There is so much serious stuff going on in our world. So painfully much.

You probably know the global stories far better than I, since I haven’t watched TV or listened to the radio for over 20 years.

The political issues here in the USofA are being described to me daily, and most eloquently, in emails from thoughtful friends and in blog posts they’ve forwarded to me.

In my own professional work over the last few months I’ve been deeply involved in biomedical ethics right where it’s happening in the real lives of real people right now.

But this month I’ve decided to write about none of those things, important though they are.

Instead I want to write about one of my favorite sports.

And that would be FLIRTING.

Almost everyone does it, from a precocious toddler first learning that “cute” will get him a long way towards getting what he wants, to women like me, a sometimes-mischievous 70+-year-old who is grateful that the “rules” of flirting are much more relaxed for people of a certain age, and I can play the game with more abandon and less angst than I could 20 or 30 years ago.

In fact, in “Flirting According to Cynthia,” there are only a few rules:

1) This is not a sexual game. The underlying message of my sport of flirting is not “I want to have sex with you” but “while the thought of sex may have crossed my mind for a moment, I’m much more interested in just playing this game.”

2) The best flirting is a playful way of saying, “I see you. I see the real you, inside your human shell. And you are beautiful and lovable exactly as you are. I don’t want you to change anything. I just want to add some extra spice and joy into our day.”

3) The game of flirting is conducted right on the giddy edge separating playfulness and seriousness – that’s half the fun, and most of the skill. A good flirter plays close to that edge, without losing balance. But stay alert for signs of offense or discomfort (in yourself or in the other player), and always be prepared to quite the game immediately.

4) The best games are short and sweet and seldom – coquettish. Longer or more frequent games get boring, like playing croquet eight hours a day. (Don’t get the two words mixed up!)

5) Have fun.

I’ve noticed that even pets flirt. Look at the appealing way that Fido tilts his head at you. Or the sultry way that Fluffy opens her eyes half-way and lets you see just a hint of the smoldering embers inside. Or the pattern of bubbles Nemo sends up whenever you pass his aquarium. Yup, that’s flirting. That’s saying “I’m glad you’re here, because seeing you makes me happy.”

I’m an equal-opportunity flirter. I flirt with men, women, infants, nursing home patients. Nurses of both genders. Doctors sometimes. I flirt with people from all walks of life. Millionaires and homeless people. If they’re willing to play the game, so am I.

Waiters and waitresses, baristas and bartenders, postal clerks, librarians, journalists, and food wagon owners. Dog walkers. Security personnel at courthouses (which requires a more subtle opening gambit to determine whether they’ll play the game – some guys with guns do NOT have a good sense of humor.)

I flirt with good friends, new acquaintances, repair persons, telephone responders – all are potential players in the gentle sport of flirting.

My physical therapist, Isaac (who is deeply in love with his wife Karen), is particularly tolerant of my flirting with him. That’s a good thing, because otherwise I’d be grumpy with him for having me work so intensely on balance and on strengthening my muscles that still function. (I do swear at him from time to time when I’m really discouraged, but he tolerates that as well, and my tears too.) Flirting lightens our good work, and the mood.

The best flirting with any particular person is done seldom and unexpectedly. But there are so many lovely people in each of my weeks that I get to keep my flirting skills honed and at the ready for a subtle opening play that will brighten my day – and hopefully that of my flirtee!


flirt photo