Flirtation 101: the silent rules of attraction

By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
November 8, 1996

Charles C. Labenz
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Photo Illustration


You sit down just as you notice him or her walk into class. You'd like to get the person's attention somehow, but you're all the way across the room, and you can't very well yell, "Hey, I want you!" from way over there, right?

So you try other ways. You cast a furtive glance, make eye contact a few times.

Professors call it pre-courtship behavior, which encompasses certain immediacy cues inherent in nonverbal communication. Others simply call it flirting.

It's a habit for some - a wink here, a smile there. For others, it's as unconscious as breathing, a sort of subliminal seduction. But all those classroom Casanovas who do it use some sort of body language to get their message across, unconscious or not.

"I'm pretty much always flirting in class," says Brad Finger, 22, a history junior whose perpetual grin backs up his claim. "If I talk to a girl in class, I definitely flirt with her."

Finger says he takes a seize-the-moment attitude toward flirting, because "if you flirt, there's a window of opportunity" that the other person may respond in kind.

Abby Lodmer, 20, a media arts sophomore, seems to employ the same philosophy.

"Sometimes I'll flirt with anyone," says Lodmer, who uses the words "sweetheart" and "babe" where others might say "um" or "uh." "Sometimes I don't realize I'm flirting."

But to those who have studied such behavior, it's obvious. Often, there are clues in how people move or react - and when it's a small class and a short-tempered professor, you gotta know what to look for.

Here are some hints:

Finger says that sometimes he'll tell a joke and get a playful push in response, a sign he interprets as positive. And if he's successful inside the room, sometimes he'll take the act on the road.

"There've been times when I'm walking out of class and I put my arm around a girl," he says, and if she's receptive, then, hey, everyone's happy. But he says he realizes there's a stopping point.

"Sometimes you can tell they don't like it," he says. "I'll stop when I come to the conclusion I'm badgering the girl. And if I'm not annoying her, but she's not flirting back, then I'll stop."

After some thought, he adds, "Or if I find out the girl has a boyfriend, because I don't want to piss any guys off."

Keight Sweeney, 22, a philosophy junior at Pima Community College, says her friends call her a flirt, but she doesn't see it that way.

"It's just a matter of being really friendly, talking to people more than anything," she says. "I don't necessarily go out of my way."

At the very least, it makes the time in class go faster.

"I think flirting is a really good thing," Finger says. "You're not hurting anybody by doing it. I'm sure it makes some people feel better about themselves."

And Lodmer has this parting advice: "I recommend any girl who wants to be the ultimate flirt in class to get a tongue ring."