Some Notes on the Flirting and Pickup Scene
and the Rituals and Customs Therein
tales of male-female paradigms in the new millenium
I recently turned fifty, and I have been single for about four years, after having been married for about ten years, in one and only one marriage. For most of my life, my female friends and lovers (and only wife as well) have always been the very casual, dress-down, non-makeup type, often athletes (jocks) or nature/outdoorsy women, or leftovers from the whole latter-days hippie thing of t-shirts and jeans, or maybe sweatshirts and jeans. While a few of my female friends or lovers have probably worn a bit of makeup at times, or maybe worn a dress or a skirt once in a blue moon, their normal day-to-day attire has always been jeans, sneakers (or running shoes) and t-shirt or sweatshirt. Indeed, I can safely say that I never had a female friend throughout my twenties, thirties or much of my forties who even owned a makeup kit. Looking back, I can recall no instances of ever walking into the bathroom while a lover or female friend was staying over and finding a makeup kit (indeed, I saw my first one only in the last few months!)
What I am trying to say here without revealing too much of my past prejudices and rigidities is that I never hung out with women who wore much makeup or who were labeled “high maintenance”, due to accessories, handbags, long nails, nail polish, and facial makeup, among other things. In other words, I never hung out with what many people (in my world, at least) call “girlie-girls”, the women who do the whole girlie thing. Frankly, that stance or posture was both automatic and unconscious on my part as well as deliberate. I have never been particularly attracted to women who did the girlie thing, and I have even had all kinds of burdensome judgments and and prejudices about how girlie girls not only smelled funny (all that perfume and makeup!) and looked strange (try walking in high heels or having permed hair!), but how they simply must be total airheads (I believe the operative word in some circles is “ditz” or “fluff-head”), without a genuine or sincere thought or feeling in any bone in their bodies.
I became rather uncomfortably aware of my anti-girlie prejudice while in graduate school in the late 1980’s, and eventually managed to change some of it due to some experiences in that setting, primarily noticing how I actually acted less friendly and warm to women I had labeled as “girlie-girls”, and becoming aware that I was literally withholding love, warmth and approval or appreciation from them, almost as punishment for their not fitting my expectations. As I became aware of this, I also happened to have a few encounters (social, not sexual) with two undergraduate women who were definitely “girlie-girls”, and who chose to act in a friendly and warm manner toward me. These experiences really drove home to me the depth and extent of my prejudice, and I started to loosen up a bit on my my automatic dismissal of girlie-girls, and, rather, accept them as humans.
Anyway, time to move on with the story! Hopefully the previous discourse has shown a bit of how I have had little experience with girlie women -- as friends or lovers -- until the past few years, and even then, only a small bit here and there. The vast majority of my female friends remain very un-girlie: they do not usually wear makeup or frilly clothes, and many would not know a bra or a frilly lace ladies undergarment from a turbojet engine. Now that I think of it, many of my female friends would recognize the latter (but not the garments!) or maybe even want to tinker with it.
Having established my former curmudgeonliness, let us proceed! I seem to have slightly broadened even the types of women to whom I am attracted over the past 6 years, and I even catch myself occasionally looking at women who wear a bit of makeup or who pluck their eyebrows. Well, to tell the truth (shudder!), I have even caught myself looking appreciatively at women who wear skirts or other funny girlie attire. All of this broadening of my range of attraction has had some humorous side-effects: I have suddenly discovered or at least stumbled upon some curious cultural customs and icons in the realm of dating and flirting. These are rituals or customs which I assume have likely been second nature to most females and males in our culture since age sixteen. Suddenly, at age fifty, I am starting to become aware of these beliefs and rituals, which are a curious mix of gender role stereotypes, customs, folklore and urban legend, since they have started entering my circle of consciousness to a greater degree.
