I was born without the ‘flirt’ gene.
While I’m sure that I could have learned to flirt had environmental factors aligned properly, they did not, so I can not. I was raised with a bunch of boys, which is kind of akin to being raised with wolves except that when you’re finally rescued, no one feels the compulsion to pay for your extensive therapy or make a movie about your life. The result of my upbringing is that I’m totally comfortable with guys as playmates, best friends, and people to challenge to fistfights, but I have no concept of how to treat a guy in whom I’m interested. It’s easy to spot the guys in a room to whom I’m attracted, because they’re the ones whom I avoid entirely. It makes dating difficult.
My flirting skills have not shown marked improvement since I’ve arrived in Columbia, partly because of lack of opportunity, and partly because I don’t tend to ride that train when opportunities do present themselves. Truth be told, I’m such a poor flirter that I’m not even sure when the opportunities do present themselves.
Except for one thing.
When guys flirt with me when I’m driving, I tend to pick up on their signals pretty quickly. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have air conditioning, so I have to ride with my windows down, which makes it that much more obvious when a guy hangs out his car window and gives a lil’ holla atcha girl. Maybe it’s because I tend to be an extremely distracted driver. Or maybe it’s just because it’s completely and entirely hilarious.
A few such incidents in the past few weeks have stood out to me for various reasons.
The first one was notable not merely because the man involved looked like he shared a birthday with James Bond (and he looked a little worse off than Mr. Bond), but also because the man was travelling with what appeared, to someone whose weapons training has come entirely from the TV show Psych, to be a bazooka.
Another was bizarre because the man, in the middle of his winks and “Look how cool I be” head bobs, tried to flick cigarette ash into my car. It was a sizzling moment, but probably not in the way he intended.
The most recent of these occasions occurred while I was driving to my Sunday night Bible study. I was waiting at a red light right outside my house when an SUV pulled up next to me. I glanced over to study my light-waiting companions. . .and promptly made eye contact with Mr. Latin America 2009.
I physically grappled with my jaw to keep it in place, but lost the battle entirely when said beautiful man shot me an equally beautiful smile.
“Be cool, girl, be cool,” I told myself. I managed to follow my instructions to the point of looking away, but my overdeveloped sense of humor has absolutely no interest in protecting my reputation from accusations of being a loose woman, and despite the fact that I contorted my face into all kinds of grotesque shapes to keep the laughter at bay, it was to no avail. I laughed. . .no. . .worse. . .I giggled. As the light changed and we each pulled off to our respective destinations, I spewed out a string of laughter that can only be described as ‘bubbly.’
Now if I had attempted one of those cutesy “come hither” giggles that people in movies somehow pull off, my problems would have been solved. The SUV would have careened into oncoming traffic in an effort to get away from me, and I would have escaped in the ensuing melee. But because I had no intention of flirting, and was merely laughing because the situation was so entirely unexpected, my laughter was apparently that which could be interpreted as ‘flirtatious,’ and the SUV driver, who had been headed in the opposite direction, had a sudden change of heart and swerved over 3 lanes until he was once again next to me.
We approached our next red light, and I tried desperately to stay composed and cool, and pulled it off for about 30 seconds. Then the tension overwhelmed me, and I snuck a glance to my left. I need to take a class on subtlety, apparently, because I earned a wink, an eyebrow raise, and a grin for my troubles. Shoot. The cover had officially been blown off my semblance of composure. Had I had a single strand of flirting DNA in my body, I would have known what to do, and maybe would have attempted one of those super-cheesy “peer at the object of your flirtation over the top of your sunglasses” moves. But I don’t, so I just sat there in an undignified state of flirtlessness and hoped desperately that if I did start laughing again, I wouldn’t snort a snot bubble.
The light changed, and I sped up to enter the interstate, the better to simultaneously get to my destination and get away from the SUV so that I could pull over somewhere and have fits of maniacal laughter, because that’s what I do when I encounter hot boys.
No such luck. The SUV driver had committed to ‘until boredom do us part’ and was following me onto the highway.
At this point I was starting to feel the tug of my natural playfulness against the very unnatural level of class I occasionally try to maintain. I was pretty sure Jackie O and Michelle Obama wouldn’t deign to race Mr. Whoever-Gave-You-Those-Genes-Deserves-An-Award on the highway. . .but Lauren Wiest wanted to take that gauntlet and run with it, especially since she was already late to Bible study.
We both pulled onto the highway, and I floored it. The SUV driver pulled even with me and kept pace. In my mind, I suddenly transformed into Dale Earnhardt, Jr., while the pretty boy was Danica Patrick (I figured that he was probably more attractive than talented). I kept up a running monologue in my head about the race, which was unfortunate, because my inability to drive and think simultaneously caused me to slow down a good deal as I mentally developed a racing story line. This did, however, give me just the momentum I needed to give the SUV the slip when my exit came up, and as the other car pulled ahead, I kissed my dreams of NASCAR victories goodbye, changed lanes and shot off the highway.
I took one last look at the SUV and caught the passenger leaning out his window, waving wildly at me with both arms.
This caused me to laugh so hard that I proceeded to get flustered and entirely screw up my directions to the Bible study so that I was incredibly late.
While this experience has in no way impacted my ability to interact with boys “on the ground,” as it were, perhaps it’s a step in the right direction, and the next time a hunka burnin’ love approaches me (though I can count on exactly zero fingers the number of times that has happened), I’ll at least be able to get as far as acknowledging his existence before I flee the scene.
On second thought. . .don’t hold your breath.