I have every intention of continuing with the understanding the language of evangelical dating, but providence has arranged a detour for the moment. Mary is My Homegirl posted a gif response to the wonders or horrible wonders of flirting in graduate school, which of course ended up on my Facebook wall and launched a discussion about the state of affairs, or lack there of in Christian graduate circles or just evangelical circles in general.
I am certain that I cannot flirt to save my life despite all the lady magazines I spent my teen and young adult years reading. Actually that is not entirely true - I can flirt when I do not actually like the person or I am on an Amtrak train for four days by myself and decide it is a good time to test out that eye contact article from a lady magazine I had read repeatedly in my boredom (which FYI worked, too well actually). Thankfully for my more adult-lack-of-flirting-skill-self I have stumbled into a community where flirting is more or less limited to hushed requests to watch your stuff in the library, while you likely go to the washroom. Which when you think about it is a little odd and a little too forward as you are introducing someone to the rhythm of your bodily functions.
I know that my lack of flirting skill is not unique in the evangelical world. I have found in my experience with men that most seem to oscillate between being far too aggressive or too passive and routinely swing between the extremes rather than trying find some sort of middle ground. The whiplash between the two extremes does happen in the non-evangelical world, however, as friend pointed out on Facebook the lack of flirting "game" is linked to the culture.
For evangelical men or even men who have spent any duration of time in the evangelical culture flirting is challenging. They are on one extreme told to be "masculine," to stake their claim and ensure that there is no possibility that the woman they are interested is going to lead in any way and on the other they are routinely shamed for their own understanding of masculinity or their sexual desires. They have not been offered a way in which they can with respect and appropriate timing and speed approach a woman they like, treat her like a human and not a piece of land to be claimed and in turn handle either the acceptance or the rejection well. I have found in my experience that 90% of men chose the passive approach via the friend zone. They hope that they can hang around long enough that eventually they can slide into the boyfriend zone. Pseudo dating is a blight on all decent men and needs to be stomped out with a vengeance... but that is another issue to be discussed at a later date. The remaining 10% I have found go to the other extreme. For example, I was at a house party a few years ago and might have become a little intoxicated, but that is beside the point. I awoke the next morning to a message in my Facebook inbox asking for my number and a date and I honestly could not remember anything about this guy. If he'd been flirting with me he'd been doing it wrong, all wrong. I did for the record go on a date with him which turned out to be the worst and longest date of my life.
In addition to these extremes I have found that most male-female interactions where there is some sort of attraction seems to be stunted at the level of playground antics. This can look like a classmate who insulted me in our first interaction and then fled, only to continue to act bizarrely around me for the last two years to a friend of mine who believed the best way to interact with me was to antagonise me, questioning predominately my theology. I have absolutely no problem discussing theology because that is the field I am in right now, but I do have a huge issue when the only way you can convey you like me is through petty arguments that you do not actually have any interest in. It's the equivalent of poking me until I give in to your advancements, all in the hopes you'll just stop. Both you and I are not going to win if I give up.
For evangelical women, I think the binaries are just as extreme. We have to negotiate the heroic virgin (see Regnerus) paradigm in evangelical circles which spans all sorts of shenanigans like Purity Balls and other shaming rituals to keep young women nonsexual by shaming them about their sexuality to the other side which is the I give up, you think I'm a sl*t so I guess I'll own it. For the record one of my male classmates did call me a sl*t because I use birth control. While it is cliche, the Madonna/Whore binary seems to skew every aspect of our interactions with the world.
So do I flirt now? I might if you have a few G&T's in me because that is about the only time I'm going to be flirting at the extreme where it is completely undeniable and I will make a complete and utter fool of myself. I do not blame the lady mags for that failure and to some extent I do not even blame the evangelical world for my issues with flirting. Rather I think I've come to the point where I cannot stand having to switch my brain off to get myself attention, and when I have tried it in recent years and it always comes up against a wall which I have chosen to interpret as both he's not interested and don't waste your time. This philosophy simplifies my life but it has also completely killed off my dating pool.
So on that note: