Hello Faithful Readers, and welcome to another month’s gentle lecturing at Gothic Charm School. This month the topic is one that the Lady of the Manners really didn’t think she’d need to hold forth on, but conversations in her little corner of the “scene” have (once again) proven her wrong.
Flirting and dating.
Now admittedly, those two things can cause a lot of angst, tortured internal monologues, and long phone calls or emails to close friends. That’s fine. However, all of that should NOT be prompted by glaring lapses in common courtesy or manners by one or both parties. The Lady of the Manners was shocked, shocked she tells you, by some of the tales of woe related to her recently by friends. With that in mind, the Lady of the Manners offers to you, her Faithful Readers, a handy list of rules for flirting and dating. The Lady of the Manners wouldn’t go so far as to suggest you print it out and carry it with you at all times, but perhaps multiple readings would be helpful.
1. What one person considers harmless flirting can possibly be construed by others as a certain signifier of “I find you very attractive and would like to get to ‘know you better’ in private.” Sitting on people’s laps, excessive touching, or kissing is generally considered not flirtatious, but direct. If you indulge in this sort of behavior and then claim that you “didn’t mean anything,” or even worse, are confused as to what sort of level of companionship someone expects from you, don’t be surprised if someone gets upset.
2. Be honest about your motives, if only to yourself. Have you recently ended another relationship, and are merely looking for distraction and reassurance that others find you fascinating and attractive? There’s nothing wrong with that, but be very sure of the signals you’re sending out to avoid confusion.
3. Flirting with the goal of making your current or ex-romantic entanglement jealous is Not Nice. It’s petty, it’s unfair to innocent bystanders, and (if it’s repeated behavior you indulge in) a sure way to get unkind gossip spread about yourself.
4. Do not interfere with others’ flirting. If you think that one of the people flirting needs to be informed about the other’s past behavior or preferences, stop and think seriously about whether you should be the person to deliver that information. Even if you ARE, don’t interrupt what is going on to do so, and be very tactful as to how you approach the topic.
5. If someone isn’t responding to your flirting, leave them alone. Some people aren’t comfortable with flirtatious behavior, some people may not want to flirt with you. If you’re trying to get their attention to ask them out, then just take the direct route and ask them. Yes, that requires some courage on your part, but is a better option than repeatedly making “subtle” overtures at someone who really isn’t interested.
1. When the word “date” is applied to a social outing between 2 people, it means that at least one (and hopefully both) of you is thinking in terms of a possible romance. If you agree to go out on a date (especially after flirting with someone, see #1 in the Flirting section above), do not be astonished if the other person considers the outing to be a stepping stone towards a relationship with you. If that is not what you meant when you accepted the “date,” then make things clear by using one of the standard “This was fun, you’re a great friend to go do things with” phrases. While no one likes getting the “I think of you as a friend” speech, it’s still better than finding out after a few dates that what one person thought was a budding romance was viewed as merely friendly companionship by the other.
2. If you have to miss an agreed-upon date, contact the other person AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. The only acceptable reason to stand someone up is a serious emergency, and you should let them know what happened within 24 hours (unless you or someone very close to you is hospitalised). Suddenly having a change of heart, going out with someone else, or just forgetting … none of these are acceptable reasons. No, not even feeling uncomfortable about telling the person you were supposed to meet that you didn’t feel like it is acceptable, because you SHOULD feel uncomfortable at that point. If you didn’t want to go out on the date, you shouldn’t have accepted the invitation. If you didn’t consider the invitation to be a “Date,” then you should have made that clear. Standing someone up for those (or similar) reasons is inexcusable.
3. Do not accept dates merely to make former loves jealous, or to distract yourself from current heartbreak. (See #s 2 and 3 in the above Flirting section.)
Honestly, none of this is very difficult. In fact, it all boils down to that wonderful age-old standard which is VERY helpful: how would you feel if someone did this to you? The Lady of the Manners is frequently surprised by how many people don.t think of their actions in that light, because it’s so simple. Of course, people have to be honest about their own behaviour AND think about how it might impact others, which is often tricky. Most people (whether they’ll admit it or not) lean towards self-absorption, so thinking about how their actions will make others feel is a bit of a leap. There’s also the sticky problem that no one likes to be the “bad guy” … if you don’t think about someone else’s reactions, then you won’t have to suffer the stomach-churning feeling that you have done something wrong or unkind.
The other important thing is to be completely honest with yourself about your motives. Are you interacting with people to boost your self-image, to distract yourself from an unpleasant situation, or just because you’re bored? That’s fine, but be aware of that, and try to remember that others may be reading different motives into your behaviour.
For those being flirted with, they must remember that flirting does NOT equal romantic potential. It’s perfectly fine (and pleasant) to flirt back, but always ask before assuming that it means something more than just a friendly social diversion.
The Lady of the Manners hopes all of that was clear and helpful. While she has been known to give specific romantic advice pertaining to individual situations, she’s trying to cut back and only meddle in the love lives of close friends; that means that while you can email her with your angst and confusion because you just don’t know if gothy person X is interested, you might not get quite the direct answers you were hoping for.
However, do send email with questions to email@example.com. The comment-y things on the current columns are very nice to read, but the Lady of the Manners still likes getting personal correspondence too.