First, let us start with flirting. Flirting seems inextricably entwined with some sense of unavailability or unrequitedness. I do not necessarily "like" the unavailable part, but that IS a very necessary component of such a flirting game. A friend of mine once pointed out how so much of our culture's pop definition of attractiveness is really about unrequited lust: the totally cool and remote-looking female model, or the pouty-looking and disinterested-looking beautiful young woman in the ads. His point is that the only way to prolong the feeling is to make it unrequited or the lust-item unavailable.
Flirting can happen in a number of ways, both subtle and not-so-subtle. One of the stranger types of flirting I have encountered only recently is something which is apparently called the “leg show”. Due to it’s nature, it is really only something which can be done by a woman wearing a skirt, although it is conceivable that a woman could do the same wearing shorts as well. I have only really heard of it being done by girlie types or business women types, and not dress-down types of women, and hence, it makes sense that this phenomenon entered my consciousness only recently. Frankly, I had never heard of this while thing until a year or two ago. I have since been privileged to have it happen to me.
The Leg Show
My first personal encounter with this strange and fascinating phenomenon happened recently on a Metroliner train from NY to Baltimore, offered by a prudish-looking but beautiful young woman in business attire, obviously a girlie-girl, wearing conservative makeup and dark nail polish, and sitting across the aisle from me. I had never before witnessed this phenomenon, since I have lived more in the ex-hippie, no-makeup kind of world, and this thing is sooooo cute!
The rules seem to be: Woman must be a girlie type. She must be wearing heels. Girlie must be wearing skirt. Both people (woman and man) must preferably be seated, as in a waiting room, or on a train, and there must be unobstructed line of sight between both people. Girlie must establish furtive eye contact with guy, get his attention, but act rather aloof or unavailable, yet still sending subtle signals of interest. Then, make sure he is looking, and move legs a lot, crossing them and uncrossing them, to draw eyes there. It can help if she looks at the guy and then looks slowly back at her own thighs. Then, she crosses the leg nearest guy over the other, and flexes the calves and thighs of the top leg, all the while managing to pull the skirt back further and further, showing more and more thigh. Sometimes, due to the leg, thigh and pelvic movements, it looks like she is fucking or at least masturbating in her seat.
I am not particularly a "leg person" and never such a show as this could turn me on, but when it happened to me (only recently, at that) it was incredibly erotic, all the more because she was very straight-looking and slightly repressed and prudish-looking (in her late twenties) and wearing a dark business suit (with dark skirt and panty hose) with rather severe facial makeup and dark nail polish. Somehow, it was unspoken between us that this was a gift to me, and that we would never have any further or more intimate contact, or even talk, beyond the leg show, and the furtive glances during the trip. She eventually grabbed her suitcases and got off in Wilmington, DE. I was so entranced that I almost followed her! We never exchanged one word, as she sat 6 seats away. I was in the window seat on one side of the train, and she was in the window seat on the other side of the aisle, and there was no one between us -- the four intervening seats were empty. It may help to point out that when I first sat in my seat on the train an hour or more earlier, I had noticed her and wondered, "wouldn't it be fun to flirt with her", as she was so different from my usual type, but the thought was very light and without neediness. As part of an ongoing meditative practice, I then sent her (along with some other people on the train and elsewhere) kindness, appreciation and love from my heart for about a half hour, and also went into my heart and deliberately released and let go of the many small and nearly-uncounscious judgments which I had made about her upon seeing her (such as: "looks too conservative and prudish", "looks like a conventional airhead", "I don't like her outfit", "I don't like her makeup"), which allowed more love and appreciation to flow from my heart. Well, for some reason, after I had been sending this energy for a few minutes, she seemed to feel this and started shooting conservative and furtive but very curious glances at me, and shortly thereafter slowly started the whole entrancing 40-minute circus act.
