On Flirtation

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Read 08/02/2017-13/02/2017

Rating: 2 stars

I’ve had Adam Phillips’ book, On Flirtation, on my bookshelf for more than ten years. I bought it on the recommendation of someone highly inappropriate with whom I was flirting, at a time when someone else was flirting with me and I was flirting with the idea of being a more hedonistic person than had previously been the case.

I enjoy flirting. I like that feeling of uncertainty, the thrill of what might happen, whether it’s stepping too close to the edge of something safely dangerous, or making eyes at someone attractively unattainable. I like the sense that I could become someone different by flirting with possibility, but not having to commit to it. I also like that it ends as soon as it becomes boring, or as soon as something more important takes up your attention.

I started reading On Flirtation for The Reader’s Room Winter Challenge. I was looking forward to it. I expected it to be a book about what flirtation is, why we do it, what its hidden meaning and purpose might be. The opening sentences of the first two paragraphs confirmed what I think about flirting.

The fact that people tend to flirt only with serious things – madness, disaster, other people – and the fact that flirting is a pleasure, makes it a relationship, a way of doing things, worth considering.

Exploiting the ambiguity of promises – the difference, say, between someone being promising and someone making a promise – flirtation has always been the saboteur of a cherished vocabulary of commitment.

Sadly, it didn’t turn out to be a treatise on flirtation. It was more of an exploration of and challenge to psychoanalytic dogma. Not the book I wanted at all. I’d go as far as saying the blurb on the back cover was misleading. Continue reading