Without flirtation, human hypocrisy would lose its clothing.
The defining quality of flirtation is that it is self-denying. Flirtation ceases to be flirtation as soon as it is made explicit. It is marked by not being a direct touch but rather an approach and an insinuation, for tension can always be intensified up until the moment it causes a break.
Flirtation is only a mystery, and there is nothing we find more attractive than mystery. There are a great many things in life we must flirt with, a great many things that are better left implicit and incomplete. No one can abide an enfant terrible for long, particularly when that penchant for making plain is turned on themselves.
Any who have ever been successful in love, know that the rule for gaining a reciprocated affection is to, for a time, hide some degree of one’s own affection. The hallmark of good acting is to not seem like you’re acting; the necessity of early love is that it seems like it is not so.
There isn’t a relationship on Earth that could survive without a great many implicit, shared understandings, that if they were to ever be made explicit, would elicit an unbearable awkwardness and threaten to unravel the whole thing. The ever-present factor of power dynamics and hierarchy, the hidden vanities and base motivations, the shameful secrets and insecurities, all of these and more, constitute a class of things that we know beyond a doubt are present in and recognized by all whom we encounter but can never be addressed explicitly.
One must always enjoy the company of children, who, having yet to consign themselves to this conspiracy of silence, never fail to rudely point out some obvious truth. Children carelessly ask or make observations about what adults are too tactful to bring up, but these hidden truths are never unknown, only unspoken — such is the silliness adults engage in.
Like a group of relations in some hospital room, crowded around a terminally ill person, who try only to smile and speak of nice things, though with every instance of eye contact they communicate an awareness of the coming death, we all constantly carry on with mouths that refuse to speak of what our eyes not only see but confess with every glance.
There are a great variety of things of the highest import only ever communicated and understood by the coquetry of wordless intimation. The hypocrisy of humanity requires flirtation as the most elegant method of concealment.
Martin Vidal is the author of The Ambition Handbook: A Guide for Ambitious Persons