahead and asked; it he/she said yes, great! Marriage probably followed, if no, the parties moved on either easily or not so easily. But there was none of this guilt based agonising. Just some normal approach anxiety. God still loved both people, and they trusted him to work things out.

  22. tannen October 10, 2010 at 9:23 pm #

    Hmm, the first part of the comment is eaten again. I’ll try breaking the whole thing in two, please edit as needed

    >>”So presumably Wilson would say, if your wife cheats on you, it ultimately comes back to your abdication of responsibility; i.e., she wouldn’t have done it if you had kept her in line/run tight enough game/whatever.”<<

    I read the same meaning into this too. I think it's a slippery slope into one-sided shaming and blaming of the husband.

    I just read the boundless post. Wilson's concept may be clear in his own mind but judging by the comments, there has to be an awful lot of semantic gymnastics to fine tune the definition juuuust right.

    Misinterpretation of this will lead to legalistic browbeating of the husband into trying to fix an unfixable (by him alone) problem, while absolving the wife of any guilt whatsoever.

  23. tannen October 10, 2010 at 9:25 pm #

    Good, that worked. Now the second half.

    >>”We do not want a brother standing at the altar on his wedding day looking at his beautiful bride, blah blah blah…..”<<

    Geez, that's real life for many people, Matt. Maybe it doesn't exist in some utopian boundlessland, where everyone is without sin. What does Matt advise non-virgins to do? Not marry? Good grief!

    Very good post; reminds me of several situations I've seen or been part of. Sometimes there's a crushing burden of guilt laid on the man, for "defrauding" or being unsuccesful. If he was turned down it's because he "wasn't in line with the spirit" or something similar. If he was in tune with God's will, he would have been successful. As you said AH, Boundless has a one sided approach to dating "fraud". No wonder people are confused. It's very dangerous to mislead people as they do.

    If you ever talk to church seniors about how they met their spouses, they just went ahead and asked; it he/she said yes, great! Marriage probably followed, if no, the parties moved on either easily or not so easily. But there was none of this guilt based agonising. Just some normal approach anxiety. God still loved both people, and they trusted him to work things out.

  24. LadyElaine October 11, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    I think Tannen’s right. I think what’s really happening is that within Christian churches regarding this discussion, we’re not being honest and being real about this. The people who should be forthcoming and honest (i.e. longtime, happily (really) married couples in church and leadership); and the ones who really don’t know much are simply talking because everyone else is remaining silent, for fear of offense.

    But here’s the problem: The Church is full of redeemed screwups and people with not so perfect lives, but have seen what happens when a person actually does the brave thing and admits that life isn’t so perfect, or that it was not easy peezy to meet their spouse and get married(and be happy even after that).

    Here’s a big lesson that many churches are not teaching: Adultery involves two people, and those two people are responsible for having an affair. Blaming the other party for YOUR decision to have an affair is very much a throwback to Adam’s decision to blame his decision to eat the fruit on Eve to God.(And we all know how that excuse played out). There are issues in relationships that make the temptation of an affair stronger, but ultimately BOTH parties in a marriage are responsible TO GOD for their actions.

  25. Cane Caldo October 11, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

    “But here’s the problem: The Church is full of redeemed screwups and people with not so perfect lives, but have seen what happens when a person actually does the brave thing and admits that life isn’t so perfect, or that it was not easy peezy to meet their spouse and get married(and be happy even after that).”

    That is not my experience at all. The church is full of Adams who do not fight off the serpent; do not tell Eve to put the fruit down; then they eat it themselves, and go on Game blogs to gripe about how women are ruining everything.

    You may not like it, but the fact is, according to Biblical tenets, woman are given to the men. Given, as in owned. Only a perverse society would say you are not responsible for what you own.

  26. anonymous October 20, 2010 at 9:23 am #

    Granted, I haven’t been to church since I was a teenager, but “no flirting” was preached and preached heavily at every church, church function and camp I ever attended. It was always the same, “No flirting, kissing or cuddling. All of these people are your brothers and sisters in Christ and flirting with your brother is just gross”. It always struck me as odd that these admonishments always came from a married speaker. So, by his logic, he’s married to his sister and that’s gross. :-)

  27. Will S. October 20, 2010 at 4:54 pm #

    A glaring contradiction, indeed!

    Gosh, they’re all so clueless. Incredible! Too bad no-one ever calls them on it, when they say crap like that.

  28. Hermes October 21, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    Some do. I have posted comments on Boundless highlighting such logical absurdities. It’s just that the authors never respond.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Feeling free to flirt. « Haley's Halo -- Topsy.com - October 9, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Angela L Grandstaff, Joseph Dantes. Joseph Dantes said: Feeling free to flirt. http://bit.ly/8ZmMJQ […]

  2. Word Around the Campfire – the Still Swamped edition « Hidden Leaves - October 9, 2010

    […] Aunt Haley:Hypergamy and the stigma of being the back-up plan.,Beauty is not insurance against infidelity.,Like paper near a flame., and Feeling free to flirt. […]

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