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Dear Miss Etiquette:

Tell me about flirting.  There must be etiquette involved with this favorite pastime.  What's proper and what's not proper?

-- signed, Need To Know    
Miss Etiquette and her advice is symbolized by this red rose.
Dear Need To Know:  May I tell you, first of all, that flirting according to the dictionary means: being playfully romantic; something of little value or importance; speak or act in a playful or flirting way; (to) toy (with).  This certainly gives us a place to start.  How many people realize that romance is attached to flirting but as such, has little value?

In searching through my library of etiquette books including books by The First Lady of Etiquette, Emily Post, there is no reference whatsoever to flirting except in books written by Miss Manners, Judith Martin.  We have been a flirting society for years and years as documented in novels, poems, art, and drama yet no one wanted to broach the subject in any etiquette book until 1983.  Miss Manners considers flirtation ?a gentle amusement? and is to be harmless and not lead to anything.

To keep flirting as proper as possible, it should be tastefully executed.  This means if you are the one doing the flirting, you should have tact and realize that flirting is done in small quantities with consideration and good sense. You should be aware of the individual preference of the person you are flirting with because this is a coy game in which you ?toy? with someone.  It really isn't meant to hold  much value or importance but has no room for rudeness.  If you are flirting you are to be in normal, everyday, ordinary places because you wouldn't want others who are watching you to think, for one moment, that you have lost your loyalty to your spouse while you are going through these displays of meaningless antics towards another person.

Be advised that there are flirtation props, although we seldom use them today.  A lady walking passed a gentleman who has caught her eye might drop a lace handkerchief as she passes him with hopes that he will pick it up and run after her.  A gentleman on an aircraft, sitting next to a young lady, will glance quickly at the book she is reading so he may make conversation with her and in so doing, begin a flirtatious round of remarks.  A young man at a meeting notices a young lady's first name on her name tag and tells her that her name is his favorite girls name.  As you can see, things as well as remarks fall into the category of flirtation props.

Now we come to the problem of unwanted  flirtatious manners.  What's a person to do?  If you do not want someone to flirt with you, which to some is the same as being courted, tell the person who is flirting with you that you are uncomfortable with the behavior and you would prefer if your relationship remains at a different level.  Speak your mind if you are uncomfortable with remarks and gestures made towards you.  Do so right away.

Honking your horn or whistling at a young lady falls into the flirtation category, too.  And we all know that a young lady does not honk her horn at anyone nor does she whistle at a man.  In the same light, if a young lady is walking down the street and someone honks their horn at her or gives her a whistle, she simply holds her head high, puts her nose up in the air, and continues walking at her normal gait.

-- sincerely, Miss Etiquette    
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