Oho! My electronic spy tells me that I was discussed on Reddit yesterday. There was a girl with a crush on a discerner, and our long-term reader Irenaeus posted links to three of my saltier diatribes about discerners and seminarians-who-date. The girl was grateful, but another reader was gravely disturbed. "Chip on shoulder" and "bitterly" were words he (I bet it was a he) employed to describe your wonderful Auntie.
Poppets, I cannot blame him. If all you've read of my blog are my thoughts on seminarian psychodramas, you are indeed going to think I am some sort of Miss Haversham, sitting in my faded wedding dress, scheming against men as my ancient wedding cake crumbles before me. But of course I am not. I am exceedingly bitter about academia, but not about men. I like men, and some of them I love. I've been married to a very amusing example for three years. And, as I always say, men are the caffeine in the cappuccino of life. Life would be sooooooo boring without them, especially the attractive ones.
"How much flirtation is too much?" I demanded of my husband last night.
"That's a girl question," said B.A, hedging.
"Aw, come on."
"I don't know," said B.A. "Maybe when someone says, 'So when are you going to leave Seraphic for me?', there has been too much."
"Oh!" I said, nonplussed. I hadn't been thinking in terms of B.A.'s flirtatiousness but of mine. I ruffled through my mental filofax of B.A.'s female acquaintance for a moment and felt satisfied that there was no need for alarm. So far no woman has shot death ray glances at me or, worse, gazed at me with brimming, envious eyes because I am Mrs B.A. No. Instead women laugh merrily at his jokes and groan at his puns and ask me if he is always like that and how I can stand it, etc.
Such good-hearted griping is in the tradition of Scottish banter. Scottish banter is related to flirtation in that it usually expresses liking of a person while also provoking their attention and making them laugh. In our Sunday crowd, it is apparently good form for husbands and wives to make jokes at each other's expense. B.A. says that this is perfectly normal for Scotland. I am not so sure of this, but it seems to be normal for our crowd, which is, um, composed mostly of Single people. B.A.'s theory is that when husbands and wives insult each other at parties, they are assuring everyone around that their marriages are rock solid, etc. Meanwhile, it is not just me being picked on at dinner parties, and nobody banters with anyone they aren't clearly fond of. We beloved foreigners at the table just have to work out how to banter like Scots.
Banter is insults that aren't really insults and statements that are more amusing than true; flirtation is come-ons that aren't necessarily come-ons. Both are difficult arts, and both can go horribly wrong. The good banter artist or flirt knows when and when not to banter or flirt, with whom not to banter or flirt, and where to draw the line. The best banterers and flirts can get away with murder, by which I mean that they can say what they like, to whom they like, and everyone laughs, and nobody gets mad.
Generally I save my most over-the-top remarks for my husband and my younger female friends. Same-sex 'marriage' is legal in Ontario, so before my marriage I occasionally implored an engaged pal to leave her fiance and marry me instead. Now I occasionally tell B.A. that I am leaving him for X or Y. I just take sheer delight in saying such outrageous things, knowing that my hearers will not get mad but merely laugh or think of something equally outrageous to say in response. B.A. is particularly good at this game.
Sadly, my tolerant younger female friends are now far, far away, which leaves just B.A. and the more tolerant of my men friends. And, frankly, it is much easier to hint that my men friends are terribly, terribly attractive than to jokingly abuse them. My rule is that the men friends actually have to be attractive. Life's too short to flirt with ugly men. And too dangerous to flirt with strangers. Or married men. Or men who might take me seriously and pity B.A. for having such a ghastly wife.
Oh well, enough about me. What do you think? How much feminine flirtation is too much? Is it charming for elderly or middle-aged women to flirt with younger men, or is that creepy? Is it charming for young women to flirt with middle-aged or elderly men, or is that unfair? What sort of men must one absolutely not flirt with? Are there any expert flirts out there? Give us the benefit of your wisdom.