People have been cooking me dinner since Sunday night, it’s AWESOME. On Sunday, a friend cooked a roast with all the trimmings. On Monday, a bloke barbecued. On Tuesday, the kids and I went to a dodgy curry place after swimming lessons. On Wednesday, my sis cooked delicious steak with a yummy asparagus and feta salad. Spoilt!
The downside with all my outings is there’s been very little time for blogging. So here’s another attic discovery. To be honest, I found it a little mean-spirited in parts. Perhaps that’s my newly single status sensitively talking? I’d been thinking the article might come in handy, given my current circumstances. But, oddly enough, the only decent tip for flirting came from my younger self – stop talking so much and start LISTENING. How come I was so much wiser in my 20s?
Hi, my name is Alana – and I’m a flirt. I first realised I was a flirt five years ago when I went to a function and was seated at a table of French businessmen. My French didn’t extend much further than bonjour, but I could pronounce it VERY well. I thought I’d be fine, but I hadn’t counted on the inherent arrogance of the French. They ignored me. Totally. After about 30 minutes of linguistic isolation, it was time to either retreat to the bathroom or take action. I took action. I turned to the natty little Frenchman on my left and began asking him lots of questions (about himself). It worked. Before long, he’d turned me into the centre of attention at the table. Two hours later I walked away with several business cards tucked inside my wallet and my confidence restored.
The next morning I got a fax [remember those!] from a fellow diner. It was a copy of a newspaper article entitled Flirting Really Does Open Doors in France. Ohhhhh, so that’s what I was doing … at a business function … Tres embarrassment!
Needless to say, when my editor called me into her offer and told me she was sending me to flirting school, I was a little taken aback. Had I lost my touch? Did it show? Obviously, it was time for a refresher course.
Place: Sydney’s Gazebo Hotel
Mood: Nervous anticipation
As I arrive, outside on the streets it’s like New Year’s Eve – the crowds are streaming across the road and through the entrance of the Gazebo Hotel. Inside, more than 500 people are cramming into the restrictive confines of the hotel’s Boronia Room. Another 200 to 300 have been turned away at the door. Obviously, I’m not the only person in town who needs to brush up on their flirting techniques.
It reminds me of a business seminar – the setting is subdued, the lighting is harsh, and there are lots of suits and demure frocks – decidedly unflirtateous. Haven’t they heard there’s a getting-to-know-you disco afterwards?
As I look around the room, I realise there are a lot more men than I’d expected. I’d always considered flirting a female area of expertise. All age groups seem evenly represented, too. And there isn’t the air of desperation that I’d anticipated from a horde of people paying $20 a head to learn how to flirt. Which is just as well, because the director of The School of Flirting, Susan Rabin, later tells us that men can sense desperation, and it scares them off. Fast. She doesn’t mention whether women can sense desperation, but I detect a few whiffs later in the night.
Being a member of the media, I don’t get a seat, so I slouch uncomfortably against a wall. Beside me is Gary, the stand-up comedian (and sax player). He’s been hired to warm up the crowd. Apparently, there’s a big market in corporate humour these days. He delivers a set of dating jokes, then returns to my side to listen for any new material. There’s plenty on offer.
Someone hands me a brochure and my eyes boggle. “Round Table Sex – Dinner With A Difference”! At least that’s what I THINK it says. On second glance, it’s actually promoting “Round Table Six” (six strangers dine together), a concept which has apparently won a Regional Small Business Award.
If tonight is any indication, dating is becoming BIG business. At least six dating services – including Five Star Singles, The Meeting Game and The Meeting Place – are offering their services in an adjacent room, and they’re doing a roaring trade. The School of Flirting has its marketing honed to the finest art, and quickly sells out of books, cassettes [remember those?], videos and flirting props (more about those later …)
The star attraction of the evening, Susan Rabin – author of 101 Ways To Flirt and How to Attract Anyone, Anytime, Anyplace – finally hits the stage. She’s blonde, vivacious and (I hazard a guess) in her 50s. She’s wearing a hot-pink suit and a large, matching (flashing!) plastic ring, which, I’m told, is intended as a conversation starter (you can buy them in the hotel foyer for $9 each). Another of Susan’s popular props is the Nicebreaker Meeting Card (also for sale, $9 a pack). The card says, “It’s difficult to meet in a place like this, but I’d really like to meet you. Please call …” with a space for your name and number. You hand them to strangers you spot in dark, noisy places like restaurants and clubs. “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” asks Susan, suggesting “he won’t call back” as the most devastating result. I, on the other hand, think “stalking” and “death”. Call me a pessimist.
Susan tells the audience that flirting is “acting amorously without serious intent”. She also explains that in flirting the, no body parts exist below the neck. This advice comes a little too late for some. Comedian Gary tells me that one of his friends was sitting near a woman who kept asking the man beside her to stop touching her. Finally, she tipped her drink over him and stormed out. I’m sure I meet him later in the night.
