Heart on the Sleeve: Is Traditional Flirting a Dying Art?

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MarcoFreyCue scene: The waitress at my birthday dinner has a smile that seems tailored just for me. She’s just a little shy but very sweet. Blue streaks in her hair. With 7 credit cards, we pay up, my friends and I, joking about the small profit the bank makes on our good time. I waive adieu and we go in for some late night jazz at a bar across the street. Much later, that same smile graces my eyes. It’s loud in here but we manage to talk poetry just as I’m called on stage to play. She leaves with a friend and I can’t reverse her momentum as she walks out.

The days slip by as I pace my room for the next gesture. I finally cage the high-school-grade butterflies in my chest and race in the perfect spring breeze to her restaurant. I lock my bike and stroll in, legs like lead. Yes, she’s working today after all but it’s busy, busy. “Hi! Are you eating?” she asks. “No. Listen,” I reply, “I know you’re busy but I had to give you this book of poems.” She smiles and I can almost see her brain filter through patron orders and the garnish on tonight’s special. I hand her a book of poetry. She absorbs the romantic gesture with a smile, hugs me, and I leave, relieved. Cut scene.

I haven’t heard from her since. Maybe she’s just taking her time; she’d probably want to read the book before calling so she has something interesting to say. Maybe the book will go unread in some corner of her apartment until moving day where it’s rediscovered. She’ll blush and think of calling, but won’t remember my face and think twice.

online datingFor many of you, the scene is familiar. It’s the heart-on-the-sleeve world of flirting—that is, before smartphones changed the game. If you’re familiar with Tinder, the dating app, then you know that you don’t have to put your neck out anymore. From the comfort of the couch, you can swipe right or left: hot or not. Based on first impressions of three or so photographs, you narrow down your pool of potential love interests. However, to get a match, she must also swipe right. It’s a low stakes world of judge and be judged, secure behind that glowing screen.

But in so many ways, dating apps will win out over traditional flirting. In the earthly realm it’s hard enough to approach just one woman. With dating apps there is sheer success by numbers. It’s ideal for the busybody or the introvert who finds it hard to cut through the loud music at a bar. There are other benefits, too. Tinder allowed a friend to meet women from all walks of life, many of whom he’d never have approached in person, who don’t frequent the same haunts he frequents.

It’s sad that traditional flirting is a dying art. But even if this girl never calls, I’m happy to part ways with a favorite book because it means I had the courage to do something romantic. As the decade passes, will we lose the charm and vulnerability of the first-approach? Face-to-face flirting is like choosing to turn off the television and read a good book. Only now, you can swipe right on a girl from the bad side of town, even while watching Netflix in your pajamas. And who knows, she may turn out to be your soulmate. Only, you may need to move out of your parents’.