Ah, flirting. It's such an innocent pass time, but I'm not deceived. Flirting can be fun, harmless even; until it isn't. It's so easy to fabricate a relationship/expectations in our head off of just a few flirtatious glances or a smile.
As you all know, I'm the queen of fabricating relationships in my head. I can cross-examine a lingering hug for months (and I have people who can vouch this for me). I can’t ever just flirt with guys anymore. I tend to imagine all possible scenarios within the first glance, and I build it up an entire relationship in my head (usually before I even know his name). I do this with flirty glances on the bus, with a smile exchange on the elevator. I can read too much into a cashier asking “How are you doing today?” because he didn’t ask the girl in front of me how she was doing. (I’m aware that I’m slightly pathetic.)
My flirtationships always spiral into some mental rom-com that reality can never live up to–my dumb fantasy. I have many versions of the dumb fantasy, but my favorite is the ever-romantic notion of falling in love with a foreigner in a different country. I’ll set the scene.
You’re traveling in a foreign country. Spain? France? Ireland? Basically anywhere where the accents are thick and the men are hot. You’re taking a break from strolling along the banks of the Seine, or grabbing a cup of cappuccino gelato outside of Vatican City. You glance around the crowd. Tourists canvas the streets; natives dot the blocks, distinguished by their apparent lack of maps.
You see a man, and there’s a spark of instant attraction. He notices you and responds with a polite, still somehow lingering smile. You can guess what happens next…
One of you finally musters the courage to utter a simple "hello." Once you two struggled through that initial, awkward, get-to-know-you conversation. ("You like magazines?" "I too like magazines."), you find that this person might be more than just a pretty face.
Since he's a native, you spend the rest of your vacation blissfully strolling along, arm in arm, throwing your heads back and laughing, sharing chocolate sundaes in your luxurious hotel bed. It passes like a movie montage.
Dating long-distance is a daunting concept at first, but then you decide to get married, move to the same country, and spend the rest of your lives traveling, consuming carbs, and collecting languages like they're souvenirs.
But reality is harsh.
Flirtationships don't always end up the way we make them out to be in our heads.
Apparently, a common thing for someone to do in a flirtationship is to "ghost" someone and disappear entirely without even so much as a text message. This actually happened to me about a year ago. I had dated a gy for about two or three weeks and all of a sudden, he stopped returning my texts. We had another date set up, so I text him a few times. No reply. Eventually, I gave up.
About six months after being "ghosted," the same guy texts me, saying that he passed by this restaurant we ate at and thought of me. Naturally, I got pissed. He said he wouldn't have contacted me if he'd know I was going to react like that. Like what? A rational human being who was not only stood up, but ignored without explanation?
But I got my revenge this past Monday. I was at a local Chipotle and who was seated at a nearby table but him, the guy who "ghosted" me. And you know what, I totally won. At the end of a relationship, there's always one winner and one loser. He has gained at least 20 pounds, grew a gross goatee with an awkwardly short haircut, and still working a minimum wage job because he dropped out of college. Whereas I am in the prime of my life, economically, socially, and emotionally (I acknowledge the last one is debatable), but I think it's safe to say I won.
Elizabeth Bennet had quite the flirtationship going with George Wickham, so much so that it affected her opinion of Darcy and led her to condemn him for much of the book. And who wouldn't flirt with Wickham? He's just so very devil-may-care. I've met literally hundreds of Wickhams. Men who fall short of expectations; men who lie to make themselves seem like more of a catch than they are; men who wouldn't know a genuinely selfless gesture of it punched them in the face (though there are times when I've wanted to do this).
And when it comes to encouraging my dumb fantastic, no one does it better than Jane Austen. It's not just Darcy that often seems like a fantasy; it's the whole idea of finally finding someone to be with, a guy who finally makes me stop looking elsewhere and acknowledge that what I need is right in front of me.