I’m feeling like such a fish out of water on this man-fast. This is bringing up such old issues, dating way back to my first go round on Survivor. How am I supposed to interact with men without coming off as a flirt? Is having a cheeky conversation with heavy eye contact a signal that I’m interested and available? I’m beginning to feel myself pull back from men to really question the definition of flirting. In all honesty, I am a very friendly individual and I like to smile and make people feel heard and acknowledged. This quality can be taken as flirtatious and can really get me into some sticky situations with men. Sometimes, in the spirit of socializing, I will engage with a man who approaches me despite the fact that I am not remotely attracted or interested in him romantically. When this happens, I am normally open to a little light conversation and then eager to go on my merry way. The unsuspecting gentleman, however, doesn’t seem to pick up on my desire to bolt, and thinking our friendly banter is a sign, will follow up with a request for digits. Well now I’ve gone and done it, I think to myself. What I believed was simply a few moments of good-natured discussion has turned into an awkward ‘how do I get out of this gracefully,’ situation. Ugh. The worst.
I had been called a flirt all my life and I loved it. Flirting was always just another word for fun in my book. I got off on watching how far I could push people, put them on the spot and see what clever remarks they could throw back at me. I received major validation from flirting with men and women alike and didn’t think twice about it. Flirting got me what I wanted. Point blank. Period.
I never judged myself negatively about being flirty until after I appeared on Survivor: Cook Islands and experienced a major backlash from both sexes. I was taken aback at the venomous remarks that my own gender had to say about me. After seeing the edited version of myself on tv, I went into complete defense mode. On the outside, I appeared non-phased by all the haters, but internally I began to loathe myself for being flirtatious. I started doubting myself, second guessing my actions and crushing my own sexuality. Was I oversexualized? Was my flirtatious behavior making a mockery of female empowerment? I completely blew the whole thing up until my sexuality became the central focus of my life. Talk about being self-involved, honey.
At that time, I was also amazed at how I could allow the comments written by spectators hiding behind the comfort and safety of their computer screens to chip away my strong sense of self. Because I had always put up this strong front, I felt embarrassed to even admit to myself, let alone anyone else, that I was actually affected by other people’s opinions of me. But the truth is, I really did care.
I didn’t realize beforehand the vast repercussions of putting myself on display on reality television for the masses to judge and criticize. Back then, I didn’t know how to distinguish my own voice from all the other opinions that were being hurled at me. In relationships, my guard was up because I was scared of being rejected and disliked. Looking back, I am able to let go of those self-judgements. I’ve had enough time and life experience to put it in perspective and learn from it. Now, whenever I hear an opinion or criticism, I am wise enough to consider the source before I take any of it personally or let it affect how I feel about myself.
Although the learning process was painful, I am thankful for that first season of Survivor for showing me that I was on flirting autopilot. I was using it as a manipulation to get my way and to make everyone like me and it was costing me the possibility of having an honest, loving relationship.
Now, I see flirting as a powerful tool I can use to get out of speeding tickets or talk my way into box seats at the Stanley Cup, if need be. Then again, I am also aware that I can inflict pain by flirting with a man I’m not really interested in. In the spirit of being entirely honest with myself and others, I am now determined to wield my flirtatious wand only when necessary and warranted (as in the aforementioned Stanley Cup example). With great power comes great responsibility… God, I just love a superhero in a tight unitard. Sometimes I can’t help myself.
Day 8: Honest.