Jane Ziolkowski, Contributing Writer
My friend “Mary Catherine” and I were trying to figure out when friendly becomes flirty—in a misleading or harmful way. We concluded that in an ideal world, everyone could flirt with everyone else because we would all assume “Just friends, no big deal.”
Unfortunately, not everyone lives by these fundamentals. Prime example: President Obama called a longtime woman friend “by far the best-looking attorney general in the country,” and people who don’t understand meaningless flirtation (not to mention flattery) thought he should have valued the contents of her character, not her appearance. Guys—I’m sure she didn’t think, “Wow, I really wish he had picked something else to compliment.”
Problematically, some people I know and meet also value flirting at more than it’s worth: construction workers on the highway, the cashier at Freebirds, etc. With that in mind, we flirt only with those people
we know won’t take it seriously: most guy friends, some seminarians, few married men.
See, the thing is that our definition of flirtation is very broad. It can include playfulness, friendliness, jokes—basically just taking an obvious interest in another person. (And by this definition we flirt with women every day: Yes, we are equal-opportunity flirters, just like our president, who says male politicians are hottays all the time.) Flirting is fun. It’s light-hearted, and it’s more tennis than volleyball. We say, the more, the better.
However, it is cruel and a low blow to take an interest in someone you know will not read the “Just Friends” written on your forehead, and who may, in fact, have a “More Than Friends” written on his. So those people are out, and so are people who may or may not be
in that category, and probably your boss at work. This articulation is incomplete, and we don’t live in an ideal world yet, but keep flirting—when you know you can get away with it.