After running through the signals of attraction – from the hair flip (women) to playing with your moneyclip (men) – and games to teach the audience how to make the right/wrong impression on strangers (shaking hands with the person next to you/staring at them), Susan moves on to her final, ingenious game. It’s a version of musical chairs, which not only gives people a chance to meet each other, but also clears out the 500 chairs in the room to make way for the disco dancing. Each person stacks their chair against the wall talks to a stranger until the music (John Paul Young singing Love Is In The Air) stops, then moves on to talk to another stranger. And so on.
I’ve graduated from The School of Flirting as a qualified CCF – Certified, Confident Flirt. If I come back next year, I’ll get my Bachelor’s Degree. If I’m really, really good, one day I might even get my PhD.
Everywhere around me, people are practising their new-found techniques. Flirting on cue strikes me as extremely awkward, so I retreat to a corner to observe. But within a few minutes I’ve attracted my first newly qualified CCF, Peter. Tina Turner belts out Nutbush City Limits as Peter – a pale, bespectacled fellow in his late 20s – tells me that he doesn’t have much trouble meeting women. It’s just difficult finding ones he really connects with. As a Christian, he suggests church groups as great meeting spots. And he’ll be keeping a close eye on the congregation now, after learning that a woman fidgeting with her jewellery is a flirtateous act.
“So, would you agree?” he enquires, staring at me intently. Er, I don’t know, Peter. I might just go to the ladies’ and think about that one for a while …
After chatting to numerous men (all in the line of duty), it’s obvious most came along to meet women. As Hot Chocolate croon You Sexy Thing, Robert, a smug 29-year-old who works in the money market, tells me that he and his mates do “something like this” (ie hunt for single women) every Friday night. “It can be hard to meet the type of girls we like,” he says. And what type would that be, exactly? “Young girls, about 18 to 25,” he explains. “It looks like there’s lots of lovely ones here this evening.” Right.
I escape from the dance floor (they’re doing the Macarena) to the adjacent “chat” room, where John (tall, clean-cut, 30) is gazing in delight at Monica (tight white skirt, teased blonde hair, 28). Monica, who possesses an irresistible-but-indeterminate European accent tells me she’s having a “funtastik” evening and that she thinks John is her “future husband”, while he nods giddily. “I was sitting at home and my girlfriend, she rang me and asked me if I was vanting to do something exciting,” she explains. “And so, now I am here. Dahling, that woman [Susan Rabin], she said everything that I vas thinking. Eeet’s not good to be shy.”
As we chat, I get a tip-off that the biggest flirt in the room is nearby. Time to let these love birds get to know each other a little better. John barely conceals his delight at my departure.
The room’s biggest flirt turns out to be Jackie, a confident brunette in her late 20s with a raucous laugh. She accuses me of using my tape-recorder as a flirting prop – jealousy’s a curse. But she’s not alone. Most people I approach don’t believe I’m a journalist. They just think it’s a particularly clever pick-up line. The remainder bolt, terrified that they’ll be exposed to the world as desperate and dateless. Can’t say I blame them, really.
I’m granted a semi-private audience with the queen of flirting herself, Susan Rabin (we’re interrupted every few minutes by a string of grateful attendees wanting to thank her for changing their lives).
Rabin is a walking, talking testament to the fact that flirting doesn’t end when you hit 50. She tells me how she picks up men on buses, that she’s been in bed with David Letterman (on TV), and that one journalist who interviewed her was so charmed he set her up with his father. This is a woman who loves going on holidays by herself, to meet people. And she’s VERY good at it. Before I can stop myself, I’m telling her all about my relationship and getting advice on keeping the romance alive (“Stroke his leg under the table in a restaurant!”, “Greet him wearing attractive lingerie!”)
Rabin has also taken the time to probe Australians about the state of play between the sexes. “The women here have told me they want to tell the men to be more romantic and attentive and charming and flirtatious,” she says. “And the men here say the women are a little tough, that they want everything. They want me to ask them to be a bit more feminine.”
By now Rod Stewart is warbling Do Ya Think I’m Sexy. The dance floor is jumping – think of your great-uncle doing Saturday Night Fever impressions at your cousin’s wedding reception. I sit down on the corner of the stage to scribble in my notebook. That doesn’t stop one VERY sweaty dancer from bounding over and asking me to dance. Two fat drops of perspiration wobble on his chin, then plop on to the carpet beside me as I frantically manufacture a polite excuse – “Er, sorry, I’m working” – and flap my notebook for effect. I decide to leave before anyone else tries to entice me on to the dancefloor. Outside I spot Monica supporting her tottering (female) friend, as they wander off into the night. Maybe John wasn’t future husband material after all.
Got any flirting tips for me?
Song of the day: Rod Stewart “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” (confession: I used to have a bit of a thing for Rod as an early teen)