Flirting doesn't come easy to many. If you're not the kind of girl who's adept at conjuring trouser tents with bend 'n' snap tactics, you probably know what I'm on about: short of harakiri-ing your self worth by quoting Anchorman at guys you meet in bars, it's tricky to know how to initiate a chirpse.
And sure, rather than making a move, it's much easier to just wait for someone to emerge from the pages of a screwed up Richard Curtis script and send an apple martini and their number your way. But it's also completely unrealistic and a little bit delusional and all your friends and family should be quite worried about you if you truly believe that's ever going to happen.
Instead, you need to stop acting all school disco about dating and start doing some of the chatting up yourself. Here are some handy pointers to help you navigate this strange new world.
I'm afraid to say: bashing out a squinty text in the bogs after five happy-hour sangrias doesn't count as flirting. I'm no literary historian, but I'm pretty sure the best romantic prose was never composed as the author held the toilet lady in a long embrace, murmuring something about "£1 being a bit much for a Tic Tac", while using one hand to steady herself on the cubicle wall. Sure, sending "r you outt dp tnigght" to every possible shag in your inbox is a quirky move, but it's also 11PM on a Wednesday, so maybe just use those large, indiscriminate thumbs to order yourself an Uber.
When you get in, eat at least five slices of toast and go immediately to bed. If you insist on disobeying this advice and instead decide this is the opportune time for a saucy bedroom selfie, you are very much mistaken; whoever wakes up to a flurry of unsolicited pictures of you squashing your tits together under your chin is definitely going to feel weird about it. Not sure what response you were hoping for, but it probably wasn't "Um, thanks?" time-stamped at 7.32AM.
House parties were made for flirting; once you've whet a dozen whistles frotting your way across the kitchen floor, there are ample opportunities to light a few conversational candles. Absent-mindedly ashing in his beer is a quick and easy way to get noticed, for instance, as is helping yourself to his Glen's while standing right in front of him.
It is because of this limitless license to chirpse that house parties can be a bit of a mixed blessing. A few warm vodka-Lilts down the line, and you may find yourself sprawled on an IKEA rug slagging off the Tories with a bunch of cocaine-socialists. By this time you're probably feeling pretty chatty. How did you get so good at chatting? You probably got it from your mum, who you seem to have a lot to say about tonight. Flecks of white gunk are forming in the corner of your mouth as you tell the object of your monologue about your plans to crack the street food business, before showing him hundreds of pictures of your family dog.
As the sparrows begin to chirrup and the sun gleams through the windows onto your cracking concealer, ask yourself this: when was the last time I heard the voice of this person I'm vibesing with? And how many real-time minutes have I been talking about setting up a Kickstarter for my app idea? If it's longer than two, you have not been flirting; you've been very high, and have probably ruined his night.
(Photo by Tom Johnson)
Flirting with virtual strangers on apps is a bit like getting stuck in the office kitchen, stirring a teaspoon of Nescafe round and round a Magic FM mug with your eyes half open while Louise from HR tells you about her "chilled" weekend. If you can't be bothered to wear trousers while flirting, the penalty is a good couple of hours of molar-grinding mediocrity before you meet up to disappoint each other in the flesh. This is how we do things now.
BREAKING THE MOULD
Flirting in daylight – or, god forbid, sober – will give most ladies a throbbing dry throat and a weird metallic taste in their mouth. And that, I'm afraid, is because you were born in the UK. As much as it may pain you to admit it, your national character dictates that you will probably never ask your tube crush to "grab a cawfee sometime". You might have watched him Tindering over his shoulder, but you're never going to be able to walk four blocks with him, talking earnestly about having hobbies. Inconvenient, but true.
Instead, the only public places it's socially acceptable to try out new flirty material are parks in the summer and pub gardens the rest of the time, and even then you're going to need a conversation starter, like an unruly Cockapoo or an open wound.
Thing is, do you even want to veer into that territory? Remember – if any guy has asked you for your number on a crowded commuter train, he will have been one of the following: a) completely insufferable, or b) someone who might later keep a lock of your hair in a wooden box with a tiny key. Don't stoop to that.