Flashing Breasts, or Showing Tits
Darn, I am sorry if I got you all wet and excited with that mention of breasts, but even though this is definitely a flirting (and fun) ritual, it seems to be done at least as often by dress-down, casual blue jeans, sweatshirt and running shoes-type women as by girlie girls. I have seen both types of women do it in settings which range from Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras to graduate school hallways, and even local pubs on a quiet night. Therefore, since it is not particularly a behavior unique to girlie-girls or new in my experience, I will leave this topic with but this brief mention. Suffice it to say that if a female friend flashes her tits at you more than once on campus, or in a hallway, or some public or semi-public place (a bar, a restaurant, the Empire State Building), she is probably a bit interested in you sexually. Mardi Gras does not count -- it is done there more for the exuberance and exhilaration than any particular attraction. In my opinion, this whole thing is one of the cutest and fun flirting rituals, if a bit risque and unsubtle.
Grabbing or Groping Asses
Darn, I am sorry if I got you all wet and excited once again, this time with the mention of groping asses, but even though this is definitely a flirting (and fun) ritual, it seems to be done at least as often by dress-down, casual blue jeans, sweatshirt and running shoes-type women as by girlie girls. I have experienced such gropes from both types of women -- all strangers -- in settings which range from bars and pubs, to public shuttle buses and trolleys (at the beach), and live concerts in small settings. Incidentally I have never witnessed men do this to women in these settings, and rather, only women groping men, who are almost always strangers. If anything, it is the casual, non-girlie women who seem to do this more frequently, in my experience (maybe the girlies do not want to break their nails!). Therefore, since it is not particularly a behavior unique to girlie-girls or new in my experience, I will leave this topic after this brief mention. My own experience is that female stranger or near-stranger gropes your butt even once in a public or semi-public place (a bar, a restaurant, the Empire State Building), she is probably a bit attracted to you sexually. More than once, I have been groped by a young woman in a public place, and when I turned around, I received each time a very warm and friendly look from the groper.
Pickup Rituals -- An Overview
Then there are the pickup rituals and the flirtations associated with them! I personally tend to really dislike the cultural custom that men must initiate contact and be the pursuers. I strongly prefer a more equitable 50-50 arrangement, where each party is free to express interest verbally or non-verbally, and either gender is free to offer a verbal lead. However, it still seems that most women do prefer to wait for men to approach them in a social setting. I shared the sentiments expressed above recently with a female friend by e-mail, stressing that I really dislike that men seem to be expected to approach women in social situations. Her response was illuminating:
“That is so interesting! And many women hate having to wait and be approached by men!”
I appreciate her sharing that, but, at least on the East Coast, most women do seem to prefer to wait and be approached. There are some exceptions among my female friends, however. Here is one example: I love my friend Kellie -- she travels alone from New Jersey to the biggest disco dance clubs in Manhattan, and simply walks up to any guy she wants to dance with and says "Hi! How are you?" (no fancy pickup lines here!). She never waits for guys to approach her. I love this kind of directness, and I bet most guys are so grateful for the approach (a few may die of shame if they hate being approached, but that is their problem and not hers) that they would buy her dinner just for having saved them the trouble of approaching yet one more woman. Other than Kellie and a few other friends of mine, it seems that most women, at least the conventional and girlie types, feel safer waiting for the guy to approach.
Speaking of Kellie, an interesting aspect of our friendship is that she sometimes calls me or sits me down to ask me detailed questions about how guys feel or react to certain boy-girl encounters in bars and public places, or even about her behavior when she is finally alone with a guy on a date or maybe in the living room, so she can better figure out how she is perceived by guys in those situations. I always learn from these exchanges as well. Of course, I always preface by reminding her that I may not be a typical guy, but the deep-wired neuro-biology is still the same.
Dance Bars and Pickup Rituals
Although I do not drink or smoke, I love to sometimes go to dance bars on busy nights. In my area in Western Maryland, there is not really much of a range of choice, and I have recently become enamored of a new dance bar in my town called the Uptown Club -- it is well managed, not very smoky, the people are friendly, and not at all cliquish. I primarily go to the bar to be around people, to people-watch, and to meet women. I am not particularly shy about dancing (I do prefer not to dance alone!), and, in fact, once I am on the floor, I am a terrible exhibitionist. However, I do find myself often feeling shy and inhibited about approaching women in such situations (smoky, loud and crowded dance bars.)
