The fact that it’s also the week of Valentine’s Day and National Condom Week is surely just a coincidence. But this is also International Flirting Week.

“Flirt” is defined in Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary this way: “To play the coquette; to coquet; to make insincere advances; to play at love.”

For those who aren’t up on their French, “coquette” is defined in the same dictionary as: “One of a group of crested hummingbirds.”

Of course, there’s another non-aviary definition for coquette that’s probably a little more applicable here: “A vain girl or woman who endeavors to attract amorous advances and rejects them when offered; a jilt; a flirt.”

That seems a bit sexist, though.

So we asked a few Tahlequah residents – including our etiquette (another French word!) and protocol consultant – to give us their views on exactly what flirting is, and how it’s done.

“First of all, flirting is different from hitting on someone,” said Elise Brown. “Throwing out bad come-on lines is not the same as flirting. Flirting may not even be sexual at all. In fact, I would say you’re flirting when there’s absolutely no chance you’ll ever be romantically involved with the person you’re talking to. So, without those social constraints that we put on conversations between people who might eventually be romantically involved, there’s actually a lot more freedom in flirting.”

What?

“Flirting isn’t to get you [romantically involved],” she further explained. “It’s just for fun.”

That might explain Sonja Ratliff’s experiences with flirting. She’s a waitress at Town Branch Eatery, and gets flirted with on a daily, or hourly – maybe even a minutely basis (if there’s such a thing as a minutely basis).

“I usually just laugh and go on, because it’s usually older men who are flirting with me,” she said. “It’s never anyone my own age, or anyone I would actually flirt back with.”

Ratliff said some might expect flirting with customers to result in an increase in tips. But a bit of experimentation has shown her that, no matter what you say to the customer, or how flirtatious it may be, the tip’s always going to be about the same – about a buck per person.

“College students actually tip better than a lot of the older guys who flirt,” she said.

Etiquette and protocol consultant “Big” Will Boatman says he gets called a flirt quite often. But he thinks people might be confusing terms.

“A lot of behavior that people call flirting may not necessarily be flirting,” he said. “Sometimes you’re just talking to folks, and if you happen to be talking to a beautiful lady and she thinks, ‘Hey, he’s actually looking me in the eyes instead of at my breasts, he might actually be interested in who I am as a person,’ – well, is that flirting? Maybe, but it’s not overt. You’re just being yourself. If you’re comfortable with yourself, other people will be comfortable around you, too.”

Boatman suggested that what we often call flirting is simply friendly conversation between people of the opposite sex, which doesn’t have to be about sex – even though, in our culture, it’s often assumed that two people of the opposite sex who are conversing must be having – or have had, or are thinking about having, or are wanting to have, or will have – sex.

“Guys say to me, ‘Man, Big Will, you get all the ladies,’ just because I might be sitting on the porch of the Iguana Cafée with a girl sitting on my lap, or getting hugs from girls passing by,” he said. “But I think it’s because I’m not coming on to them. I’m just talking to them, as people.”

So far, we’ve discussed flirting with two females and one male. So to be fair, we should get another male opinion.

And who better to voice an opinion than Tahlequah artist Murv Jacob? He’s certainly got plenty of them.

“I flirt with every woman I meet!,” he said. “But you have to be discreet. In this town, you can die flirting with someone.”

Jacob said it’s perfectly fine for married folks like himself to flirt, because – as Brown suggested – there’s no assumption that there will ever be a romantic relationship between the flirts (used in this sense, as a plural noun, not a verb).

Jacob even said he wasn’t sure flirting had to take place between people of the opposite sex, though he conceded his opinions in that regard may have been influenced by the recent hubbub over the gay cowboy movie, “Brokeback Mountain.”

Still, Jacob said that when it comes to flirting, discretion is the key. When in doubt, don’t flirt.

“I had an eye problem once and they told me a surgery would fix it, but it might not be completely successful,” he said (although the authenticity of this story cannot be verified, and was considered somewhat doubtful by folks within listening range).

“I decided not to have the surgery, because I didn’t want to be going around winking at every woman I ran into,” he said.

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