The Fat Girl's Guide to Flirting
Posted by Angela in Sex + Relationships
kiss by chatblanc1

You know you've watched her.

She's the girl at a party with a gravitational pull that effortlessly draws men into her orbit. Or the stranger on the train whose laughter fills the car two stops after she boards, delighting the random passenger sharing her seat. Maybe she's even a friend of yours -- a fellow fat girl, perhaps -- and you've long envied her ability to meet people and generate positive interest in such a breezy, natural way.

As you watch her, the questions pop into your head, unbidden: "Just what is it about her that draws men/women/anyone with a pulse so immediately? What's her trick?" And possibly, painfully: "No one seems to care that she's overweight -- so why is it so hard for me?"

The fact is there are two kinds of women in this world: The natural-born flirts and those of us who wish we knew their secret. Or perhaps there's a third kind: Women who have learned to approach flirtation as a craft that may be studied and practiced, a means to expanding our social circles, a boost for our self esteem, a fun way to pass the time -- or all of the above.

Flirting prep: It's about much more than our weight

If you were expecting a separate flirting playbook for the plus-size woman, forget about it. Although some men may be more drawn to our rockin' curves, there's no "How to Flirt if You're Overweight" manual. That being said, we big girls sometimes need to get out of our own way when it comes to meeting and chatting up new people.

"Flirting is an attitude -- I think that's number one," says Fran Greene, former Director of Flirting at and author of the recently released book The Flirting Bible: Your Ultimate Photo Guide to Reading Body Language, Getting Noticed, and Meeting More People Than You Ever Thought Possible. Rather than any one specific action or technique, Greene explains, successful flirting at any size comes from being self-confident, positive and enthusiastic.

"Flirting crosses all genders, weights and sexualities," Greene says. "It's about your confidence and your attitude, about the way you present yourself and make the most about what you have. It's not about being a '10,' but about having this air about you -- a combo of chutzpah and charisma."

"But wait!" I can almost hear some of our readers saying. "If I went through every day feeling self-confident, positive and full of chutzpah, would I require sage, thought-provoking FGG columns such as this one?" A fair point, dear readers. When I broach the issue with Greene, she suggests positive self-talk and the support of friends as tools to help get us over the confidence hump. Despite her credentials (licensed clinical social worker by training; dating and relationships counselor by practice), Greene can't bestow the Presto Change-o Magic Bullet of Confidence, any more than I can -- it just takes work and practice.

Laurie Davis, online dating coach and founder/CEO of eFlirt Expert, agrees that confidence is crucial. "If you're feeling self-conscious, choose one thing that's awesome about you and focus on that," she suggests. "If your mindset is on the positive, great things will come!"

Davis's advice not only sounds like a page straight from our recent Guide to Being Irresistible -- Even to Yourself, but it makes good sense, too. If the essence of flirtation is about making fun, lighthearted connections with another person so that they want to learn more about you, it helps to buy into the package you're selling. Some of us are born with that innate feeling of fearlessness, while others just have to keep working at it. Sitting in a corner listening to an inner soundtrack that's stuck on "I suck and have nothing clever to say" won't encourage anyone to chat you up. Change the track, already, and fake it 'til you make it.

Great first impressions require preparation at any size

Once you're feeling irresistible (or are headed in the right direction), the next step is ensuring your first impression backs that up. Basic attention to your appearance goes a long way toward making you appear approachable and helping maintain your own confidence levels, so don't underestimate how far a flattering hairstyle, manicured nails, standing up straight or wearing clothes that are flattering, age- and situation-appropriate will take you.

Although our self-sabotaging voice of doubt sometimes makes us feel invisible because of our weight, Greene points out that we sometimes make this a self-fulfilling prophecy. "If you're dressed sloppily, like you don’t care," she says, "is someone not interested because you’re overweight or because you don’t care about what you're wearing?"

If you don't know where to begin, she suggests getting advice from a close and/or male friend or taking someone shopping with you. "A lot of time we don't see ourselves as other people see us. Take some pictures -- what you see in photos is often different from what you see in the mirror," which can help you appreciate yourself in a way that's hard to do in the face of three-way mirrors and fluorescent lighting.

Set the stage for flirting success

Greene is adamant about the next rule: A good flirt never leaves home without a ‘prop.’ "For someone who struggles with weight or self confidence, props are natural conversation starters,” she explains. While the idea of luring someone into a dialogue based on a material object may seem like a bit of a cheat, Greene points out that girls who choose their props wisely (i.e. something that reflects their interests, passions or hobbies) will find their personalities shining through and potentially have more substantive conversations.

So what makes a good prop? Anything that gets you noticed, says Greene: unusual jewelry, a piece of clothing that references a passion or hobby, a book or newspaper, your dog, your kids, a tote bag, your dog and kids inside the tote bag . . . you get the idea.

Flirting is really about connecting

Don't let yourself be overwhelmed by thinking of flirting as a daunting or elusive skill -- it's really just a simple series of events that make and maintain connections. To begin engaging someone, you'll need to establish meaningful eye contact. Greene recommends holding the glance slightly longer than feels necessary (about 2-4 seconds) but not long enough to become a stare. And no, throwing in a wink does not make you cheesy or cliché.

