By Meg Donahue
In conjunction with her story, “Match Points,”
Meg Donahue decided to try out dating expert Jula Jane’s “Flirt Boot Camp” from Jane’s book, Secret’s to Date By
. The boot camp lasts one week; each day Meg was given different activities to try in order to become a better flirt. Here are the results: DAY ONE
Ahh, I love Day Ones. Day Ones of diets, of quitting smoking, of exercise regimes, I love it. You get all the sense of accomplishment of starting a new task without any of the work. So nice but so ephemeral. Jula has planned my day for me it seems (how kind of her). I am to wake up an hour earlier than usual, do something active for thirty minutes, take a shower, eat breakfast, make sure I’m looking my best, and then it’s off to the races. Okay
, I think, I can so do this
I don’t have to be at work until eleven so waking up an hour earlier than usual isn’t a big deal. At the crack of eight forty-five I am up and moving (well, I did hit the snooze bar once or twice. Hey! It’s my first day of a new flirtier life, give me a break). I take my dog for a thirty-minute walk and come home excited to make my low-cal breakfast. Jula’s book suggests that I have some fruit and maybe some decaf coffee or better yet, water, but that all sounds too depressing. Breakfast is my favorite meal, so I decide to make myself a poached egg on toast. All did not go sexily at breakfast. First I burnt three (three!) sets of toast and then my dog had a post-walk “accident.” While I was cleaning up my dog’s, um, surprise, I realized you never see paparazzi pictures of Jennifer Aniston picking up dog poop. Know why? It sucks the sexy right out of you. After that, a shower and a glam sesh provided by my cigar box o’ makeup.
I get to work (I work at a golf course, in case you were wondering) and find out they won’t need me until the restaurant opens for dinner at five. Awesome, I’ll just take this sexy out into the streets until then. Part two of Jula’s “First Day of Flirting” is to find five men at lunch to flirt with. Not to start a conversation with, obviously, just to make eye contact with and practice a shy smile. Shouldn’t be too hard right? It took me four hours, one restaurant, two bookstores, and one sidewalk to find three (three!) men to flirt with. The world is currently overrun with women, babies, and fourteen-year-olds out of school, none of which are candidates for my flirting activity. I arrive at work harried and a little pissed off that I have taken all day to complete a task that Jula said (in her book at least) would take roughly the same amount of time as consuming a low-cal salad and bottle of Perrier. To top it off I still have to find two men to flirt with.
The restaurant, of course, is dead. A few golfers I have known for years show up to have some drinks but I decide against flirting with them. The weird guy that works in the pro shop starts flirting with me. Unfortunately, he’s just annoying, and I wished he would go away. By this time my mascara has started to flake into my eyes, causing a burning sensation that makes me look like I have pink eye, and my eyeliner has faded into my eye socket, making me look like a greasy, crazy lady with pink eye who would love to take your dinner order and tries (let’s be honest now) pathetically to give you a sexy smile. I have no choice—I go and melt a candy bar in the microwave, grab a couple of marshmallows that were left over from a party, and promise that tomorrow I will do my best to bring the sexy. Today? Well, we all have first days. DAY TWO
This entire day is dedicated to “the sexy walk,” and that is making me uncomfortable already. I’ve been practicing my own my-chest-is-too-big-for-my-body-and-I’m-a-little-ashamed-of-it walk since I hit puberty, and I am very, very good at it. The walk consists of:
• Head down to stare at your feet while you walk, only to look up if you see you are about to walk into a wall (those walls can sneak up on you) or about to run into another my-chest-is-too-big-for-my-body-and-I’m-a-little-ashamed-of-it walker. You’d be surprised at how many of us there are out there.
• Neck pulled forward, so it looks a bit like a turkey’s when they are scavenging for food on the ground.
• Shoulders drawn forward, thus making the chest concave, rather than the convex it wants to be. This part is key to the whole my-mother-would-be-horrified-by-this look.
• To round it all out (literally), poof out the abs, thus not allowing the lower back any support and causing the whole upper body to pitch forward.
Over fifteen years I have perfected this walk. I have scoffed at other slouchers as amateurs. I thought Kurt Cobain’s posture too erect. I was the enemy of chiropractors and ballet teachers everywhere. It was my look. It was to me what Michael Jackson’s silver glove was to him, or liquid eyeliner to Angelina Jolie, or husbands to Liz Taylor. It was terrifying to have to lose that.
