Our eyes meet across the hot tub. You smile. Oooh. That’s a nice little zing. I smile back and in return you give me your best smouldering gaze.
*record scratch* Hearing the timbre of your voice change from your regular conversation tone to a slick slide, I recoil a bit. Did I just get a ‘the look’ and ‘the voice’? Oh Hells no! I look down at my drink then quickly get ‘distracted’ by the suddenly very interesting conversation happening next to me. I avoid all eye contact from now on, hoping you’ll point that player game someone else’s direction. That crap does not work on me.
Let’s be straight up. I am an awkward flirt and I feel most comfortable with others who are similarly awkward. Don’t get me wrong. I love me some witty banter. I will get my knickers all kinds of damp over someone who is clever with the pop culture quips and roguish enough to give me the impression they could do the Kessel Run in, if not twelve, then an impressive number of parsecs. There needs to be a hint of the awkward in that cleverness, though, for me to know the person is authentic. The second I feel someone giving me some kind of slick player vibe, my interest shuts down and my thighs clamp shut. It feels incredibly fake.
The high level of anxiety I am working with as my baseline means that unless someone is crystal clear with me about their interest or intentions, I can’t read them. I don’t trust my ability to interpret hints and clues since my anxious brain regularly sends confusing messaging about the world around me, and often, outright lies about how people feel about me. The player style of flirting usually involves a certain amount of deliberate obfuscation of intent, and I learned early on that if I can’t clearly understand what was being communicated, I don’t feel safe responding to or expressing interest.
I’ve written before about when my husband, Flick, and I were hanging out after we’d broken up early in our relationship. We were sharing a bed at our friends’ place and he was giving me a massage. When he started biting my back, I said, “That’s a big turn on for me and if you want to remain just friends, you need to stop that.”
“I’m trying to seduce you,” he replied. Ohhhhh. Neither the bed sharing nor the massage nor the bites were clues to me that that was his intention. He’d said he wanted to be friends when we broke up and until he told me with clear words that he’d changed his mind, I interpreted everything he did as friendship-based.
Awkward people feel more real to me and are far more likely to win my affections and the opportunity to put our parts together in fun combinations. I get that some people could use awkward as a variation on a player tactic, but although I can’t always read intent, I trust myself to read people’s authenticity and a fake-awkward would quickly ping my artifice radar. Someone admitting that they’re shy and that they don’t know how to say it, but they think I’m hot and would like to kiss me, is likely to get a positive reaction (provided I want to kiss them back). They’ve admitted that they’re uncomfortable, so if I read the discomfort, I know what it’s about, and told me clearly what they want. What more could a person ask for?
That said, there’s a limit to how much discomfort can be present and if I get a whiff of sulky, entitled, ‘no one wants to play with me’ crap, I am not interested. I get it. It sucks to be shy and it’s hard to put yourself forward. This exhibitionist slut is a shy exhibitionist slut. So while I understand that it’s difficult, everyone has to ovary up, put themselves forward, and be prepared to accept rejection. I don’t owe anyone anything, particularly not access to my body.
I’ve been known to hit on people with incredibly dorky and direct questions like, “Do you want to come over and do the sex with me?” Some people might find it too direct but those people are likely not compatible with me, since I don’t know how to do it any other way. ‘Hang out’ is simply too vague and can mean anything. They might not know what I’m intimating by it and might not be up for what I really want, and I would assume something completely platonic if someone invited me to hang out, even if they seemed otherwise interested in me.
With just the right level of direct and awkward communication, everyone knows what is on the table/desired and can make the right choice to accept, reject, or make a counter offer. “I’m feeling pretty low energy. Would you be into jerking off together?” or “I’m not up for sex tonight, but I’d love to give you a foot massage while we watch a movie.” I’d be a big yes to either of those options most nights and wouldn’t be squirming with anxiety wondering what was up.
Those who prefer to keep it loose and go with the flow are not my kind of people. I mean, they’re delightful, but we really shouldn’t try to date. Or fuck. Anyone who has tried to put a hand or giant toy in me knows that though I may be easy, loose I ain’t. The only way I can relax into a situation is to know what to anticipate. For some, the unknown holds a lot of erotic charge. They feel a zing when they’re in that space between knowing what and not knowing what might happen. For me that space holds only vague nausea brought about by wondering what, if anything, is in store.
I’m sure I miss out on that sense of mystery that many hold dear in the beginning of relationships, but mysteries are overrated. One of my favourite things about non-monogamy and especially being in spaces with sex geeks, is that we get to be super-direct. People tend to lay their cards on the table and clear open discussions are had about desires and interests. I get to relax because my questions about interest are answered often before I need to ask them, and my directness doesn’t come off as unusual.
So keep your suave routine to yourself. The only way into these trousers is to bring the awkward.