Okay, so I thought this one was going to be easy and fun, but it turns out the nuances of flirting are really hard to examine when you are unable to experience them.
The realization that I’m on the spectrum has led to a lot of “Oh, that’s probably why…” moments. One of the most smack-my-head moments is this one: Oh, that’s probably why the concept of flirting has always been so lost on me. I’ve joked that my flirting technique is to completely ignore the person to whom I’m attracted, but that’s not the only play in my book. Oh no, in some cases, I’ve been known to be present, or hang out with the attractee and speak to them like I would any other friend. And once, I got really drunk and high-kicked a pal named Drew in the chin while trying to only pretend-kick him. (He was fine, but it’s a risky move.) So if you’re taking notes, that’s A: Ignore, B: Pretend you’re not attracted to them, and C: Accidental violence.
These techniques, such as they are, have surely led to a lot of missed opportunities, but they’ve also saved me from pretty much ever putting any effort into dating, having to admit vulnerability, or ultimately living through the drama of new relationships, which I don’t care for. Instead, every person I’ve ever ended up in a relationship with or even hooking up with in the slightest has been a friend. I’ve never been on a proper date, and I’ve never met someone at a bar or bookstore or wherever people lock eyes with the strangers who turn out to be the loves of their lives. That whole process seems absolutely nightmarish and not at all worth the trouble.
I think I’ll save my “late bloomer” or “bad at romance” deep dive for a separate post, because while related, it’s its own subject with its own humorous anecdotes. But I will say that when I finally did start dating, they were accidental hookups or suggestions put forth that I didn’t bother fighting. That sounds worse than it is–again, they were friends. I just mean that it took straightforward proposals or very obvious physical advances.
Aside from someone coming straight out and saying, “I like you,” or “I think we should hang out,” or my favorite, “So, when are we gonna fuck?” pretty much the only clue that a fella was into me was an arm or hand slowly moving down my back or a face coming in for a kiss, which, I mean, how do you even respond to that? For me, if I was not interested, it was usually by laughing it off if I felt safe and thought they were just joking around, with a fist or elbow if I felt safe but knew they weren’t joking around, or eye daggers and a scowl, because how dare they, out of nowhe–oh, wait, it probably wasn’t out of nowhere. There was probably a whole buildup that I didn’t register.
I probably missed the eye contact they were trying to make, since I’m horrible at making eye contact. Or maybe some kind of body language I didn’t pick up on. Or loaded compliments or probing inquiries that came across as tune-out-able chit-chat. Quick aside: I just blanked on flirting techniques and looked it up online. I do not suggest this if you’re looking for ideas. From my brief search, I’m going to assume everyone offering flirting advice online is an awful person. The point is, I likely wrote off any subtle flirting behaviors from friends as just them being my friends. And from a stranger? Well, I don’t talk to strangers.
Now back to my flirting style. I have been attracted to lots of boys/men and done absolutely nothing about it. Perfect example: The tour drummer for some indie band when they came through Chicago back in 1995–he was super cute and we talked all night, and we all crashed at my friend Gina’s, where I casually distanced myself by playing with her new kitten. I sneaked out early the next morning to go to work, where my friend would later come in and tell me how that drummer guy had indeed taken a shine to me and was asking about me when they all woke up. Totally missed opportunity, and totally my fault. And over the years I’ve had this same conversation with old friends: how we had crushes on each other back in the day but were too awkward to do anything about it. They’d tried one move or said something but I didn’t respond, so we just stayed friends and whatever, friends are great.
So, I don’t mean to say that the flirting that’s gone on since the dawn of time should stop because of people like me. It’s probably really fun for those who can do the dance. I guess this is just another case where I wish I’d known back then that I wasn’t doing it right so that I could have come up with some better tools and known what to look for or been more direct. I could have maybe not blown off that drummer guy or maybe even not kicked poor Drew in the chin. (Again, he was fine.) Obviously, in the end everything worked out–I’ve been in a great relationship with the same person for almost 24 years. If he were to die or leave me tomorrow, I’d likely stumble my way into some kind of relationship at some point, but the process would probably not be pretty.