We'd been waiting 30 minutes for someone to take our order in a busy Mexican restaurant when my friend Cathy decided to take extreme measures. "Watch this," she whispered. Then she tugged the clip from her hair, opened a collar button, and tossed her head like a frolicking foal. Almost magically, she went from being simply beautiful to what is referred to in the vernacular as "like, totally hot." Three waiters rushed our table like linebackers. Cathy fluttered her lashes at one, cooing, "Hon, could we order now?" It was a virtuoso performance of attraction in action.
For me, this was like watching documentary footage about something ("Mating Behavior Among Bipedal Primates of the American Southwest") that I've never personally experienced. It's not that I totally lack skills like Cathy's. She can toss her head and attract men; I can—to cite just one example—toss fried chicken and attract cats. But I could never use feminine wiles the way Cathy can. I'm not sure I've ever had a single wile. I used to enjoy pitying myself for this, until one day I realized that everyone for whom I've felt genuine sexual interest eventually expressed reciprocal interest in me. While shortchanging me compared with Cathy, Mother Nature still provided me with the instinctive ability to make the connections I really wanted. Now, if you have Gisele Bündchen problems (your Manolo Blahniks keep skidding in puddles of drool left by lustful admirers), please turn directly to an underwear ad and enjoy the company of other genetically blessed people like you. This column contains instructions on seduction for the rest of us.
Flirtation 101: What to do if it doesn't come naturally
Scientists tell us that females of all cultures make sexual connections through sequences of specific flirting behaviors. The ethologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt captured this on film some 30 years ago, with a camera that appeared to point in one direction while actually shooting in another. He found that women of all languages, classes and religious backgrounds attracted men through the same gestures. This was further documented by psychologists who spent months scientifically lurking around in lounges, watching couples hook up. As Psychology Today's contributor Joann Ellison Rodgers described the flirtation ritual: "Women smiled, gazed, swayed, giggled, licked their lips and aided and abetted by the wearing of high heels; they swayed their backs, forcing their buttocks to tilt out and up and their chests to thrust forward."
In researching this article, I recently tried enacting these behaviors in a local Starbucks. Sure enough, I attracted immediate male attention: An elderly gentleman asked me if I needed medical help. The answer was yes. I think I ruptured something. The bottom line (pardon the pun) is that buttock tilting and back swaying come about as naturally to me as spaceflight. Though flirting is supposedly wired into our brains, my brain appears to have shorted out in regard to giggling and licking my lips. And yet even I have stumbled upon a set of seductive behaviors that work surprisingly well for me. If you share my chronic back spasms and total lack of sexual self-confidence, you too might find them useful.