Additionally, if I stand there too long debating it, I then convince myself that it is not really important anyway: because all these women are wearing makeup, many smoke and drink, many are girlie-girls (not all!) and none of them eat the diet I do or likely have spiritual interests, the chances of a long-term relationship are about nil. Then, belatedly, I realize I may have passed up the chance to meet and have fun talking with (or sleep with and rub thighs with - a comment from the keyboard virus) a really nice person.
However, one of the fun things about this particular bar (and maybe it is just the culture finally changing) is that some of the women seem to be very strong and clear about signaling their interest, too, although they still wait for the male to approach (sigh! gotta be a sperm in all areas!). Two examples: on a recent Friday nite, as soon as I arrived at the bar, I stood watching the dance floor (standing, rather than hiding in a chair, seems more up-front and vulnerable and out-there to me, so it is fun), and almost immediately, a chubby young blonde-haired woman got up from the bar (she had been sitting with a female friend) and nonchalantly came over to stand next to me (I was only one of only three people standing along a 75 foot wall, so she had lots of other options. She then turned and looked at me. She then shifted, and stood in front of me, and then shifted to my other side, and looked at me again. When I returned her look she did not play the shy thing of looking away, but rather looked me right in the eyes, although in a rather distant fashion.
Later that same evening, I saw a stunning young woman (late 30's, with a nice tough country girl look which I like!) standing at the bar talking with three older women in their 60s and 70s. When she caught me looking at her, she returned my look, smiled, and deliberately turned her body to fully face me (she had been facing one of the women), with a delicious smile on her face. She also carefully and deliberately showed me some upper thigh flesh, which gesture I thought was so cute and sweet.
Actually, she did more than just face me. Her message was very clear and warm. It was a total "fuck me" look. Her mouth was half-open in a smile/grin, she was looking at me, her elbows were akimber and wide, resting on the bar behind her, and her legs were slightly spread. It was a horizontal posture perfectly translated into the vertical, to borrow a phrase from my pulchritudinous and wonderfully trashy and bratty friend Kellie.
This particular woman took the show of interest a step further, although she never said a word to me. Still looking at me, after about a minute she slowly and deliberately lifted her left leg and, crossing it across her right leg, placed the foot on a rung of the barstool to her right. This crooked her knee, and extended her upper leg to the side and front (knee out), which alone showed more thigh under her short skirt. She then found some way to hike up the skirt a bit on that side. I was ecstatic. It was just so sweet and cute.
Signals and Signs
It seems that there are all sorts of signals and signs in the girl-boy dating world, at least if the women are girlie girls, and they are all fairly new to me! Over the past nine years, my old friend Robin from grad school and some of my more knowledgeable dress-down girlfriends as well as lesbian friends (the kind who know girlie-girls) have patiently taught me some of the rules and paradigms which govern these signs and signals, such as the "fuck me" heels, or "roll-over now" heels. These are related, but somewhat different phenomena (really gender stereotypes which do seem to be fairly accurate at times). The "fuck me heels" lore is based on a term which degenerated from (though still heard at times) the phrase "throw me down and fuck me pumps" and both terms (parent term and degenerate child term) denote any of certain kinds of red or black high heel shoes, kinda stilettos, where the heels are rather high. Again, I have never heard a male use these terms in my life, only females, when describing other women or even their own outfit.
Now, "round heels" is more of an attributed personal trait, and again a term used primarily by other women (never men) implying that the woman in question rotates easily onto her back (and spreads her legs). However, it is ineffably linked in much of the concomitant contemporary female folklore with the wearing of a short skirt and high heels, especially the fuck-me heels described above. The women sharing this observation about another woman usually seem to share it out of a sense of admiration or warm envy, although I will occasionally hear a note of prudish cattiness as well.
