The Fine Art of Flirting
It’s not how gorgeous you are, but how you play the game
She bats her eyelashes and smiles coyly. He throws back his head as he laughs loudly. Their eyes meet. A pattern as old as the story of Adame and Eve has commenced. It’s the flirting game.
Scientists who have studied courtship in animals are now turning their attention to humans. And they’re finding that we’re a lot like our feathered or four-legged friends. “A man may arch his back while he’s sitting at a bar stool,” says Dr. Helen Fisher, a Rutgers University anthropologist and author of the Anatomy of Love: The Mysteries of Mating, Marriage and Why We Stray (Fawcett, 1993). “A lobster does the same thing. A woman will swing her hips; a dog will almost swagger. A woman will look coy; an antelope will turn itself sideways. A man will show off; a peacock will too.”
“There’s a gerat deal of non-verbal behavior to flirting,” Fisher says. First, men and women both set up shop. “In a bar, a man will throw his coat over the chair to set up a space for himself. A woman will sit in a highly visible place,” she says.
Next, they spot each other across a smoky room. At this point in the game, a man will tend to gesture boldly, by using his whole arm to pick up his drink, for example. A man will also tend to laugh very loudly during this stage, and, “like all kinds of male animals, they arch their backs,” Fisher says.
A woman, on the other hand, will fiddle with her hair, shade her face with her hands, look coy or meek, or squire around in her chair. Now it’s time for “the copulatory gaze,” as Fisher calls it. The flirter’s eyes meet. They may even smile at each other. It’s time for someone to make a move.
“A lot of flirting ends with talking,” says Fisher. Once someone opens his or her mouth, it gives away education, intelligence, and intentions. As a pick-up line, the anthropologist suggests saying something that requires some feedback. “It’s best to ask questions or give a compliment because they require a response.”
If the couple makes it past the talking stage, then it’s time to move on to the next level: touching. The woman is almost always the first to touch, Fisher says. A woman will graze the man’s shoulder, or touch his arm. “If he winces, she’ll never try again,” says Fisher. “If he touches back, she will.”
At this point, the two start mirroring each other’s body language. He picks up his beer, she picks up her beer, he takes a swig, she takes a swig, he burps…
But what exactly do men and women want? Fisher says, that because men once hunted on the plains, they are much more visual than women. A man looks for a healthy woman who can bear children, with clear skin, bright eyes, and a buoyant personality. “The flirtatious, not the attractive, get the attention,” she says.
Because of all those years of being couuped up in a cave with the kids, women want a man who is verbal. “Women want to be courted with words. Women want face-to-face contact,” says Fisher.
And despite progress for women in the workplace, she is also looking for a man who can support her and her children financially, Fisher says. “More regularly women pick the rich banker instead of the sensitive poet.”