Then and now

By - Feb 10th, 2010 12:15 am
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Two TCD writers, Judith Ann Moriarty and Emily Thungkaew, share views on the art of flirting and tell how it’s changed for them and their contemporaries.

Queen of the Brigands, painting by Frederick Arthur Bridgman. From the Public Collection (CC Lic.)

Queen of the Brigands, painting by Frederick Arthur Bridgman. From the Public Collection (CC Lic.)

Judith Moriarty: Flirting, way back
When I was asked to accept the task of writing about “flirting,” I took a few moments to wonder if I could even remember what flirting is … or should I say was? As a 73-year-old, I got the assignment stick marked “old” when February features were being doled out on TCD. A chick, perhaps half-a-century younger, would pen about flirting in the now. Whoa! This assumes that oldies don’t know HOW TO FLIRT. Haven’t you heard of octogenarians who fall madly in love …. one more time before they forget how to flirt?

But I digress.

Okay, skip back to my earliest recollections of being aware of the art of the flirt. That would be around age 12 when the hormones are on fast forward. My cue to practice was the cutest boy in town (population 1,000). Blonde with blue eyes. A Swede, a freckled Van Johnson of WWII movie fame. Up there, somewhere in the wild blue yonder, my hero, clad in full leather flight jacket, his blue eyes focused on the beyond, rode his Air Force bomber into action. I waited behind on the Iowa landscape, a blonde, blue-eyed gal. Page Boy hairdo? Check. Pouty smile? Check. A touch of color on my lips? Check. My breasts, mere buds, needed a fluffy pink, not-too-tight Lana Turner sweater. I lusted to be a film noir dame in black beret, pencil-slim skirt and ankle-strap shoes. Alas! I wore braces. Noir would wait.

Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch (1955).

Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch (1955).

Yes, my ammo came directly from movie magazines and Saturday matinees at the Rialto Theater. As a result, I bought my first lipstick, a tiny tube of Tangee, within the confines of my town’s only variety store. Smoosh it on, and it stayed invisible while you escaped your parents. By the time you sauntered to the town square, it was a rosy pink smoosh, just enough to flash a flirt on a steamy Saturday night when the guys with wheels circled the square. Circling the square is a macho flirt not soon forgotten.

A few potholes littered my agenda, for instance, when my dad said, “No way!” to a red taffeta strapless gown I’d hauled home for my first real dance. Back to the store it went, exchanged for a pale green lace number with a demure collar and cap sleeves a la the virgin of the silver screen, June Allyson. I didn’t get the red wonder until I was 18, but with it came a waist crunching Merry Widow and naughty silk hose embroidered with bluebirds. Madame Bovary never looked so swell.

And to all you guys who never knew what hit you … I say, “Eat your heart out.”

Perhaps, the most subtle (read “acceptable”) way-back flirt tactic was to allow a boy to walk you home after school. In my hometown, you could walk north, south, east or west, and never spend more than ten minutes strolling in any direction. So, the flirt had to be fast, plus along the route were multiple eyes keeping tabs on multiple morals. It wasn’t long before my beau (the innocent Swede) and I began taking the alley route, running parallel to backyards. We held hands. (Hand-holding is an art.)

Over the years, at Iowa class reunions, the Swede drives in from Denver. We flirt while our knowing classmates avert their eyes. I was startled at our 50th reunion when the Swede said, “Remember how we used to walk up the alley, holding hands, Judy? If you hadn’t moved to Kansas City, we would have been married. We loved each other.”

In closing, may I say that an 80-year-old guy recently wrote to thank me for a photograph I e-mailed him. In the fading Kodak image I am 12. There I stood, legs bare, wearing the dance costume my mom made from yellow feed sacks strewn with little red chickens.

He wasted no time replying, “May I say, you had very pretty legs. I don’t miss a thing since my cataract surgery.”

textflirtingEmily Thungkaew: Flirting, fast-forward
Recently, a good friend of mine went on a first date. Afterward, she called me to discuss the details. I was zoning out watching American Idol as I um-hmm-ed and uh-uh-ed every comment until she said, “I think I’m going to text him right now and tell him what a great time I had.”

She wasn’t even in her driveway, and she was looking to set up the next meeting. I immediately snapped out of my Ryan Seacrest daydream and told her that she absolutely could not do that. No way. It would, of course, make her look desperate and needy. I told her to wait a couple of days to send the message. She waited until the next day.

For the next couple of weeks, I got the occasional update. One night, she messaged me worried because she had sent him her availability for the upcoming week, and he hadn’t responded. I wondered out loud if maybe her forwardness came off as a little intimidating. She replied, “I’m a very forward person, Emily.” Yes, well, then it didn’t come as a surprise that after she showed up at his door unannounced with take-out, that things got a little weird.

Even though he wasn’t home, apparently his roommate gave him the message, and the next morning, my friend had a text from him saying, “I don’t think this will work out.”

The moral of this story: Don’t be so forward that you frighten or intimidate the poor guy and gal.

Another good friend seems to be struggling with the exact opposite problem. She has difficulty even approaching a member of the opposite sex.

Last winter, she got her first phone number at a bar, a very exciting rite of passage. Confused as to what to do next, the two of us sat down to stalk him on Facebook, and almost literally drew out a game plan of witty texts and instant messages. One snowy night he asked her to join him at a bar, but she declined because she didn’t want to drive in the snow. After that, the texts and instant messages stopped; her window of opportunity had been shut.

The moral of the story is: Be forward enough to keep him or her engaged.

I’m no expert on flirting. At 22, I’ve barely had a year to legally drink alcohol, let alone mingle at bars. I don’t pretend to know what I’m doing, but when it comes to flirting, I feel as if it needs to come and go naturally. I feel as if I’ve had some pretty solid examples of what not to do.

If a guy is interested, he’s interested; if he’s not, well, I guess that’s it. You can’t go around thinking that every guy you meet is potentially “the one.” Not every guy is Jake from The Bachelor. Some guys will be shorter than you, and sometimes he won’t call you back. These are just things that females need to understand about men. Nothing personal, just the facts.

It has been advised to find “Mr. Right Now,” and eventually the “now” part will disappear. That may or may not be true, but why not relax and just have a little fun trying to find out?

0 thoughts on “Flirting: Then and now”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Judith, what a wonderful memoir.
    Emily, I hate to tell you this, but it doesn’t get any less confusing as time goes on.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Brian: your images are fab darling

  3. Anonymous says:

    Thank God I’m married.

  4. Anonymous says:

    judith: eloquent as always. loved the lana turner reference and your ability to wax poetic about your drab little iowa town. the only thing missing from this tale is poke chops.

  5. Anonymous says:

    judith: eloquent as always. what a tart you were. loved the lana turner reference as as well as your ability to wax poetic about your drab little iowa town. the only thing missing from this tale is poke chops!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Judith, what a great story! Emily, I’m not THAT old but I don’t even know who Jake from The Bachelor is. However, I must say, at 22, you’re pretty wise about this dating stuff. Which is great for both you and Mr. Sometime.

  7. Anonymous says:

    JA, you’re a doll and I never tire of hearing about you and Nodaway Valley.
    Emily, I could never make it in the modern dating world. Seems you have to have a Teflon heart these days.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Fun stuff ladies. Don’t be so sensitive, Judith. Of course old people flirt. Have you ever been to a nursing home? What a great topic! Everyone may pretend to be clueless but you gotta believe everyone has an opinion . . . and a story . . . or two . . . or three! As we like to say in Wisconsin, the thrill is in the hunt!

  9. Anonymous says:

    the slant of the sun has changed ever so slightly, but from the tone of these comments, Spring must be on the way.

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