Flirting with the Clueless

14 Feb

I got my haircut on Saturday and I swear the woman who cut my hair was flirting with me. Of course this didn’t occur to me until sometime on Tuesday when it suddenly hit me—”I think that stylist was flirting with me!” I suppose the flirting can be considered to be less than effective if the flirtee doesn’t catch on until 3 days later.

It really wasn’t this woman’s fault. I am sure she is a very competent flirt. I am just a little slow sometimes.

According to an article on, women are more subtle about flirting and most men need “a larger clue” to figure out what’s going on. In other words, as most of my women friends tell me, men are clueless.

The woman who became my college girlfriend had to take her top off before I got the hint that she was trying to seduce me. Even then I wasn’t sure if maybe she was just feeling a little warm. In my defense, she was a tad more worldly than I. Let’s just say, I was a bit worldlier after that evening, I tell you what (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge! ) At the time I was hoping that evening (and the nine months to follow) meant I was straight. As it turns out, I was just bi-curious. But I learned a lot from that experience.

I am now aware that when a woman introduces her breasts into the situation you’d better pay attention because something is up! Word to the wise.

The hair stylist may have just been making conversation. I mean, she didn’t take her top off so maybe I misunderstood the signals. She was talking about my hair, my “beautiful hair” and running her fingers through it as stylists will. It got all tussled in the process she said,”now I get to see what you look like when you first get out of bed…”

A more alert man—a heterosexual man on the prowl—OK, A Guy, would have seized this opportunity to say something suave like, “oh baby, if you really want to see what I look like when I first get out of bed maybe you should spend the night sometime.”

I thought of that comeback on Tuesday. Not that I would have actually said that to her. I already share a bed with my boyfriend, my dog and my cats. There just isn’t room for another person.

You may think the fact that I am gay makes me extra clueless in determining whether or not a woman is flirting with me and you may be right. However, I am proud to report that I am an equal opportunity dullard when it comes to being the object of flirtation—I miss clues when men flirt with me too.

July 25, 1979. My relationship with The Boyfriend was newly minted. He was in Jacksonville and I was in Tallahassee attending the summer quarter at FSU. We did not at that time have an exclusive relationship.

I was taking a creative writing class that met in the evening. One of my classmates was a young man we will call “Jeff.” As a matter of fact “Jeff” is his real name. (What are the odds Jeff is going to read this blog and recognize himself after 30 (ouch) years? And if he does, “Hey, Jeff—email me!”)

If you have never taken a creative writing class this is pretty much what it entails—the students write stories. Your story is either duplicated so everyone in the class gets a copy or the story is read to the class, sometimes by the professor and sometimes by the student who wrote it. Then the class critiques the story. This can be a scary process.

I generally liked the stories Jeff wrote and he generally liked mine. One evening after class, Jeff invited me to have a few beers with him at a watering hole close to the campus. We will call the bar “Poor Paul’s Pourhouse” for that is what it was called. Not only that, but as far as I know the bar is still there.

I would like to mention that the drinking age was 18 at the time. Another reason the 70’s was such a decadent and wicked time. Not only were college kids taking illegal drugs they could also drink alcohol legally.

Good times.

I don’t remember a lot of the details of that evening but what I do remember has haunted me all of these years.

Jeff was an attractive man. He had long, thinning brown hair (I’d wager by now he is quite bald) with sun bleached blond highlights. Jeff had a great tan—not a George Hamilton scary kind of tan but a nice healthy tan and good skin.

I remember Jeff wore these weird mesh slip on brown shoes without socks. He usually wore shorts. Of course it was summer and if you have ever been in Tallahassee in summer you know that it is wicked hot so who doesn’t wear shorts?

Jeff also touched me when he talked. I don’t mean he moved me, I mean he put his hand on my arm or my shoulder while speaking. I don’t always like that but I liked it when Jeff did it.

We drank beer and talked about life and writing like we knew what we were talking about. I learned that Jeff was from Jacksonville Beach. His parents divorced when he was young, he had some issues with his mother, he wasn’t very athletic, he was lonely, he was a writer.

I found I could relate to Jeff.

At one point Jeff looked around the bar, sort of waved his hand and said, “There are a lot of attractive women here,” or something to that effect.

I responded with something lame like, “Yeah.”

I had not been out of the closet for very long. I had not yet marched on the capital building or done volunteer work for a gay rights organization. That would come later. At this moment in time I had come out but it wasn’t something I was all that comfortable talking about.

