Joe Lavin's Humor Column
Don't Flirt with Your Food
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The last thing I want to do on a Saturday morning is flirt, but here I am -- on a dare -- at the Boston Center for Adult Education for "72 Ways to Flirt," a two-hour class taught by psychotherapist and author Sharyn Wolf. Sixty other people, equal numbers men and women, are here for a morning of flirting. Wolf, the author of such horror classics as "Guerilla Dating Tactics" and "So You Want to Get Married: How to Turn a Date into a Mate," promises in the course description that after this class we will be able to "increase [our] intuitive skills and turn routine meetings into adventurous encounters." She claims there are "dozens" of ways -- well, six dozen, to be precise -- "to transmit [our] message to that intriguing person."
After some obligatory mingling, Sharyn starts the class by telling us stories about her flirting experiences. "Flirting is like a gift we can give another person," she says. "There doesn't even have to be a point behind it." We shouldn't look for someone to marry, she explains, just for an enjoyable moment. It's strange that we spend much of the flirting class listening to her talk, but for someone as hopeless at flirting as I am, it seems much better than the alternative.
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Eventually, she does break us into groups and asks us to answer the following question: "If you could be any food you want, what would it be?" This is to be our flirting test for the morning. She explains that it can't be our favorite food. She wants us to choose the food that most represents us. And then, we must each talk to our group for one minute about it.
Sharyn also says that the one person who always goes first in these situations, the one person who can't stand silence and feels compelled to bail everyone else out -- "that person, you know who you are" -- can't go first. The person who feels most uncomfortable has to start. I'm a little worried about this, until I look over at Steve, a man in his thirties with a suddenly ashen face, and realize that he gets to go before me.
One woman announces that she has to go last because "I am that person," while an older man says that he knows his answer already. "But, then, does that mean I should wait for everyone else?" he asks. When it becomes apparent that no one else is going to start, he tells us, "My choice is a fine wine because I'm a little sweet, but I can also be tart and sometimes intoxicating!"
I want to point out that too much of a fine wine can often lead to a hangover, but I decide that this commentary would be best kept to myself. Besides, I still don't know what food I want to be. My mind is blank. Meanwhile, one woman wants to be birthday cake, because she's sweet. Chocolate is another popular choice. Steve and a few others go with that. Another person is oregano, because she's a little spicy and full of life. They are all so damned complimentary of themselves that I can't take it anymore. When it's my turn, I say simply, "Well, I feel like putting myself down, so I'm going to be spaghetti, because I'm lazy and don't feel like doing this."
I regret my answer, though the woman who likes to bail everyone out helps me by saying, " I see. That's because you're laid back, right?" It sounds as good as anything I'll come up with, so I agree.
The guy next to me isn't too happy because I have stolen his idea. "Well, I'm spaghetti too, but for a different reason. It's that type of pasta that looks normal at first, but then you discover that there are all sorts of different spices in there, and sometimes there's even something in there that you don't expect."
Before I can roll my eyes, Sharyn splits us up again. She sends all the appetizers to one corner, desserts to another, and main courses to yet another. Again, we have to introduce ourselves and tell everyone what food we are. Here, I come across a whole new set of dishes, including King Crab Man and Paella Lady. Spaghetti Guy is there too.
I don't feel like repeating myself, so I just tell them, "I said I was spaghetti because I was being a wiseass." There's polite laughter, but again I have made the others uncomfortable. Paella Lady points to Spaghetti Guy and says to me, "So you're just a copycat, huh?" She seems to be joking, but I can sense some aggression there. I don't feel like responding, but surprisingly there is sudden solidarity amongst the pasta. Spaghetti Guy immediately comes to my defense and explains that I was the one who answered first.
Sharyn later gives us a handout listing all 72 of the ways in which we can flirt. Unfortunately, few make sense, and her clarifications take up the entire question and answer period at the end. Number 38, for example, is: "Backchannel." Sharyn explains that this means you should make extra noises while the other person talks, so that it will look like you care. Number 65 says simply: "Learn about the short talk." By this, Sharyn means that you should set a time limit when you flirt. It sounds good, though continuously looking at my watch while talking to someone might not send the right message. And some of her other suggestions are downright ridiculous.
46. Flirt at the supermarket. Ask for his recipe for tacos.
48. Flirt on the street. Walk your dog. Bandage his tail.
66. Sit at a bar with a travel brochure for the Galapagos Islands and Tibet.
All these are designed to spur conversation. Perhaps they might work, but who does such things? Who puts a fake bandage on a dog just to meet someone new? Who asks a stranger for a taco recipe? Really, who wants to meet someone that badly? Couldn't all the energy needed to bandage a healthy dog ("No, sit, Sparky! Sit, damnit!") be better spent some other way?
Thankfully, the class soon ends, and I quickly dart out the door, successfully avoiding any further flirting. Many of the others have signed up for Sharyn's afternoon session, "50 Ways to Find a Lover," but I knew before that two hours would be my limit. I do feel bad for not trying harder, but I can't help it. All I want to do right now is just have a nice lunch by myself. I think I'm in the mood for some pasta.
©2003 Joe Lavin