“How to flirt with the world” was the name of the Interintellect salon I attended tonight. Pragya G., who I’ve been following on Twitter for a few months now, hosted it as her debut salon. I want to give a personal recount of my experience at the salon and why I attended it in the first place.
“Flirting” isn’t a word that’s been part of my regular vocabulary, and I’ve long had a lot of negative connotations. I would mostly think of cheesy pick-up lines and people (primarily men) aggressively forcing a sexual or romantic layer into a conversation instead of letting it flow naturally. It wasn’t until I came across an article (to which I sadly don’t have a link anymore) that my perspective changed. It described flirting in different terms. It doesn’t have to be sexual or romantic at all. It’s mostly just an open-minded, cheerful, light, and playful way to interact with the people you meet. It’s certainly not something I’m good at or do regularly, but I deem it positive and desirable. According to her tweets and the salon description, Pragya’s idea of flirting seems to be similar. She’s also someone I admire for her capability to feel gratitude for other people and the mundane aspects of life, something I’m not good at either.
Having attended multiple Interintellect salons, I observed that various hosts have different hosting styles. For Pragya, I noticed that she practiced what she preaches and flirted with all the attendees. But most of all, she cared a lot about all her attendees. She didn’t take that we took the time to join her for granted. Gratitude doesn’t always appear authentic when it seems over the top, but I could accept it as genuine from her. Maybe it’s because she told the story about one of her friends who did this for her, and she wants to carry it into the world, making others feel recognized. There’s an interview with Tasshin Fogleman that I listened to a while ago, which helped me understand from where she’s coming.
When the salon started, Pragya asked us to think of a situation in which we were involved in a successful flirt and what words and thoughts come into our minds when we think of it. One attendee came up with the term “benevolent transgressions”, which continued to be a theme throughout the salon. Flirting is always a play with boundaries; we also described it as a “dance of small steps” or “making small bets”.
Interestingly, Pragya, who does one-on-one flirt coaching, mentioned that the number one fear of her male clients is crossing too many boundaries and, thus, appearing creepy. This fear seems primarily male-coded, whereas women worry more about leading on and sending the wrong signs. In this context, most attendees agreed that indicating interest isn’t creepy, but only when someone cannot process disinterest from the other side. The conversation reminded me of a recent tweet from Clo S., who said it’s usually the “wholesome dudes” who worry about creepiness. The problem is that you cannot fully take responsibility for another person’s feelings. Yes, nobody should be a creep, but it’s practically impossible to live a life where the amount of discomfort you trigger in other people is zero because that would mean excluding yourself from potentially positive interactions. I think this is something I still need to learn and internalize. Making people just a tiny bit uncomfortable is okay as long as you are willing to admit mistakes, back off, and move on.
We touched on various other topics, such as the distinction between general and more romantic flirting. An interesting framing was that you could start with undirected flirting and then continually make it more directed to a person if they respond. People can flirt or be the receiver of a flirtatious approach without noticing it. It’s also possible to extend the definition of flirting by including things beyond people or even ideas. You can flirt with friends, but not everybody responds well, so you need to adapt. Most people like recognition and compliments, but people with low confidence may question their motives and not always take them positively.
The primary motivation for flirting should be generosity, the desire to make other people feel good. It is where Pragya’s idea of “flirting with the world” comes from, and many attendees can relate, even if there are additional ulterior motives behind the action.
It was a delightful salon; as I mentioned before, Pragya tried to make it a wonderful experience for everyone. It was also quite emotional for me, although I’m unsure if it was the room’s topic, host, or general vibe. I hope she’ll host more Interintellect salons in the future.