My friend’s Vegas bachelorette party has come and gone, and was I glad to see it go. Not because Vegas treated me poorly — not this time, at least — but because Vegas and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on all the issues.
Vegas wants to stay out until daybreak; I like to go to sleep when it’s still dark out. Vegas wants to get trashed on Goldschlager shots and slushie margaritas in phallic neon vessels; I prefer not to be able to actually feel the air hitting my eyeballs with tiny hammers the next morning. Vegas wants me to pour all my money into slot machines and blackjack tables; I enjoy keeping my cash so that I can huffily complain about having to spend $17.99 on a damn hamburger. Vegas wants lights and music and people and entertainment and go, go, go; I need space and quiet and thoughts and real unfiltered experiences. Vegas wants to rip my clothes off right now; I’m inclined to put on some Al Green and take things slow.
And let’s not even talk about the number of jokes about face tattoos I heard before I left.
So I was apprehensive. Vegas had treated me poorly before, most notably a handful of years ago at yet another bachelorette party, when I had to be rescued from a bathroom stall which I had locked myself into, crying, then proceeded to punch the poor bachelorette in the arm and go to sleep on a table (heed the dangers of alcohol, children!). I’m surprised anybody talked to me during the rest of the trip. Not this time, though. This time was going to be different, I said to myself.
And it was.
This time, I was tucked in bed by 4:00 every morning, mostly sober. No waking up to tales of my stupid, embarrassing antics from the night before. Nary a hangover in sight. By Vegas standards, I was practically grandmotherly. I just needed hair slightly tinted blue and a roll of tickets to the early bird buffet, and I could have hung with the over 60 set.1
Good, right? Okay, great. Post over! Thanks for coming out tonight, folks.
But no. Nope. Sorry, you’re not getting off the hook that easily. I came here to talk to you about something I watched a lot of while in Vegas: flirting.
Of a group of ten fellow women, only one was single, and another was getting divorced. But even among eight women in long-term relationships, the flirting barometer was through the roof. They flirted with strangers, they flirted with each other, they flirted with inanimate objects (that poor coffee table may never fully recover). One night a faction of the group somehow found a genuine Navy sailor (being that it was Vegas I initially assumed the poor dear had gotten separated from his Village People musical performance troupe, but no, he was the real military deal) and convinced him to give the bachelorette a dance, and from there he began dancing with most of the rest of the group. The sailor took a liking to one gal in particular, and he started getting a bit… handsy. I tried to rescue her but she brushed me off. “It’s okay,” she shouted at me over a throbbing club track. “I won’t let him do anything. It’s just that I’ve been with my partner for nine years. I need this.”
Do we all truly need flirting?
My instinct is to say yes. I like flirting, in theory. I like the idea of it. I like knowing I can turn a head now and again. I like knowing that there are people who still find me attractive. An attendant once passed me a note from a young man a few rows back on a half-empty plane. “If you’re feeling bored, come sit by me. 26A,” the paper read. I kept it and use it as a bookmark and I smile every time I see it because a stranger liked me enough to go to the trouble of passing me a note. How flattering is that? Plus then I got to choose whether or not I wanted to talk to him. There was nothing compulsory or awkward about it.
Which is good because I don’t like flirting in practice. My big problem with flirting is that I always feel deeply uncomfortable while it’s going on, because I’m trying to figure out when is the appropriate time to blurt out “I’m married!”2 Tack onto that the supposition that if a stranger is making the effort to pay you attention, the subtext is that it’s conditional and that something is expected in return.
Sidebar — On Saturday night I got to hear the worst DJ of all time deliver this gem of a line: “Just because you buy a girl a drink doesn’t mean she owes you something. Two drinks, that’s when she owes you.”
Which, you know what? No one truly owes anyone anything, ever. And my personal view is that as long as boundaries are clear, there’s nothing wrong with talking to someone who’s not your significant other, having a drink with him or her, or even dancing with him or her.3
I’m just too polite, in my experience. I have a hard time cutting people off. Putting my foot down. The single, solitary time I was flirted with in Vegas was when a 57-year old Londoner came over to tell me my dancing was “brilliant.” He then spent twelve minutes lecturing me on Ibiza and how I should really go there as soon as possible. Then he switched conversational gears to Paris, and have I ever been to Paris?, and I should really go to Paris with a boyfriend, or perhaps I could ditch the boyfriend and go and meet him in Paris. And you’d think that this would perhaps be the ideal time for me to laugh and correct him gently with, “You mean meet my husband in Paris!” But no, being that I am painfully inept at small talk and at flirting in general, the most I could muster in reply to his shocking proposal was a feebly noncommittal “Meaaauughh,” which was a sound sort of like the bleating of a goat with a chronic cigarette smoking problem, a goat that should really talk to its doctor about quitting. Fortunately he seemed to get the point, even if I didn’t spell it out in blinking lights and jazz hands, or maybe he became deeply concerned about the damage that could be done to his reputation if he were to show up in Paris with a small livestock animal like me, because immediately after that he graciously pointed out that he was keeping me from my friends at the hen-do and he’d be on his way, then.
Oooh, he was smooth. I could stand to take a few tips from a charmer like that.
What’s your take on flirting? Are you a giver or a recipient, or both? Are you okay with your partner doing it? Have you discussed boundaries, and if so, what are they?
And, say — hey baby, what’s your sign?
1 True story: I was cutting through a casino at 2:00 a.m. and it was CHOCK FULL of little old ladies happily pulling the levers on their respective slot machines. What? Huh? I was worried. I wanted to put them all to bed. Little old ladies!
2 Maybe I’m showing off my naïveté here, but I always assumed that if I got married that the wedding ring would do a lot of the work of blocking unwanted advances for me. This appears to very much not be the case.
3 True story: I was once at a polka festival in Michigan when a man who resembled Kip from Napoleon Dynamite wrested me from the Beau’s grasp and, with his hand firmly in the small of my back, proceeded to lead me around that dancefloor like nobody’s business. Afterward I felt dizzy and giddy, like I’d been romanced by the elusive King of Polka.