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The pandemic is making me re-learn how to flirt

I’m pretty sure that social distancing is making me kind of feral. Take, for example, the case of my super hot air conditioner repair guy. A few weeks ago when he came to my house, I could feel the chemistry between, and our masked eye contact was smoldering. When he asked what I needed him to take a look at, I almost took my top off. Thankfully, I still have some social graces, and I understand that propositioning people while they’re trying to do their jobs is not okay.

But then — get this — nothing happened. We only chatted briefly through my screen door as he was leaving and he didn’t give me his number or anything. I was baffled. I’m not trying to say I’ve got irresistible charms, but honestly, my flirting game is strong and I am definitely not shy about it. So what went wrong here? Many of us have admittedly hemorrhaged some of our social skills during the pandemic, because of a lack of traditional social interaction — but did the pandemic steal my ability to flirt? Confused and horny, I reached out to communications experts to help me figure out how to get my flirting mojo back.

First things first, all the experts I’ve talked to agreed that if you’ve got game, it’s not going anywhere. “Once you have it, you don't lose it,” says Jami Bronstein, a Los Angeles-based psychotherapist and host of the radio show “Love Talk Live.” “Once an opportunity presents itself where you feel like flirting, your abilities will still be there.” While that’s a relief, I still wondered what it was — a lack of confidence, a misread of his interest — that stunted our potential hookup. Perhaps my ability to flirt got slightly buried during the past few months

Part of the reason flirting may be an important tool to keep polished is that it’s one of the strategies we use to replicate our genes, if you’re into that sort of thing. “I trust human evolution to keep the spark alive,” says Beth Ribarsky, a professor of communication at University of Illinois Springfield who teaches classes about communication in dating and relationships. Ribarsky thinks that because we need flirting skills to mate, they’re pretty innate. In other words, no matter how dry a spell you are currently experiencing, flirting is in your human DNA, so no one needs to worry that this is one of those “if you don’t use it you lose it” scenarios.

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But I don’t want to keep my game strong to make babies or even just because I want to get laid; I also think it’s a skill of good companionship. Bronstein agrees that while flirting may be a baseline evolutionary strategy, it’s also just a really fun way to spend time with people. “Flirting feels good,” she says. And it may help us cope with some of the stress of this current moment. “Flirting helps us connect with our light-hearted side,” she says. “When we're flirting, we're in the flow. We are present and not thinking about anything else except what is going on at that moment.” When she puts it like that, it makes it seem like maybe flirting is exactly the right antidote to this hell bath of a year.

But what if you, like me, start to fear you have lost your penchant for bagging baddies? Again, it could just be that you (and your game) have been hibernating and you might have to do some work to get your swagger back.

Flirting practice can be really fun, Ribarsky says, and you might already be into some of the ways she recommends for dusting off your skills. “One of the first steps to becoming better at flirting is getting to know and controlling your body more effectively,” she says. This is something you can easily do, Ribarsky explains, even during a pandemic. “Things like yoga or breathing exercises encourage us to be more in-tune with what our body is doing and how it feels,” she says. So that yoga class is doing more than making your ass look good in spandex or helping you find enlightenment, it’s also teaching you how to be present in yourself so that you can connect with others more easily.

There are also some simple life hack style things you can do to keep your skills up. Ribarsky recommends wearing lingerie or clothes that make you feel sexy even if no one is going to see them. Feeling attractive helps you project your sex appeal, she says, even via Zoom or text. “If you're at home and trying to up your text-flirting game, yes, putting on something sexy underneath can help you feel a bit more confident,” she says.

Bronstein agrees that you may have to work to keep distance flirting sexy, but it’s worth it. “Even though you're not in-person, you will find that you're still able to be cute, fun, and flirty via Zoom,” she says. And if you’re hanging out in person, masked and safely distant, she says, there are easy ways to keep the spark up. “Practice maintaining eye-contact. Eye-contact is the most important aspect of flirting,” Bronstein says. Another thing that’s really important? Curiosity.

Showing someone you like them when you can’t touch them means that you have to show your curiosity in every other way you can think of. It’s as easy as asking questions, Bronstein says. “Questions make people feel special,” she says. Asking questions shows that you want to know more about them, and — duh — it’s flirty and attractive for someone to show interest in you by asking cute questions. Plus, Bronstein says, there are some questions that might liven things up. After you cover the basics, Bronstein says, you can ramp up the questions. Ask them if they kiss on a first date, she suggests. Ask them what else they might do on a first date. Who knows where the conversation will go?