The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (or it´s web page, in any case) defines flirting as:
Main Entry: flirt
Etymology: origin unknown
Date: 1580 (people have been flirting, and failing at it, for 400 years now. And counting.)
1)a : to behave amorously without serious intent b : to show superficial or casual interest or liking <flirted with the idea>; also : experiment <a novelist flirting with poetry>
2) to come close to reaching or experiencing something —used with with <flirting with disaster>
It´s a fairly common activity here on planet earth. Someone, somewhere, right now, is flirting. And, rest assured, for everyone of those persons, there is someone else, the recipient or target of said advances, who is either enjoying it thoroughly, or feeling very bothered and uncomfortable. Generally, flirting is something people relish, regret or repudiate. By that, I mean people generally are:
a: Good at it, ostensibly getting the desired results from their endeavors both on the receiving and giving ends.
b: Embarrassed by it. Not because they suck at it, but because they rarely get to engage in it. Being rusty, I believe its called.
c: Über-hot people who are on the receiving end of SO much flirting they tend to view it with disdain. Or, simply someone who isn´t into the person flinging the flirts.
Notice I am avoiding assigning a gender here. I am not saying women, or men for that matter, are better at flirting. Granted they are each others subjects of preference (well not always) when it comes down to it.
I find amusing that in the very dictionary definition itself there is allusion of disaster. I mean, did they have to choose that particular expression (“flirting with disaster?”) And, aren´t we always, when we flirt? It can always go either way.
It can be an epic fail, or a towering win. Examples:
Flirter: Hi, how are you?
Flirtee: Pretty good, yourself.
Fliter: Can I get you a drink?
Ok, Im going to start over. For some reason I can only imagine two gorillas in bowler hats. Scratch that, Im skipping the whole imagination dream sequence bit this time.
Just be sure that every time you see some girl, or guy, roll their eyes, a kitty dies. That rhymes! What Im saying is that the potential for abysmal failure is so great, some people fear flirting. Others, of a more self-deprecating nature, crave the punishment of being rejected constantly. Myself, I can take a few hits, and give a few, but too much rejection can bum me out.
On the positive side, I have to disagree with Merriam and Webster on the definition. I don’t think flirting implies a lack of serious intent. Maybe superficial or casual, but not without intent. I mean, can flirting not lead to solid relationships? Is it not mandatory for any relationship, be it only a physical one, to at least begin with flirting? Admittedly, in some cases, awkward flirting makes for the most amazing relationships.
When flirting goes right, its a wonderful thing. Hearts quicken, pulses race, eyes lock, eyelashes bat, eyebrows go up (at least for me) and the world just seems like a more exciting and mysterious place. The sheer possibilities of what might come often overwhelm and over come us. When that flirt is reciprocated fireworks go off the distance, the ground quakes, seas part…it´s wonderful. I think it might be better than having an orgasm (I said might be). Which leads me to my final point.
Flirting is, finally, the preamble to foreplay. It can lead to sex. I daresay it may be the original intent of the word.