We all have varying opinions on flirting – whether it is acceptable on any level or not. Is there a way of measuring the appropriateness? A tipping point? A set rule?
Flirting can be seen as charming or clever if done by the right person, in the right environment, at the right time and can even add a bit of spice to a relationship - but it can also be a treacherous minefield.
I remember a particular incident when I was in my twenties, newly married and – at the risk of sounding boastful – quite attractive with a really good figure. I was also very naïve.
I worked in a male-dominated environment and was used to getting looks and comments, but there was a particular man who would always seek out opportunities to talk to me or to work along-side me. I was flattered by the attention but in hindsight, his behaviour was extremely inappropriate. I just wasn’t aware of it at the time. He would have been in his fifties, married with children, yet he frequently commented on my long legs, my hair, my clothes.
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He would touch me or brush up against me at every opportunity. I remember a particular comment he made about how lucky my husband was and that he hoped I was ‘well-satisfied,’ because if I wasn’t, he would be happy to show me a few moves. I laughed it off then, but if that were to happen today I would report him for sexual harassment.
In another incident a couple of years later, a good friend of my husband got himself horribly drunk at a party and tried to kiss me. I told my husband about it but he simply laughed it off, so I assumed that he considered his friend’s behaviour to be acceptable. It never occurred to me at the time that my husband might also think it was ok for him to behave in the same way with other women!
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Looking back, I still can’t believe how naïve I was at that time in my life. Although I never flirted with anyone, I believed that it was just something that men did. I’m now much older and wiser and can spot inappropriate flirting a mile away.
It's nice to pay a compliment or give a hug, but if we find that we are doing it more for a cheeky thrill than as a genuine gesture, we need to stop and think.
While I don’t believe that there are general rules or guidelines around appropriate or inappropriate flirting, I have come up with three of my own. They are:
- If you would not be prepared to say it or do it in front of others, don’t say it or do it in private. - If someone makes a comment or gesture to you that you would not want your partner or loved ones to hear, then it’s inappropriate. - If it makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe in any way, step back, speak up, seek help.