“I think the barista fancies me,” he explained as we wandered towards the coffee shop. “She’s quite flirty, you know?”
Yeah. I know. I know a million guys who are convinced that the barista in their regular coffee shop fancies them. They pop in of a morning, freshly showered and ready for work, and order their usual from someone who knows how to make it. That loving ritual of giving and receiving hot drink adds an extra tinge of flirtiness to an otherwise mundane transaction. A simple ‘how are you?’ can be transformed into a declaration of playful lust.
“No, she doesn’t fancy you,” I told him, twattishly. “Everyone thinks the barista is flirting with them – they teach them how to do it in barista school.”
“Yeah,” a twitch of something that looks like relief on his face. “You’re probably right.”
Flirting with strangers
He’s quite flirty. Good at hugs, and not afraid to use them when they’re wanted. Cutely nerdly and smiley in the right places, with occasional bursts of whimsical humour that really hit the mark. He’s kind and flattering and warm. Of course people fancy him. Of course they flirt back.
I used to hate the idea of other people flirting with ‘my’ dude. Every sideways glance and giggle felt like a calculated gesture to steal him away – as if I had some kind of ownership. Like I’d pissed round him in a circle and anyone who stepped into that circle was a fair target. I’d scowl and worry, feeling like every nice interaction with someone else was somehow a minus point to me. As if flirting with someone else is the next step in something significant rather than a fun way to pass the time.
I flirt. I probably do more than flirt, to be honest. I don’t just toss my hair and laugh, or place a playful hand on a guy’s knee when we’re sitting close – I make innuendos and I whisper dirty stories, and everything has a vague undercurrent that says ‘I want to. I need to. I promise I would if I could.’ It’s flattering when guys do it back, and I feel simultaneously buoyed by it and degraded. Like I’m sexy enough to fuck but pathetic enough that I’ll judge my success by a tickbox list of who would and wouldn’t go for it. For me, flirting is often about that ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – that ‘would you?’ which seems so important.
I can see why people love flirting just for the fun of it, though. Being complimentary, friendly and warm with no need to consider whether something will happen. And there’s joy in watching other people flirt too. Watching him being playful with other people, and feeling that glow when someone else catches on to just what it is that makes him spectacular. There’s a spark there, and it doesn’t feel like jealousy – it feels more like pride. An affirmation that, yes, I’m right, and he’s exactly as good as I think he is.
Please don’t stop flirting
Back to the coffee shop, and our barista. After his tentative build-up, I’d expected a very particular kind of flirt: the ‘how are you/how’s your day/the usual?’ interaction during which he’d shuffle his feet and mumble replies and be a bit socially awkward. It wasn’t like that at all, though. It wasn’t forced or obvious, and you could have knocked me down with one of those flimsy plastic coffee-stirrers when I realised it was true: the barista actually fancied him.
I’m not an expert – she may just have been a really good actor, but this was top-quality flirting of the kind I’d only bring out if I really cared about the outcome. If I wanted a phone number or a fuck, or at the very least a shared connection and sizzle of lust as our hands touched when money was passed over.
Ten years ago, this kind of thing would make me wild with jealousy. It’d have me biting back sarcastic comments or storming out in a huff. I’d be worried that this girl’s lust would demean the lust that I felt for him – that she was stepping into the circle and pushing me out.
This time, though? I got sad for a really different reason. Not because he had a flirty connection with someone else, but because the moment he turned and offered me a coffee, her face fell as she realised we were together. It wasn’t a case of her stepping into my circle, but me into hers. I’d ruined their fun, and taken a nice thing away from them both.
I hadn’t pissed around him, or told her to back off, or worn a t-shirt that said ‘this guy’s my boyfriend so keep your hands off‘ – I’d just turned up and been real, and added practicality into an otherwise lovely fantasy.
I’ve read a lot of stuff that tells people to beware a flirt. That I’ll never feel secure, because I’ll always wonder if he’s planning for that moment when he leaves me behind. And I genuinely used to believe it. More recently, though, I’ve realised I’d be sad if he never flirted with anyone – if he responded to women’s advances with a swift and decisive ‘no’, or a panicked, half-shouted “I’ve got a girlfriend!” He’d miss out on that spark of warm delight when you realise someone else fancies you, and I’d miss out on the opportunity to discover his best bits all over again through someone else’s eyes.