If You Aren’t Sure If They’re Flirting With You, They’re Flirting With You (Unless They Aren’t)

Now I was downtown clubbin’, ladies night – seen shorty, she was crazy, right? And I approach baby like, “Ma, what’s your age and type?” She looked at me and said, “You’s a baby, right?” I told her, “I’m 18 and live a crazy life.”

Okay, I admit it – those are the lyrics from Juelz Santana’s verse in Cam’ron’s “Hey Ma.” I was hoping to just paraphrase that song for the entirety of this article, but it turns out that Cam’ron lyrics are like Latin: they sound nice when someone else recites them, but reading and understanding them takes years of rigorous training.

Here goes: flirting is a complex endeavor in which you are constantly trying to figure out A) Whether or not the other person is indeed flirting with you and B) Whether or not they mean anything by it. In my experience, the relationship between flirtatious actions and actual intent follows a sort of bell curve. Below is a textbook-quality graph that I spent large portions of the Obama Administration attempting to create in Microsoft Word before I realized that I could draw it by hand and scan it in less than 10 minutes:


First, some frequently asked questions:

If the person is deceased, are they flirting? Although all scientific, medical, and legal knowledge points to “no,” 4 out of 5 Insane Clown Posse Juggalos say “yes.”

What if the person is doing something that seems diametrically opposed to flirting, like going about their daily activities completely unaware of your existence? They are probably flirting a little bit. Aren’t they coy!

As you can see from my aesthetically fetching graph, the most purposeful level of flirtation is found in small, yet revealing gestures: making consistent eye contact, making small talk, sitting or standing near you, laughing at your jokes, teasing you, etc. People engaging in this sort of behavior are flirting with you hardcore; they’re practically spraying you like a crazed, territory-marking cat. No, they are not “just really friendly” – no one is really friendly. That’s stupid. Everyone is a dick.

Here’s the kicker: What if the person is acting in ways that appear to be undeniably obvious indicators of flirtation? Like, for example, touching you for dramatic effect during conversation or making unsolicited remarks about their sexual interests? Although they are technically being flirtatious, and possibly even sexually harassing you, they don’t necessarily like you. Overtly aggressive flirters usually aren’t driven by the attraction or romantic interest that we typically associate with flirting. These are people who flirt out of boredom, or who have some other agenda: compensating for their own unhappy relationships, satisfying their unquenchable thirst for attention, or just trying to keep the movie “Swimfan” culturally relevant. They might not even be physically attracted to you. But if you change your hairstyle, they’re the sort of folk who might just leave a dead squirrel in your mailbox.

That’s not to say that flirting outside of serious romantic interest is wrong. Lots of people like flirting for fun – they enjoy “the chase.” Now, here’s a form of recreation that can’t possibly end poorly. Is the other person even in on the game? Who cares! If we learned anything from reading “The Most Dangerous Game” in 8th grade, it’s that other people’s emotions are always secondary to our predatory pursuit of entertainment. Let the hunt begin!

I’m being facetious, I’m sure. Of course when two (or more – there’s a Groupon!) people are aware that they are flirting merely for fun and have no expectations of any culmination or closure, they are certainly free to enjoy its recreational pleasures. And I see no way in which that could end in hurt feelings or the hollow sensation of cheap gratification for either party. Then again, that’s pretty much the position I find myself in when I drink malt liquor and go to Wendy’s on Tuesday afternoons, so who am I to judge?

Nonetheless, it turns out that real flirting is in the details. When someone flirts with you out of genuine interest, it’s just enough for you to notice it, but also faint enough for you to suspect that it’s your imagination. When it’s unmistakably clear to you and everyone in the room that someone is flirting with you, they are probably after something else (like your soul! Make sure to never yawn in front of them).

Sound confusing? If you’re a man, that’s because all of the blood fled your brain and rushed down to your penis several years ago. You should probably go lie down for awhile or something. If you’re a woman, don’t worry about it – you can just safely assume that everyone’s hitting on you, all the time. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

More From Thought Catalog