Flirting Is a Girl’s Best Friend
He was just what I needed in a man at that moment: kind, attentive, entertaining. Even though it was the end of a long day for him, he looked great. My kind of guy: graying hair, twinkling eyes. He laughed at my jokes.
For my part, I could not have looked less fetching: flushed and sweaty from a long, hot run. Hair pulled back in elastic. A torn, soppy T-shirt. Smelly, even.
We were practically alone together, the late afternoon sun slanting across the windows of the bar. We exchanged our histories, we told stories, we laughed.
What can I say?
I didn’t care that I was married.
I didn’t care that he was married.
The man made me feel I was the funniest, most charming creature the universe had ever offered up. I guess I made him feel appreciated.
A glass of wine later, the sun had disappeared.
“Thanks,” he said, as I left him. “I’d like to see you tomorrow when you’re all dressed up.”
“You,” I told him, “are everything a bartender should be.”
To paraphrase Richard Nixon, I am not a flirt.
Not normally, anyway.
But last week, I found myself unleashed in San Francisco on business for a few days, far from husband, child and quotidian cares. Normally, I might pine a little, moon a little--wish, as the postcard goes, that you were here.
Not this time.
Knowing the condition is temporary, you can love being alone. You can love not having to make breakfast for anyone, love not being on deadline for anyone. You can even love that the toothpaste blobs in the sink are yours and yours alone.
And . . . you can flirt without fear.
Flirting is something the sane person simply can’t do with spouse and child at hand. You must be solo to provoke those small, inspiring interactions with strangers that remind you of your primary identity on the planet: that before you were a mother, before you were a wife, you were, above all, a woman.
Ah, it all comes back. . . .
When you’re solidly married, flirting is not about sex. It is not even about mutual attraction. It can be thoroughly one-sided, in fact, because the point is to produce for yourself an electrical charge. How you use the charge is your business.
The handsome man in the shoe store near my hotel assured me that he could stretch the boots I wanted and fetched an old-fashioned implement that he inserted into the toe and began to crank.
“Looks like something from a medieval torture chamber,” I said.
“You should see what I have in the back,” he said with a wink.
I laughed: “Maybe next time.”
And left with a bounce in my step that was completely unattributable to my new shoes.
Flirting was a much tougher proposition on the humorless side of the bay. What is it about Berkeley that inspires such self-seriousness? Could it be that in a town so devoted to doing the right thing, mere flirting is perceived as a hopelessly bourgeois affectation?
Perhaps the School for Flirting that opened in Manhattan last month will consider opening a satellite campus there.
We strolled Telegraph Avenue, an old friend and I, fingering the dangly beaded earrings, inhaling the incense, marveling that with Jerry Garcia gone, there is but one place on Earth where tie-dye reigns.
A bushy-haired guy was arranging his bumper stickers on a table. We stopped to look. (Does “Question Authority” really have any resonance left?)
Something came over me.
“Do you by any chance have any conservative bumper stickers?” Big smile (mine).
He looked at me as though I had just told him that, in fact, you can hug your child with nuclear arms. Big frown (his).
“Just kidding,” I said meekly.
A few dangly earring booths away, another grizzled street vendor sat behind a case of silver jewelry.
“It’s all handmade,” he said, “all by me.”
“Really?” I asked charmingly. “You don’t use any machines at all?”
“Well, I mean, I use a drill and. . . .”
“Ah,” I said smiling, “I knew you’d change your story soon enough.”
He squinted at me. His tone changed. “You know, lady, I don’t have to participate in this conversation,” he muttered. “I don’t have to explain myself to you.”
I was a souffle and he was an oven door slamming shut. I couldn’t have felt more deflated if he’d called me ma’am.
Or handed me a referral to Flirters Anonymous.
Flirters Anonymous? I don’t think so.
After all, I can stop any time I want.
* Robin Abcarian’s column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. Readers may write to her at the Los Angeles Times, Life & Style, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, Calif. 90053. Send e-mail to HBZK23A@prodigy.com.