IN THE CLUB
Flirting on a big night out is an ambitious undertaking; you and your friends circling the handbag totem like a bunch of slutty Morris dancers is a visual spectacle, but one that's notoriously hard to penetrate.
Even when you're doing your best come-to-bed eyes from across the room, the reality is that flirting with strangers in the night is going to boil down to proximity. This means you're probably going to end up following the object of your desire around the club like a lost toddler in supermarket. Bar a couple of fancy-seeing-you-here cigarettes and knowing eye-rolls in the cloakroom queue, your best hope of sealing the deal in this situation is to find someone stupid enough invite 20 tenuous mutuals back to theirs for an afterparty.
KNOW YOUR MEDIUM
Messaging is the ideal platform for all literate potential hook-ups, as it allows you plenty of time to quickly Google – and feign enthusiasm for – their interests. If the apple of your eye is in the workplace, you've got a job on your hands. Realistically, you're going to spend a lot of your working day trying not to get caught frantically scouring Giphy, because heaven knows a well-timed sloth gif in an email thread is a millennial aphrodisiac.
By all means go multi platform, but more than two at once is overkill. Never do Twitter, though. The only people you'll find flirting there are "gin enthusiasts" and people who wear slogan T-shirts. If you want to go a bit throwback and flirt on the phone, never leave a voicemail; voicemails are for dads, butt dials and Specsavers appointments. Have you ever heard a successful flirty voicemail? No. And that's because they don't exist.
PRETENDING YOU DON'T KNOW WHEN IT'S HAPPENING
Because we're all absolutely terrible at this stuff, sometimes it's quite hard to tell when a mere vocal exchange has turned into a flirt. Basically, holding a conversation with an available man you've just met for more than three minutes makes you an open target for their advances. Despite the fact that every girl knows this, we often pretend that we don't. This, unfortunately, sometimes lands you in situations you'd rather not be in, like Scott from accounts putting his clammy hand on your knee, or a man on the bus mistaking a question about the next stop for an invitation to aggressively neg you for the next half a mile.
There are ways to quickly evacuate the flirt zone. Dropping the B-bomb early in the game is an easy out. See also: imaginary friends you need to buy drinks for and those fake toilet trips where you end up just rinsing your hands under the tap. Or if you're really desperate, telling a both-ends food-poisoning story will always get the message across nicely.
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I don't know which sick Silicon Valley fuck invented the "seen" feature of instant messaging, but they have clearly never been hit square in the face with their own love boomerang. I know you've stared in breathless anticipation as the ellipsis pulsates on your phone, while you ask multiple friends in multiple chat windows if the flamenco emoji was too much. Whatever they tell you will probably be ego-preserving lies; if you're not sure if he's flirting back: he's not.
If you are considering starting a text with the words "me again", or composing a "sorry wrong number" Friday night message, the game is up. You are galloping into weird town on your crazy horse and you must kill it before it kills you.
You also ought to know that being "good" at flirting is actually a myth. I've overheard enough off-duty fashion bloggers talking about their horoscopes to have learnt that if someone wants to do the funky with you, most of the boring shit that comes out of your mouth will not be a problem. If someone likes the cut of your jib, they just do: even if your jib is flapping in the wind and has "daddy issues" scrawled all over it in lipstick.
So you've shaved your legs you've spritzed an ambitious amount of perfume on your inner thighs and your eyebrows are so on fleek it hurts. You didn't pay a woman £30 to rip hot wax from your empowered bumhole for no one to appreciate how silky smooth it is, so get out there and Sheryl Sandberg the hell out of your flirt game.
If you're spending your single life standing flush to the skirting, waiting for Colin Firth to ask you to dance, you: a) urgently need to update your DVD collection, and b) have to remember that, since we stopped wearing bonnets, getting your chirpse on really needn't be that difficult. A bit of light rejection won't turn you to stone, and you can be 99 percent sure no one's going to burn you at the stake for giving it go.
And when he starts talking about a dodgy chicken korma he had last weekend, at least you can say you tried.
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