Then Jeff said, “What kind of women do you like?

Blond women? Dark haired women? Do you like women?”

There is was, Door Number 3. That’s the one I should have picked by simply answering honestly, “I love all women, but not the way you mean…”

It is all too clear to me now. However at that moment, in a noisy bar crowded with college kids on a hot summer night in 1979, I was not prepared to open that door. Instead, thinking of the girlfriend I had recently broken up with (OK, technically she broke up with me but that’s another blog…)—the one who had to take her top off to seduce me, I answered, “Dark haired, I guess.”

I don’t remember what Jeff said after that. I assume he told me what kind of women he liked although it was clear he did not have a girlfriend. Or maybe the conversation drifted to other topics. We were English majors so perhaps we discussed literature. (“How about that Great Gatsby!”) On second thought, maybe not.

I lived about a half mile off campus. Jeff shared an apartment somewhere with a graduate student. I did not have a car. Jeff had a pickup truck. (Well, he was from Jacksonville Beach…) Jeff offered to give me a ride to my apartment. Again, memory fails me. I am not sure what we talked about on the way there.

I guess it was late. I had a roommate and perhaps I did not want to disturb him. For whatever reason I did not invite Jeff up to my place. Instead we sat in his truck and talked some more.

Somewhere along the way Jeff pulled out a cigar. No, that isn’t a euphemism. It was an actual cigar.

A big cigar. Jeff didn’t light it, he just played with it, passing it between his fingers. “Have you ever smoked one of these?”

No one had ever asked me that question before—at least not about a cigar. “No.”

“It is so big,” Jeff said. “It feels so big in your hand and between your lips. You can play out all of your homoerotic fantasies with one of these.”

I know. I know. This is where a more alert man—a homosexual man on the prowl—OK, A Guy, would have said something suave like, “Dude, if you want to play out your homoerotic fantasies we won’t be needing that cigar but we will be smoking!”

Isn’t that a cute comeback? It took me thirty years to come up with that one.

Instead, at the time, I just laughed. As did Jeff.

Eventually I went upstairs and Jeff drove away. We saw each other on campus, we had classes together, we even happened upon one another outside the governor’s mansion one evening at an anti-death penalty protest but we never got together again outside of class.

My last memory of Jeff happened shortly before I graduated. I was at the pool, attempting to get a tan. Jeff wandered over. I was sitting up on a towel, Jeff was wearing a pair of shorts. He squatted down as we spoke. He told me he intended to join the Peace Corps after graduation. I couldn’t help but notice, as he squatted in front of me, that the leg of his shorts opened up affording me a very clear view of the fact that my friend Jeff had gone commando.

Thanks for the memories, Jeff.

Of course I don’t really know what was on Jeff’s mind. After all, it was Freud who said “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

The hair stylist from last Saturday was probably just being friendly. She does, after all, work for tips. I remember this bartender who used to flirt with me and he wasn’t trying to get me into bed. (Oh, actually he was. Bad example.) All I am saying is, sometimes people are just friendly.

I used to work with a woman who was convinced that scores of men were flirting with her all the time. She would read erotic significance into the most mundane, polite small talk. She even decided someone had parked his car in a certain spot because it was close to a window in a room she often worked in. That was more than 15 years ago. As far as I know that woman is still single.

I guess it is better to be someone who misses a flirtation or two than someone who imagines a flirtation where none exists. It is the difference between living a life filled with little surprises versus living a life of ongoing disappointment.

And just in case you’re wondering…yes, that was “a look” I gave you…

So tell me—are you a good flirt? Do you notice when people are flirting with you? Any flirtations that got away you’d like to share?

3 Responses to “Flirting with the Clueless”

  1. Tsquared February 14, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

    I had totally forgotten 'Poor Paul's'. Thanks for the reminder.And you are not a special dullard. Most of us just miss the signs. Three days later is about when I wise up…

  2. chris February 15, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    I don't really 'get' flirting. Although, I did learn early on that the 'girls' pretty much spoke for themselves. And I've been called a flirt on occasion. But, I think I'm more 'friendly' than flirty, at least initially. I do enjoy flirting within a relationship. It keeps things interesting & fun.Maybe flirting is in the eye of the beholder…

  3. Deb February 23, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    Well, in some cases, er, Bill Clinton, a cigar is more than a cigar…

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