A Note on Smoky Bars and Smoke-Laden Clothing
This story would not be complete if I did not relate to you how I, a non-smoker, deal with my smoke-filled clothes after spending the night in a dance bar. Although I do not mind spending time in often-smoky dance bars once in a while, I do not really like going home smelling like an ashtray. So, as soon as I get home, all the smoky clothes go in the my laundry basket to be washed (he is lying, he only does laundry once a year! -- keyboard virus).
Really, I do have a washer! However, first the clothes must go in the laundry basket to await laundry day, which happens only once a year, I mean, which happens about once every two weeks. The laundry basket is in a corner of my bedroom near the bed, and that corner has little air circulation, so the smoky smell does not propagate. In any case, I am not particularly over-sensitive to cigarette smoke smell, and if the clothes are really smelly, I spray them with a quick mist or two from my all-natural citrus oil room-deodorizer spray after tossing them in the laundry basket.
In any case, the smells from my bed (rumpled, unmade, sheets washed only once per year) and from the kitty box in the next room (cleaned only once every 6 months, or whenever cat threatens to call "911") as well as from the feces and urine I deposit on the floor in the other corner of my bedroom (when I don't wanna go downstairs to the bathroom on cold winter nights), along with the urine from flying squirrels which seeps thru the ceiling plasterboard from the attic upstairs, pretty much guarantee that I will never smell the stale cigarette odor from the basket. Plus, if my hound dog Toby is sleeping on the bed any particular nite, I usually wake up to find his butt on the pillow next to my face (my petsitter tells me he does this to her as well when she allows him into her bed at nite), and so I smell only his butt odors at those times.. . . . . . (it is apparently a dog bonding thing.)
Lastly, a Word on the Latest Guru on Female-Male Romantic Relationships
It seems that there is some buy in California named David Deida who goes around the country making tons of money writing books and giving lectures and workshops on how to have a mystical and sacred relationship. For some reason, some of his more entranced followers (lobotomy candidates, here) seem to feel he is really groovy and maybe even enlightened. I keep stumbling upon web pages where people list him up there as one of the enlightened masters along with Buddah, Jesus Christ, Lester Levenson and Ramana Maharshi. This whole thing scares me. First, there is his name. I cannot pronounce “David Deida”, so whenever one of my friends (all from California, of course!) mentions this guy in a phone call or a letter, I just call him “David Doo-dah”. He sounds like a simpleton, so why not give him a simpleton name!
Now, what really cracks me up about this guy is that he really seems to be saying the same throwback anti-female things from the patriarchal schools which the fundamentalist bible-thumping Christians have been saying, only he says it more skillfully and better couched in left-wing and progressive thought, so he does not get ostracized (and dismissed as a wacko) like the fundamentalist Christians do. Rather, well-to-do progressives pay upwards of $3,000 to spend a few days listening to his pseudo-intellectual ramblings on women and men in relationship.
His basic premise seems to me to be, and I borrow this quote directly from the mouth of a female friend who is one of his devotees, that (and herein I quote her written word):
"Women need to be TAKEN and MASTERED. David Dooda is teaching the men to say (and be) "I am Consciousness, and you are mine, bitch" and the women to say (and be) "I am Light; take me if you dare". Very ecstatic and erotic.”
Well, it may be so to my friend, but it makes me want to vomit, as in projectile vomiting. However, I pride myself on being non-dogmatic and experimental, so maybe I will try out his theory some night. So, someday soon, whether at a bar or the social hour at a spiritual workshop, I will approach a cute woman and charmingly say with a hard smirk on my face:
"Hey! Yo! Bitch! I am, uh, duh, consciousness, or whatever, and like, you are mine, bitch, ‘cause you’re just fuckin’ light! You lucky thing! Yo!"
If I hear this Doo-dah guy correctly, that line should make any woman swoon and fall into my arms. Wow, I cannot wait!
And, on the above note, I suspect it is long past time to wind down this tale of customs and rituals in the realms of flirting, dating and mating early in the new millenium. I hope you enjoyed the tales, and I do hope you manage to stay away from this Doo-dah guru guy.
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