Flirting after divorce…

Whoever said middle-aged life was a big drag is dead wrong. I can honestly say I’ve never been happier. I have wonderful friends, a daughter I’m close to, a career that’s rocking. The only thing missing, as it is for many women my age, is a smoking-hot love life. Why is this? I asked a 50-ish friend the other day.

We realized that it might be because we no longer know how to flirt! Nowadays when I meet a man — even one I’m attracted to — I can’t bat my eyelashes to save my life. It just seems so… girlish? So instead, I try to impress him with my knowledge of current events and literature, and perhaps boast a little about how my book is being turned into a TV show, etc.

My friend agreed that this was her modus operandi as well. “And we wonder why men have told us that we seem aloof!” she laughed.

I know a lot of other women my age have this problem. Perhaps we’re just rusty? Women at this age are often coming out of long marriages — and a bit later, are becoming single again because their husbands have died. For many of these women, the flirting reflex feels as if it’s rusted solid.

Fortunately, it’s never too late to de-rust and re-learn! So says Eve Marx, author of Read My Hips: The Sexy Art of Flirtation: “The biggest issue for older women is that their instinct is to say no when it’s yes they should be saying now. It’s about saying yes to life — and romance.” Here are some specific tactics:

1. Remember to relax

The most important thing to remember is to relax,” she says. “The majority of women are uptight and anxious when they think about flirting because they’re jumping ahead of themselves (and the guy) the moment there is a flicker of interest. They’re already projecting how they’re going to feel about taking off their clothes in front of a new person or if their kids will think he’s alright or — and this is the big one — if the guy is beneath or above them in social/financial stature. Projection is the biggest problem women (and many men) have to overcome when getting back into dating.”

2. Learn how to chit-chat

“The first thing to do is develop a repertoire of safe small talk,” says Marx. “Small talk can be about where you work, food you like to eat, entertainment or travel that you enjoy. But make sure to keep everything on the most basic, simplistic level until a comfort zone can be reached where then you can show off a bit that you’re a gourmet or that you’re well traveled. Start slowly… it’s sort of like the old KISS theory, which is Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

3. Use your smarts and sense of humor sparingly at first

“Smart and witty may help you land you an amazing job or even get you to the altar but can turn against you at the initial moments of any budding flirtation,” she laughs. “Show how smart you are instead by being very intuitive — reading his body language and working your own to increase his attraction to you. It’s very simple. If he leans towards you or positions his whole body in your direction, he is interested. Look into his eyes and hold his gaze for a few moments. If he holds the gaze, he’s very interested. If he tries to avoid eye contact with you again, not so much. If you touch his arm and he recoils, move on. If you touch him and he finds a reason to touch you back, he’s very interested.”

4. Don’t be all business

“Men will think a woman is being aloof when she basically gives her resume to him. She sounds like she’s daring him to compete with her for impressive credentials.”

Eek! Don’t want that. Okay then, what can a middle-aged woman say to a middle-aged man that will reduce him to putty?

Marx suggests the following:

  • “You look so fit! You must work out.” (Translation: Your body looks good to me. I want to see it.)
  • “You’re 50? I thought you were 40!” (Translation: You look young, healthy and most of all, energetic.)
  • “That is the most beautiful sports jacket. I love it! Can I touch the fabric?” (Now move in and touch it/him… the lapel up close to his throat would be a good place to let your fingers linger for a moment.)
  • “What’s your sign? I bet you’re a…” (Hey, it’s still a conversation starter for people of a certain age!)

Happy flirting!

Jane Ganahl is author of Naked on the Page: The Misadventures of My Unmarried Midlife, editor of the anthology Single Woman of a Certain Age, journalist of two decades, and co-director of San Francisco’s Litquake literary festival.

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