Flirting With Disaster?

So you thought you’re being cool when you let him give you a side hug during a conversation and he thought you’re hot and game for anything? So you stroked your hair, tossed your head back while laughing out loud at his jokes and he thought he could come on strongly to you because of your body language? When does appropriate turn into inappropriate? Where does one draw the line? Can flirting ever be harmless in spirit? What to do, when to do and how not to be misread because of what you do, when does one cross the moral line, that my dear friends, are the million buck questions every woman worth her mascara and every man worth his cuff links are dying to find answers to. RITZ makes an earnest attempt to delve into the minds of men and women to unravel the cipher.

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Sample this: You are a woman. You walk into a party alone or with a group of girl friends. You run into a male acquaintance who strikes a conversation with you. You have met him a few times at social gatherings, so you allow yourself to be chatted up. A few minutes into the conversation, he suggests you move to a less crowded corner because it’s too noisy. You go with the flow and walk alongside holding his arm lightly. Both of you are having an easy one-on-one and you laugh at his jokes. The next thing you know, the acquaintance is getting all touchy, feely. You somehow extricate yourself out of the situation but it leaves a bad taste nevertheless. You wonder if you did or said something to invite such behaviour.

Sounds familiar? Going with the flow brings forth its own set of complications.

Rita Ora, British singer and actress, said her flirting on The Voice, when she was a judge, was harmless. According to her, it was a way of making the contestants feel comfortable. The singer said that no one ever made her feel at ease when she was trying to make it. In the first episode of the series, Ora swooned when she saw one contestant, and called him “really hot” and “handsome.” The star, 24, said that her flirting was “always harmless”. “I like to make people feel comfortable, regardless of the situation.” said Rita, who replaced Kylie Minogue as the only female coach on the show, added: “No one really did that for me and I wish they did, so it’s about cracking the ice so they can do what they came here to do, which was to blow us away.” Sounds quite convincing but then it’s different when you’re a celebrity and in a position of power. One can’t apply the same definition to hoi polloi.

“There’s a thin line between being easy going and being considered easy,” says Arundhati, a 32-year-old media professional, candidly, “It’s rather unfortunate that a woman has to be constantly on guard and watch what she says and how she says it. But that’s one fact of life we have to come to terms with. I am able to say this confidently now after I crossed 30 but all through my 20s, it would baffle me, even upset me at times when something I said or did was misconstrued.”

This whole business of flirting has acquired newer dimensions on social media, with popular personalities leading the way. Take the case of Zayn Mallik, the dishy English singer. His Twitter flirting with Big Brother star Chloe Goodman, caused a furore recently. Apparently, the former One Direction singer sent the reality TV star a message on Twitter asking, “Do you have a boyfriend at the ‘mo?” Unfortunately, the lady in question had a boyfriend, so she politely turned him down.

An insider who’s close to her said, “Chloe was quite shocked by the messages. She knew Zayn had only just split from his girlfriend and couldn’t believe he was already looking elsewhere. She told him she had been with her boyfriend for a long time. He seemed to accept that, and told her if he hadn’t asked he would have ended up being ‘rude’!”

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“Oh please,” differs Tarun Jairaj, a 37-year old entrepreneur, “It’s not a black and white scenario. There are a lot of greys. It’s not fair to hold guys responsible solely for situations that turn unpleasant. I am not disagreeing that many of us jump the gun sometimes because we may have misread the signs but that do not in any way mean that we’re not gentlemen.” Point noted. But how far is too far? “Well, sometimes women are cool all along when we flirt. The problem comes when you push your luck a bit because she’s letting you give a peck on her cheek or hold her hand occasionally. Sometimes it clicks, sometimes it doesn’t. According to me and a few of my male buddies, in a party scenario, if a woman who lets you flirt with her, flutters her eyelashes and gets physical till one point is taking it too far. I mean, don’t expect us to be saints.” Hmmm…

“Yeah, some men think that women, especially the attractive ones, will feel bad if a guy doesn’t get flirty with them,” says Vani Tripathi, a make-up artist, “I used to know this guy in his late 40s a few years back, who was the general manager of a star hotel. He would flirt with every woman he knew or had just met, regardless of her marital status because he believed that women felt bad if he didn’t. How do you explain that? Creepy, isn’t it?” Finally it took a young girl from the media who threatened to expose his overtures that got him to put an end to his flirtations and flee from the city.

So that is as far as happily single guys and girls are concerned. What about the ones in committed relationships? Where to draw the line with the other gender? How do you retract when you cross the line? Do the rules of the game differ when you’re in a committed relationship? Of course yes. Because it’s not just about you, it’s also about your significant other and the relationship you both share. Sometimes, what you consider harmless might not be construed as the same by your partner. So let’s get the facts straight. Harmless can mean buying a drink in a social setting, freely giving compliments, side arm hugs or other non-sexual touches, a platonic friendship. The term “harmless” is only applicable if you are willing to disclose this behaviour (without shame or guilt) to your partner. When your partner starts to show signs of discomfort or concern, then that’s a writing on the wall that your harmless flirting may be placing strain on your relationship.  And that’s where you need to stop!

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The key element to an honest lasting relationship is respect for each other. If your actions have even the slightest ability of disrespecting or hurting your significant other, in their absence or presence, then in all probability, it’s not harmless at all. Many couples disagree on flirting because they fail to understand the emotional toll that may occur from jealousy and insecurity. If you choose to be in a committed relationship with someone, you are committed to the whole package – which includes their stance on flirting – even if it does not match yours.

Flirting crosses the line when the actions becomes covert or so emotionally connected that you pursue it over furthering your committed relationship. Making arrangements to spend time with this ‘crush,’ sending suggestive emails or text messages, or indulging in intimate, physical behaviour are all clearly crossing the line if you are in a committed relationship with someone else.

Flirting is a topic with a lot of grey area, so it is up to you and your significant other to decide together which aspects can be made more clear and distinct. You never know when flirting might acquire the dimensions of cheating when you cross the line. Quite a lot of us justify our acts that there was no physical involvement. Sorry to bust the myth buddies, but cheating entails any behaviour or activity where you are emotionally compromising the commitment that you have made to someone else. Being physically attracted to someone else is not necessarily considered cheating, but acting on those attractions and pursuing conversation or communication with that purpose is a slippery downslide. Despite the fact that flirting and cheating are somewhat subjective in definition, both can be detrimental to a relationship.

And as far as the happy single men are concerned, play the field guys, only make sure you don’t offend the lady when she is making it clear to you that it’s no longer fun. Just lay off! And ladies (single or hitched), if you don’t want a bad after taste to linger on after a social interaction, refrain from giving mixed signals! And if it has happened inadvertently, in case somebody has misunderstood your body language, mince no words and express it verbally. Loud and clear!