June Clever's comments on the Availability as a draw post prompted me to write out some thoughts on flirting. Especially as I realized I'd misspoken on that post. I made it sound like I objected to any display of sexiness without availability, and that's not what I meant. What I objected to so much there is the combination of invitation and harsh, sarcastic rejection.
Flirting in itself is pretty awesome. It's an indication of admiration, not a promise. Even if one or both parties are not really going to pursue any kind of relationship, flirting done kindly feeds both parties' self-esteem and usually does no one any harm. If there is a danger, it's usually to the self-esteem of a third party; say the spouse of one of the first two. And that was why I avoided it so long (and am incompetent now); my wife was cheated on in her first marriage. I always tried very hard not to flirt and to be either a bit cool or painfully earnest in my attitude, so nothing would hurt her with remembering the betrayal. I try to be careful with other's spouses for the same reason, but not everybody is that jealous so often there is no need.
Flirting taken too far to the outside of an exclusive relationship, of course is the first step in cheating; or in a different scenario, it may be the first step in a relationship. So I try to make some kind of concrete indication of where flirting isn't going in the very beginning, and then I don't take it very far anyway because I tend to feel that I'm unattractive and therefore my flirting is unflattering and unwelcome.
It's a skill that I'm going to need to knock the rust from sometime.