Flirting is hard work, guys. It's a science and an art and a crapshoot and a total leap of faith. And I hate to be the one to break this to you, because I love you in a way that in no way implies I'm flirting with you right now, but: A whole lot of you are doing it completely wrong.
And it's mostly guys. (Sorry, All The Guys. You know I'm All About You and your stubble and your general guy-ness, but I love you enough to be honest.) I mean, sure, there are definitely clueless, kinda creepy ladies out there too (I have not not been among them at some point), but. Come on.
So let me help. Here's how NOT to flirt in public:
1. There she is, not more than three feet in front of you. She's struggling with her purse, a tote bag, a backpack and somehwere between two and twenty-seven small, crying children. She runs for the train, her hair disheveled in a way that looks totally on purpose and just for you, her skin perspring, luminous. "SHIT," she yells, as the train doors slam shut not two inches in front of her face.
Bro, now is the time. Go up to her, right now, and ask her if heaven is missing an angel or whether she might be wearing space pants. There's no time like the present.
2. Nothing says "I will not harvest your organs and limbs in order to sew together the perfect mate" quite like telling a complete stranger you like her clavicles or his eyelids or what-have-you. Similarly, nothing lets a potential mate know you have an instant, meaningful connection quite like treating him or her like a piece 'o meat. After all, everyone else is around for YOUR gaze and benefit.
3. Make a stupid joke. To use an example that MAY OR MAY NOT come from real-life experience, notice a woman's AWESOME AND #FASHIONY three-finger ring from the Forever 21 clearance section and proceed to tell her how you hate it because it makes it difficult to shake hands with a woman wearing one. Wait for her to laugh out of politeness. Then misconstrue that polite laugh* as an invitation to continue talking for the duration of the train ride into Brooklyn. As, like. An example.
*HOW TO TELL A POLITE LAUGH FROM A GENUINE ONE
3.a. Is the laugh from the belly? Does the person laughing throw her head back or make eye contact while chuckling? Then there's a good chance that it's genuine.
3.b. Is the laugh accompanied by a lack of expression? Does it sound a little more like a cow stuttering than a laugh you have heard from a fellow human being? Then it's probably just out of politeness. You idiot.
4. When you ask a question about, say, what job someone has or what neighborhood she lives in or what blood type she happens to have, do you receive the same question in return? Are her responses monosyllabic and made without eye contact? Does she sound like she'd rather be anywhere else on the g*****n f*****g planet right now than sitting here on the train (hypothetically) answering your inane and seemingly unending tirade of interview questions? Then, yeah, she's totally into you.
5. Flirt indiscriminately. Is the lady in your crosshairs 25? 17? 92 and a half? Yes. All of the above. Will that young lady with liberty spikes and the tattoo reading "DIE" be receptive to you, a middle-aged day trader wearing white socks? Probably! Who knows! Who cares! It's not as if people dress and style themselves in a way that expresses their interests and likes or anything.*
*Look, I've watched puhlenty of after-school specials. And I fully realize that a book should not be judged by its cover. I'm aware that opposites can and do attract. But people give off signals, and there is such a thing as an "informed guess" based on the style and the vibe people give. Put another way: I would appreciate it if socially inept men old enough to be my dad/creepy uncle I always end up sitting next to on Thanksgiving would stop hitting on me in the subway. You make me question everything about myself and what I was thinking when I chose this outfit.
6. After a one-sided conversation marked by forced laughter, awkward pauses, and various attempts to jump from a moving train, do be sure to ask your lady friend out on a date. If she tells you she's in a relationship/a lesbian/a lesbian in a relationship/a nun/simply not interested as is her prerogative, respond by being angry and/or annoyed at her.