Schubart: The Fine Art Of Flirting

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Seeking relief from the apocalyptic media debate about whether
government is a benign or malignant force in our lives, commentator
Bill Schubart chooses to reminisce about the lost of art of

(SCHUBART) At a dinner party several years ago, a
woman of a certain age introduced herself to me and initiated an
artful flirtation that eventuated in a warm friendship, not just with
me but with my wife.

The age-old art of flirting is at grave
risk in this new age of accelerated "hooking up" and "friends
with benefits." In fact, we may be losing the underlying allure of
healthy eroticism.

A friend of ours, a former photographic
editor of New York Magazine, recently produced a coffee table book
that posed this question somewhat differently but effectively. It’s
a collection of porn film stars standing nude on the left page and
posed elegantly clothed on the right. Without making the question
explicit, (no pun intended), the book leaves us little doubt as to
which is the more erotic image.

After all, it’s the
anticipation of physical joy that imbues us with desire in all its
tantalizing urgency. It’s the richly imagined but totally unknown
outcome that entices us and feeds that desire.

Flirting is
indeed the beginning of seduction. But that seduction does not need
to culminate in sex. It may lead to lifelong friendship rather than
to a bedroom. Done right, it is a delightful game that allows for a
choice about which direction the relationship will go, a bantering
interplay or a serious relationship. Think tango rather than

Flirting engages partners slowly, the
as-yet-unknown sparking attraction in part because the direction of
the relationship is up in the air and the imagination holds

The accomplished flirter uses his or her skill
carefully. Akin to the art of grooming and elegant dress, flirting is
a subtle expression of a desire to attract, possibly sexually but
possibly not. Flirting conveys by movement, demeanor, and wit,
sometimes bluntly and sometimes subtly, the desire to know someone

Today’s tawdry come-ons leave little to the
imagination, accelerate at warp speed and often leave partners
disappointed and adrift in the sexuality of loneliness, gorging on
sex to feed an emptiness that only slowly-crafted friendships can

Even married people can flirt, as the goal of a
flirtation is not necessarily infidelity. The person, however, who
overuses their peacock charms becomes known as a flirt in the same
way that an overused clever expression soon becomes a cliché.

sexual taboos of many cultures inevitably led to subtler forms of
seduction. Many of these taboos had an important function in their
society and may have developed out of an innate human understanding
that the rush to procreate often accelerates beyond the capacity of
young people to develop meaningful relationships. By slowing down
those nature urges, society could strengthen the very relationships
that protect its offspring.

And, best of all, this slowing
down has the added benefit of enhancing desire and the joy of a
possible union between human beings – sexual or not.


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