I am the world’s worst flirt. You would think that as a writer – ruled as I am by words and language – I would be good at it. Oh, I can strike up a conversation with almost anyone, can hold my own on a variety of topics and bluff my way through a great many more; but put me in front of a hot guy and it’s as though the filing cabinet of language in my head has accidentally been locked and no one can find the key. Seriously, when it comes to awkward, Baby’s “I carried a watermelon” line when she first speaks to Johnny in Dirty Dancing, has got nothing on me! So when my sister-in-law asked me for tips on how to flirt with a guy she was going on vacation to Italy with (he was a friend from work, one whom she would have like to be more than a friend), I told her she was asking the wrong woman. “Honestly,” I said, “whereas most women would be like ‘You wanna come to my room for a nightcap’, I’d end up saying he could come to my room because I’ve got a nightcap he can wear. I’d be mortified and he’d think I’ve got a fetish for Ebeneezer Scrooge!”
“Well, hopefully things don’t go that badly” she laughed.
Fast forward to a couple of weeks later. She’d been on vacation and was calling to tell me how things went. Now, before I continue with this narrative, I should point out a couple of things. One, is that my sister-in-law is rather overweight, has had constant battles to shed the pounds and suffers from a lack of self-confidence as a result. The second thing is that her self-confidence was hardly boosted when her husband left her for someone younger and thinner. Thus, at the time of her Italian vacation, her self-esteem was at rock bottom.
She began by telling me how much she loved Italy. They had apparently gone to Rome and had loved every minute of it. She and her friend (I’ll call him Jack to spare his blushes) had had a ball, doing all the touristy stuff, eating fabulous food, drinking wonderful wine and generally getting on like a house on fire. The weather had been superb all week, except for one evening when there was one hell of a thunderstorm.
“The storm was so bad that we decided not to go out,” she said, “so we ate in the hotel restaurant and then went to the hotel bar for a couple of drinks. Well, as soon as we got sat down, a bus load of Americans turned up and they were so loud, Jack and I couldn’t hear ourselves think!” At this point, I apologise to my dear American readers. I am merely telling the story. Please, do not shoot the messenger!
“So what did you do?” I asked.
“Jack suggested that we get a bottle of wine from the bar and take it to his room.”
“That sounds promising” I said.
“That’s what I thought. So we got the wine and went to his room. We opened the wine and then sat on his bed, drinking and chatting and laughing. Then at one point, there was a huge clap of thunder outside. Honestly, it was so loud that the room rattled and it made me jump. Jack laughed and put his arm around me. He said “You’re not scared of a bit of thunder, are you?” I put my head on his shoulder and said that it had just made me jump, that’s all” She paused.
“And then?” I asked in anticipation.
“And then…” There was another pause. “And then nothing”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean nothing happened. There we were, him with his arm around me, me with my head on his shoulder, both of us a little tipsy, and nothing happened. So what does that say?”
“It says that he’s one of those increasingly rare creatures known as a gentleman” I ventured.
“No, it says that I’m the fattest and ugliest woman in the world”
At that moment, I could have cried for her. I fumbled around for something wouldn’t sound like I was patronising or mollycoddling her, or worse, something that could be misconstrued and end up making her feel worse than she already did.
“Maybe he’s gay” My words were unbidden and blurted out.
“Nice try,” she said with a halfhearted laugh, “but there’s nothing more to read into it other than I’m so unattractive, even a drunk guy won’t bed me”
At this point, I got annoyed with her, because although overweight she certainly is, unattractive she certainly is not, and I told her so in no uncertain terms. Our call ended with me wishing I could do something, to intervene on her behalf, but knowing that, in reality, I could do nothing.
A couple of days later, she called me again. This time she was in a much happier place. The reason? Well, it seems that Jack had sensed her anticipation when he put his arm around her on the bed, and then her disappointment when nothing else happened. He had, therefore, spoken to her at work and confided a secret to her. He was gay. (At this point I nearly leaped off my chair with delight!) Not only that, but she had been so relieved that she had been unable to stop herself saying “So I’m not the fattest and ugliest woman in the world then?”
“Of course you’re not!” he scolded her “Oh my god, is that what you thought? Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry. Honestly, that never entered my head. If I wasn’t batting for the other team, I’d be in there like a shot!”
I know I said at the beginning that I am the world’s worst flirt, but to say “If I wasn’t batting for the other team, I’d be in there like a shot!”…Jack, I hereby hand you my crown!