Friend Flirting

It’s not really a thing, friend flirting. Not yet, at least.

But here’s the definition of flirting, according to my laptop dictionary: “Behaving as though attracted to or trying to attract someone, but for amusement rather than with serious intentions.” I would take issue with the second half of that definition— plenty of people flirt with romantic interests with every intention of eventually making it serious—but that first section seems spot on.

And if that is correct, if flirting is simply a way of behaving to attract someone and show your interest in them, then the word really can be used for the friendly smiles and nods we use to endear ourselves to potential BFFs.

One thing I’ve come to believe, lately? As a woman, it’s easier to “flirt” with a guy than a girl.

I’m always on the lookout for new friends. I’ve trained my eye, so now I can spot an inviting smile anywhere. If a potential friend seems to be expressing “interest” in me (strictly platonic interest, but you can see why the issue of having no vocabulary for making friends can be tough. These quotation marks around the generally romantic words are just annoying), I reciprocate or even initiate the contact. And as I’ve always said, the people I’ve reached out to are generally responsive.

But what if it’s friendliness with no agenda? What if, say, I’m interacting with someone in an airport, and there’s pretty much no way we are ever going to see each other again, so any type of real BFFship is out of the question? In that case, it can be really hard to strike up conversations with women.

Yesterday I was at LaGuardia Airport, killing time before my flight from New York City back to Chicago. I wasn’t looking for a best friend (I’d just seen all my lifers so was feeling nostalgic for those specific ladies), but I’m always on the lookout for someone to chat with. The woman across the aisle from me at the gate seemed friendly. But every time I thought I might say something, just to chat, I chickened out.

Meanwhile the guy at Five Guys, the guys at the security line, the guys at the gate, they were talkative and friendly. I think we’ve all been trained in charming the opposite sex, even for a moment. But winning over a new buddy? No one’s gone to class for that.

Am I crazy? Have you found that it can be easier to strike up small-talk conversations with men than with women? Is it because we’ve been trained to flirt? Or because men are less judgmental, and thus less intimidating, than women?

13 Comments

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13 responses to “Friend Flirting

  1. Absolutely! We’re moving this week so I’ve ridden up and down in the elevator of our new building more times than I care to count and when someone else gets in, I always try to at least say hi, rather than suffer that awkward silence while we wait for our floors.

    For the women that actually SAY HI BACK, (cause some don’t! Rudeness!) making a follow-up chatty comment is often met with dismissal. The guys on the other hand, are almost like they’re waiting for someone to chat with. And it’s not just when I’m alone in the elevator, it’s the same way when my boyfriend is with me.

    I think maybe guys are just more open to random chattiness than girls, but this is of course based on my 2-day elevator focus group based in just one ZIP code.

  2. katieleigh

    You’re not crazy. I think I’m less worried about guys judging me, for some reason. Why is it that women so often feel the need to measure ourselves against other women?

    Of course, we are trained to flirt – that may be part of it – but sometimes I just find men less intimidating than women.

  3. I have often felt this way, but with an added layer of awkwardness to the friend flirting because I also date women. Just like with straight women not being attracted to every man they meet, I’m not attracted to every woman I meet, in a romantic way or otherwise. There are some I’d like to date, and some I’d like to be friends with, and I’m personally very clear on the boundaries for both. BUT, a conversation with either type often begins the same way, and that does feel a little weird – even if the other woman doesn’t know I date women, I’m super conscious that I don’t want her to think I’m hitting on her.
    Have any other women who date women (either exclusively or occasionally) felt this way? Rachel, have you had the opportunity to talk about this issue with women who date women?

  4. I think women are a bit more hard-wired to chat differently/flirt with men than women. With women and depending on the circumstances, we need a shared expereince like waiting for a flight to spur the conversation. Circumstances count too. I don’t randomly chat with people or women in the subway, but if the train is late you start chatting with your neighbors.
    I also think most men act like big friendly dogs who will talk to just about anybody. That’s probably just my thought though :)

    • Amanda

      I had an ex-boyfriend tell me that that all guys are like dogs…in that they usually don’t really understand/listen to what you’re actually saying, they just register the tone of voice you use.

  5. San

    I don’t know. There might be some truth to that, but I must say that I had pretty good conversations with other girls/women in airports or other “temporary” situations… with some of them I even kept up casually afterwards.

  6. I totally agree! It’s SO much easier to make small talk with a guy…but…having a dog with me changes everything. If I’m walking my dog and spot another girl walking her dog – we have a mutual interest established before eye contact is made – we are dog people. And that just means that a friendly chat is imminent. About dogs, dog grooming, walking the dog in the crazy Chicago wind, something. Men with dogs…not always as friendly. They stop much less frequently. Me sans dog, easier to be chatty with a member of the opposite sex. Me with dog, friendlier with women. Strange!

  7. Layla

    I think the reason it’s easier to “flirt” with a guy is because you’re expected to want to get to know guys and already have girl friends. “Flirting” with a girl is something that you feel the need to put in quotation marks and explain… and all that extra effort to justify yourself becomes tiring. Add to that the fact that people might assume you’re a lesbian or bisexual (I used to be scared of that – not that there’s anything to be scared of and I should know, but in junior high you want to conform)

  8. Lorrie Paige

    Well, let me start off by saying I have absolutely no idea of how to flirt. I never have. The guy always flirts with me and I’m just polite back. If he asks me out, then if interested, I say yes, and the rest is history, which led to all the boyfriends I’ve had. I can try to fake it by watching other women, but I’ll probably look so phony it would be funny! Nope never flirted and no interest in it.

    It is easier to strike up a conversation with guys, but not to sound conceited, having a boyfriend, I rarely do, becuase when I chat with guys, they start coming on to me–not all of course but many do–then it gets awkward so I do a quick few seconds chat then end it politely like “well it was nice chatting” and walking away. I’m not crazy about making guy friends, as it’s very hard for guys to look at women in a platonic way, unless if good buddies with one’s boyfriend–then that helps any romantic interest.

  9. bookgazing

    Maybe stranger danger comes into this? Some women are ‘taught’ by society to be more wary of strangers in general than men are and perhaps that wariness means some women find it harder to reciprocate openly when a stranger talks to them? Or maybe some guys are more chatty because society teaches some guys that women will/should naturally be interested in anything they have to say, whereas society places great value on women being listeners and often reinforces the idea that society isn’t interested in what women have to say.

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