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The Unbearable Lightness of Being (part 4 chapter 8)

2006-08-22 20:21

  8

  What is flirtation? One might say that it is behavior leading another to believe that sexual intimacy is possible, while preventing that possibility from becoming a certainty. In other words, flirting is a promise of sexual intercourse without a guarantee.

  When Tereza stood behind the bar, the men whose drinks she poured flirted with her. Was she annoyed by the unending ebb and flow of flattery, double entendres, off-color stories, propositions, smiles, and glances? Not in the least. She had an irresistible desire to expose her body (that alien body she wanted to expel into the big wide world) to the undertow.

  Tomas kept trying to convince her that love and lovemaking were two different things. She refused to understand. Now she was surrounded by men she did not care for in the slightest. What would making love with them be like? She yearned to try it, if only in the form of that no-guarantee promise called flirting.

  Let there be no mistake: Tereza did not wish to take revenge on Tomas; she merely wished to find a way out of the maze. She knew that she had become a burden to him: she took things too seriously, turning everything into a tragedy, and failed to grasp the lightness and amusing insignificance of physical love. How she wished she could learn lightness! She yearned for someone to help her out of her anachronistic shell.

  If for some women flirting is second nature, insignificant, routine, for Tereza it had developed into an important field of research with the goal of teaching her who she was and what she was capable of. But by making it important and serious, she deprived it of its lightness, and it became forced, labored, overdone. She disturbed the balance between promise and lack of guarantee (which, when maintained, is a sign of flirtistic virtuosity); she promised too ardently, and without making it clear that the promise involved no guarantee on her part. Which is another way of saying that she gave everyone the impression of being there for the taking. But when men responded by asking for what they felt they had been promised, they met with strong resistance, and their only explanation for it was that she was deceitful and malicious.

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