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

16 replies
  1. Sarah MacDougall
    Sarah MacDougall says:

    Cynthia! Such a joy to read this blog! Since I’m in the 70+ category it is good to hear that I can get away with stuff because of that!! I’m taking this riotous blog to heart, smiling, as I head out on my day to see how I can apply your sage advice to bring joy to the forefront!! Also my partner, Harriet, was an incorrigible “flirt”. I recall the time in the doctor’s office when she made an exquisitely handsome young physician blush all the way to the crown of his head. He was very gracious and I think really enjoyed the ‘game’.

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      That’s a benefit to flirting that I neglected to mention – in some cases it improves the circulation of the flirtee (like that doctor) immensely! Thanks, Sarah – flirt on!

  2. Dianne C Felder
    Dianne C Felder says:

    Are you me? Your post describes my behavior to a T, though I occasionally get carried away (when in a manic phase). Usually, I am the engineer driving the train, but yesterday an employee of the supermarket took the lead, which made me a bit uncomfortable because it was so unexpected. I must admit though, that after 20 years plus alone, having someone rub my back and touch my hair was very gratifying, though wildly inappropriate.

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Pay attention to that “uncomfortable” and “wildly inappropriate” feeling . . . that’s beyond the scope of playful flirting.

  3. Susanne
    Susanne says:

    Well, now that you have named it I will be on the lookout for intended and unintended flirts that just might slip through my awareness otherwise. Thanks for the rulebook on flirting 101– wish I had had it a long time ago ;-))))

  4. fenna diephuis
    fenna diephuis says:

    I’m laughiing out loud at the last entries! That was a lovely sort of “flirting” between mom and son!

    I loved this Cynthia, because flirting has been scorned on from the beginning in my upbringing. For years I carried great shame about it and went to crazy lengths to hold myself back. And still I would be accused of it and wonder with great perplexity what I was doing wrong.

    I have come a long way, and now know how natural and human it is! I realized once on a walk how much The Divine Wow is always flirting with me!

    Blessings to you dear sister and friend! As usual, you continue to bless me when I read your blogs!


  5. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    I, too, love to flirt, but give it different name—doing the dance. Flirting to me has a rhythm that both parties enter, either consciously or unconsciously that is delicious, unexpected because neither party knows the prescribed steps, and satisfying because there is a point/counterpoint, a leading and following, a flow toward discovering the pattern (or maintaining its mystery!). Thanks for reminding me how much fun one can have.

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Great imagery – sort of like tango, in which the dancers must sense/intuit what happens next.
      So glad you, too, appreciate the fun of playing on that kind of “dance floor.”

  6. Janice O'Mahony
    Janice O'Mahony says:

    As I think about this, I conclude”flirting” springs directly from joi de vivre and elicits the same from the lucky recipient. And Who can resist anyone as crackling and sparkling as you, Cynthia?

  7. Mike Trenshaw
    Mike Trenshaw says:

    My mom…the passive harlot. Well, I say whatever keeps your mind sharp and your heart pumpin’ is a good thing. I have not strayed far from the family trait of the flirt, and I feel quite safe in this folly since, like the dog chasing the car, I wouldn’t know what to do even if I did catch one!

    Also, thank you for making me look up another word definition. And by the way, in case you were wondering, being male I would be called a Coquet.

    • Cynthia Trenshaw
      Cynthia Trenshaw says:

      Ah, my wordsmithing son, coming late to his passion for words, coming late to the career that he loves (EMT/fire fighting), and aging into such a fine, remarkable person who makes his “passive harlot” mom proud! (I think that phrase has never been used of me before – maybe it has not ever been written before, period!)


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