I looked online and found Tim Gunn’s theory on posture. Tim Gunn is as ramrod straight as a construction level, so I decided to listen to him. In Tim Gunn’s world everyone should stand with their stomachs pulled in, their bums squeezed tight, their shoulder blades pointed as far down as they will go, and their head up and parallel to the floor. In short, find the most painful way to stand and stay like that. All. Day. Long. Oh, but we aren’t done yet, no, no, no. Now I have to re-learn how to walk.
At first, I bounced. A lot. Once I got over that, the stiffness came in, then I had to smile, and then keep my arms loose. It took me three days to master the “sexy walk” that Jula said would take an afternoon. I wasn’t surprised though; it seems to be taking me at least three times longer to master things prescribed in the book.
That night I went to a show at Smith’s Olde Bar. I was looking cute and armed with my two new weapons of the flirty look and the sexy walk; I was sure I was going to be the belle of the ball.
As it turns out, not so much.
I left without giving anyone my number or having a flirty conversation with anyone. Sure the music was great and I got to hang out with my friends and get dressed up, but this is flirty boot camp, son. There is no room for “friend nights” in this woman’s (flirty) army. Ugh, how frustrating! DAYS THREE AND FOUR
Welcome to Day Three everybody; I’m so glad you’re here. Did that sounds charming? Good, because that is what both Day Three and Day Four are all about. Jula writes that being charming is a main component of flirting and “it makes you look amazing in the eyes of a man.” From what I can tell of Jula’s advice, being charming boils down to being complimentary to other people. My fear is that I will come off looking either all “Uriah Heap” or “Creepy Stalker” if I start telling total strangers how lovely they look in that color; however, if I had to tell you two solid things I have learned over this whole “flirty” week it would be this:
1.) Total strangers love being told that they look great in that color.
2.) Being charming is exhausting.
How could it be exhausting? Let me clarify. It isn’t the imparting of warm smiles that is exhausting or the mental calisthenics performed to think of a compliment before the stranger walks away, no. It’s the fact that they invariably need to talk about the object of the compliment ad nauseum after the compliment was given. Example
: While walking to my car, I saw a woman driving a Vespa pull into a parking space. I complimented the scooter saying that I had always wanted one; she then launched into a ten-minute information spew about where she got it, why she got it, how she had been in a car accident a year before, what her mother thought about it, and about a dozen other things before I could extricate myself from the conversation. Scooter Lady, who was apparently my new best friend, wasn’t the only one to dump their life story on me after a random compliment. I was horrified to find that men, women, rich, poor, stranger, and friend consistently did this. It came to the point when I would try not to compliment someone only because it would let me avoid a twenty-minute, eye-glazingly boring back-story. So only compliment someone if you have the time to kill. DAY FIVE
This is the last day of “Flirty Week,” and thank God, hallelujah. I assumed today would be about mastering the “sexy laugh” or learning the secrets of Renaissance courtesans but no, Jula had another surprise in store for me. Apparently today I am supposed to call all my girlfriends, have a boozy breakfast, go workout (really Jula? I’m barely coordinated enough to get through step-class sober), go shopping, and then go out to dinner to meet some men. This is the step I refused to do. Wasn’t it bad enough that I had to get up a half-hour earlier every morning? That I had to practice my “sexy walk” in the frozen food aisle at Publix? That total strangers told me about their shopping habits and ugly divorces? I couldn’t in good conscience get my friends involved in this insane week.
Even though I called it a day a day early, I would still characterize my flirting week as a success—but not for the reason you might think. I didn’t meet my soul mate, and I didn’t form any life-long bond with anyone, but I did realize that we all flirt every day without even knowing we are doing it. Every time you say hello to your neighbor, stand up a little straighter, laugh at a lame joke, or generally try to be a kinder person, you could consider it flirting. Flirting isn’t about thinly veiled sexual innuendo—at least flirting done well isn’t. It’s about making someone feel wanted and special just for the few minutes you may speak to them. It’s about passing on a better mood to someone who may have not seen a better mood in months. It’s about caring for yourself and connecting with others. And really shouldn’t everyone learn to do that?