Dear MsBehaved: Jonna Ivin Answers It For You

Dear Ms. Behaved,

My question is not really a question. My friends and I have been having this ongoing debate about the ethics of flirting and decided that we would let you be the tie-breaker.

We are mostly between the ages of 30 and 35. Some married and some single. I’m a 34 year old single bi-sexual woman who’s been “dating” a woman for about four months. Here’s our dilemma:  Some of us believe that if one is flirtatious by nature, it’s “no harm no foul” should they continue to flirt once engaged in a committed relationship. The others contend that once you’re committed to a partner, the flirting should stop out of respect to the person you’re involved with. This point of view seems crazy to me.  Why should you have to repress your personality?  Flirting isn’t an indicator that you to take anyone to bed. Please settle our dispute!

-Flirty in Philly

Dear Flirty,

I have to admit I’ve never been much of a flirter unless tequila is involved, and then I tend to gloss over flirty and into creepy makeout bandit territory. (Oh tequila, how I love-hate you!)Enough about my pervy inner demons and onto your question!  I just had a conversation on this very topic with my friend Blue. He flirts with everyone, and I mean everyone!

Blue says that flirting is harmless, and I agree with him to a point.  I think you have to use some discretion about who you choose to flirt with and think about what can be read into the signals you are putting out. Initially, Blue disagreed with me, but then I reminded him of two separate occasions when women misread his intentions. In his mind, he was just having a good time. They perceived the ongoing sexy banter would lead to something more, however, and when he showed no interest in taking it further, both were understandably hurt. When we first started discussing this, Blue claimed he had no idea that these women had feelings for him, and he was not at fault.  However, after some prodding on my part, he finally admitted that yes, there had been some signals that he chose to ignore.  (Score one for me! I almost never win in our debates, or at least he never admits that I am right.)

For a short period of time I worked as a bartender and being flirty with customers was part of the job. I really have no game, but I gave it my best shot. I joked and laughed and flirted with equally with everyone — single, married, men or women. The goal was to create a festive environment.  However, I drew the line if I suspected a regular customer had real feelings for me. It sucks to have someone flirt with you for weeks only to be turned down when you ask them out on a date. Why set someone up for an embarrassing fall? I wouldn’t want anyone to do that to me. It’s just mean.

When I was in my twenties, I was married to super sweet, incredibly shy English musician.  My friend Holly and I would go to see his band perform, and I would laugh my ass off watching her ruthlessly flirt with him. It was hysterical! She would go straight to the front of the stage, stare at him intensely like he was a piece of meat and do a sexy gyrating dance. She was and still is a master at the art of seduction. My husband would turn fifteen shades of purple, but I knew he loved it. Who wouldn’t love a hot girl dancing just for you? I loved it too because he got to feel like a stud and she got to show off her dirty moves, and most importantly, I trusted both of them implicitly.

Flirting should be fun, but you have to be aware of and respect other people’s feelings. If you are in a committed relationship, hitting on every Tom, Dick and Mary at a party,  is no fun for your partner. If you are flirting with a lonely person who hasn’t had a relationship in years and you have zero interest in starting one, it isn’t fun for the person being led on. If you are flirting with your girlfriend’s father… Eeewww!

Before batting your eyes and pinching butts ask yourself what your intentions are.  Is the flirting serving as an ego boost at someone else’s expense? If so, maybe it’s time to knock it off before your girlfriend takes a walk. Giving compliments and letting people know they are attractive to others is a wonderful thing so long as it’s sincere. If it is simply meant to stir the pot, incite jealousy, or create unnecessary drama, then it’s not flirting. It is emotional manipulation masked as “good times.”

Ellen has a great line in one of her shows, “If  it’s really a joke…shouldn’t we both be laughing?” I say, “If it’s really harmless flirting… shouldn’t everyone feel good?”

Jonna is here to help you over the mid-week hump every Wednesday.  Send your questions about  love, relationships, life, and grabbing life by the balls to jonna@msbehaved.com.  Read more of her posts here.

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