"You have to start a conversation to make it happen, not wait for someone to come to you. The best opening line is very simple -- just say 'hello.'" Talk about your surroundings, give a compliment or state an opinion. The bottom line, Greene says, is to " just get your mouth moving."

A smile is also key here -- as necessary to flirting as air is to breathing, according to Greene -- because it makes you much more approachable. You don't need to go through the day with a creepy, Cheshire Cat grin plastered on your face, but most people avoid engaging in witty banter with a person who looks like her dog just died. Successful flirts come across as playful and lighthearted, and they display a bit of vulnerability.

"Show that you're real and human," Greene emphasizes. You can even poke fun at yourself, so long as you follow Toni's advice from a recent post and joke about your actions, not your essence. That's just what one of Greene's clients did after living out the nightmare scenario of accidentally tucking toilet paper into the back of her dress and being laughed at. Rather than skulk and hide, the woman walked up to the guy whose pointing had made her aware of the faux pas and said, "'I want to thank you so much for saving me from embarrassment. My name is _____."

Everyone loves a compliment

Something to remember about flirting: It's not just about you. "The goal is to make someone else feel good, not just talk about yourself," Greene says. To that extent, one of her tried-and-true suggestions for launching a flirtation is to give someone a compliment. Obviously, for best results you'll want to keep your compliments honest and sincere. But Greene also suggests varying things a bit beyond commenting on someone's shirt or eye color.

If you're wearing something new or you always get compliments on your smile, having a stranger comment on these things will feel good but might not be as memorable as a compliment that comes out of left field. According to Greene, commenting on someone's pleasant speaking voice, the patience they show with their kids, or even the way they organize their supermarket cart can not only be an ice-breaker but something that sets you apart.

Sound crazy? Think back to the compliments you've received recently, or over your lifetime. Which ones stand out in your mind? For me, the things people compliment are pretty reliable (my writing, for example). I love these compliments; I cherish them, and they warm me each time I hear them. But twenty years later, I still remember the name of the boy who told me in ninth grade that my nose was cute -- and that it happened at the bowling alley. Things that are genuine but unexpected stay with us for a reason.

Take flirtation beyond "hello"

Once you've established a connection, keep the exchange going by practicing active listening. Lean slightly toward the person speaking, or touch him lightly on the arm. If you've never tried the simple touch on the arm, you may be amazed by how well this works.

Greene also suggests changing your behavior from the role of "guest" (someone who waits for others to take the lead) to the role of "host" (one who gets noticed by making things just a bit easier for others). This shift is important because it pries you out of being passive and waiting for something to happen.

How does this work in a real-world scenario? Offer a vacant seat at your table to the person scanning the crowded coffee shop for an open table. (The flip side of this might be to make eye contact and ask a passing customer if he'll bring you cream and sugar so you don't have to leave your laptop sitting unattended.) At a party or social function, offer to bring back food or a drink if you're headed to the bar. Remember: Flirting is far less complicated if you break it down into a series of actions that foster connection.

Re-purposing a rejection

No matter how positive your attitude or how skilled your approach, there are bound to be encounters that don't go as you'd hoped. If someone isn't interested or doesn't respond to a flirtation in kind, it can feel very personal -- like a judgment or a confirmation of your deepest fears. In these moments, it's critical not to let one person's disinterest rule you.

"It's so easy to go to the worst possible place," Greene says, "telling yourself 'If I were only 50 pounds lighter, if I had the perfect weight or body, he'd probably like me.' We make it about us, but we don't take into account the other person's issues. We never know the real reason."

While there will always be scenarios that are less than perfect, Greene says the key is to mentally re-frame a rejection by seeing it as an opportunity. Mentally and symbolically (read: not out loud), "Tell that person 'thank you -- you've done me a really big favor by being honest and not causing me to waste time I could be spending on more positive experiences.' And then let it go." Not every two people are destined (or suited) to be together.

Davis of eFlirt Expert agrees. "Online and offline, there is dating 'riff-raff' -- the guys who will focus on the negative and possibly try to rile you up," she says. "Ignore the nay-sayers to keep your sanity. If you had a negative experience, he wasn't right for you anyway."

Plus-size flirting online

Speaking of who you might find online . . . More people are meeting via personals and other online groups, forums and social media networks these days than ever before, so improving your virtual communication chops is never a bad idea.

"Catch his attention by finding him," recommends Davis. "Search for your perfect match and write him an awesome e-mail. Play up your strengths -- for example, if you're witty, make sure your headline is snappy."

When writing your own online profile, steer clear of tired and vague phrases such as "I love to laugh and have fun." Instead, use the space to make your unique combination of quirks and passions come to life: "I rely on my daily Jon Stewart fix only slightly less than my morning latte or weekly Drag Queen Bingo nights with friends." "Letting your personality shine through . . . . will get you the best kind of attention," Davis emphasizes.

Online or off, flirting takes practice and finding an approach and a voice that feels natural to you. For me, the challenge is all about timing; in a situation where I'm comfortable and conversation is established, it's tempting to over-flirt. Perhaps one day I'll muster the same type of chutzpah with strangers. In the meantime, I'll be the freckled chick devouring historical fiction on the El, wondering if today's the day a fellow Tudor England nerd comments on my prop -- er, read.

Tell us, readers: How do you break the ice? What's your favorite flirting anecdote -- or what fears are still holding you back?