Flirting is a fun, common, usually benign activity. The problems come when one gains unreciprocated expectations or feelings. I used to always gain both, far too quickly, and without my realization or intent. It did not matter. The man on the other end of this easy, light exchange suddenly had an intense, over zealous bitch on his hands. So he ran. Fast. And while I know I am not totally to blame for these interactions, I will take the heat. I choose to own it all because then I get to learn from it, adapt and grow.

I was flirting with an attractive man on social media. He is a tall, muscular, basketball player with tattoos on his arms and a smoldering face as his default pose. He has a gaze that sears right through you and the kind of luscious lips you fantasize will do things to your body that only those kinds of lips combined with his assumed skill could achieve. He is a confident looking, smooth talking tasty treat you could easily bury yourself in the strong, comforting arms of. The back and forth, hide and seek seemed to have been going on for months. His pictures were always of him playing ball, partying with a drink and his boys, alone or with his son. What did not dawn on me, but by now should have, immediately, was that he was married.

In the past, I would have reacted in two ways and two ways only. I would have been livid as if he personally set out to wrong me and would tried to harm him in order to “get him back,” or I would have continued flirting, letting it progress into a messy situation involving mental stimulation, emotional attachment and physical encounters. I would have been the mistress until we both realized I did a horrifically poor job at being a mistress and it would have turned ugly until it finally reached some horrid breaking point.

This time around, I did neither. I pleasantly surprised myself. I had learned from my mistakes and I was all grown up. When I found out he was married, not by his own admission, but rather through my experienced tracking skills, I was disappointed but ready to simply say take care and mean it. I then found myself in completely uncharted territory. We decided to be friends. I did not agree to this with any ulterior motive, any hidden desire or any false hope of some nonsense fairytale. I genuinely wanted to be his friend. Why not? We came from the same city, had similar interests such as sports, music, and politics and got along well. He lived where I was researching to move next, for the same reasons I wanted to move there, we drank the same drink, enjoyed the same type of fun and it seemed like an astoundingly mature decision.

And so, a social media friendship began. Yes there was still a mutual attraction. Yes, when I heard his husky voice I went weak in the knees and yes, his request for sexy pictures came, like with all the others, but I declined and he respected that. We were on our way to the “friend zone.”

After a time, we advanced to exchanging phone numbers and began to touch base and text on a daily basis. I enjoyed him, and looked forward to eventually spending time with him. I was also learning a lot from him, an unexpected but welcome bonus and anticipated that to continue.  We had debates, spoke on an array of topics, joked with one another and it was natural.

One day, feeling stuck and down, wanting to write but overflowing with thoughts and feeling unable to effectively express them in words, I vented to him. He simply listened and replied, “Life is short. You have to pursue your dreams, or that’s all they will be.” I don’t know why, maybe because I was in a personal growth spurt for the first time in a long time, maybe because I wasn’t expecting such a simple yet powerful response, maybe because this was coming from someone who wasn’t all talk, but was in fact living his dreams or maybe I just needed to hear that and he said it at the right time, but it resonated. It hit me, spurred me, and motivated me. I felt inspired, for the first time, in a long time. I reached out to editors finally sending them material, spoke with photographers and set up long awaited shoots, started a real page to connect with readers, and booked new travels. I felt invincible and fearless and alive. That fire, that eagerness, that hope, reemerged within me and I was grateful for this new friend.

When I am irrational or impatient, he is calm and kind. When I express how I feel, he listens without judgment. When I find myself slipping, he puts me back in perspective. I do not know where this friendship will go, and there are parts of me that question my naivety, question if he really cares, will meet me halfway to build a sustaining relationship, but for now, it works. I have a new friend and one that inspires me. What else can one ask for?

Photo: Framepool