Cruising VS Flirting

Moving from cruising to flirting, for many gay men, will be a challenge. Cruising is so embedded in the culture of gay life that the very idea of questioning its value will raise some hackles.

By Jim Sullivan

assure you, I am not proposing to kill off cruising as much as to provide an alternative: Flirting.

Danny is a 29-year-old political consultant with “dark Irish” good looks. He’s a charmer who talks a mile a minute. Danny called me for a consultation and said, “I was always a good cruiser. I have intense eyes that could get guys in bed in ten minutes. I don’t know how to be sexy without
Flirting requires more specific skills.
having quick sex. I want to be romantic. I’m approaching 30 — getting too old — and it scares me.” He continued, “I have this romantic fantasy about sweeping this hot, nerdy guy off his feet.” Danny also said he was tired of using recreational drugs, of late nights, and of “serial playmates.”

“So you want to learn how to flirt?” I asked him. Danny looked puzzled. “Isn’t flirting the same as cruising and teasing a guy?” I said that men who cruise are playing games; flirting men are into romance, and want to attract and woo a man for dating, courtship, and a long-term relationship. I told Danny that cruising is not bad for getting a guy to bed, but is a dead end for relationship-minded guys. Flirting requires more specific skills.

Danny is not the only gay man alive who is confused about cruising and flirting. The short and simple definition of cruising is making the rounds to have sex. Cruising is giving off “I’m ready for sex” vibrations. Flirting has a little more nuance to it. It is relaxing, casual, and, most of all, a charming way of getting a guy’s attention without going all the way. It’s about giving off “I’m ready for romance” vibrations.

Flirters need to be curious about other people; you become a flirting detective. When you’re in a gay environment (social event/bar/coffee shop), take in, visually and aurally, all the men around you. Notice everything about them and you’ll discover incredible diversity in the gay community. An acting teacher may encourage you to sit in parks, cafes, or on front porches to observe people. I want you to do the same. For instance, watch how men walk, how they carry themselves. Do they have a heavy walk, like they’re carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders? Do they have a lively and carefree gait, as if the world is their oyster?

There’s a big difference between just looking at people and taking them in. When you take people in, you look at their eyebrows, rings, hair, tattoos, nose, goatee, legs, how they move their hands, how they talk, how they laugh. You find out what’s unique, specific, and even peculiar about each person. You can gather so much information about people purely through the joys of observation!

The Hunt Begins: Danny’s Story
Danny decided to visit a popular café in his predominantly-gay neighborhood. “I see a man who looks quite interesting in a café.
Flirting needs to be fun and spontaneous.
He’s wearing a beret — I usually hate berets — but this man wears it well. I notice that he orders cappuccino and lifts the cup with a certain grace. He’s reading what looks like a travel book. I wonder where he’s going. I watch some more, and this man starts to look very interesting. I page through last month’s People magazine, peeking over at his every move and running mental statistics: 6’1”, late thirties, 190 pounds. Then, uh-oh! Those monkeys start chattering in my head: ‘Oh, forget about it, silly fool. He’s probably waiting for his husband so they can trot off to couples counseling.’ Or: ‘Oh no. I’ll bet he’s spending some time here before he catches the next movie. I won’t have time to make my move.’

“He’s looking more attractive by the moment, and if I let this opportunity go by without at least smiling or winking at him, I will forever be a sissy dater! So I got up to get another caramel frappuccino. As I move back toward my table, I stop by this guy and say, ‘I’m sorry for bothering you, but I noticed your travel book and I’m looking to buy some new travel books.’(Liar!) ‘Do you have any suggestions?’ The man with the beret gives me this beautiful smile and says, ‘Oh sure. This is Fodor’s—it’s a great book. Where are you traveling to?’ Quick—second lie: ‘Oh, someplace in the Caribbean, with great cabana boys!’ Oh no! Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. He laughs and says, ‘I’ve been to Puerto Rico and St. Thomas and love them both. I can recommend a few places.’ ‘Oh, that would be great.’ And then, with great aplomb, he asks, ‘Why don’t you join me?’ Flustered, I say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to disturb you.’ Not at all; I could use some company.’ So we talk, and then I have to go (the truth!) to meet my friend. This man’s name is Frank and we exchange numbers. I call him the next day and ask if he’s interested in joining me for dinner on Friday night. He agrees. I also ask him if he’s single. He says yes.”

Danny did a great job at the café. I’d give him an A+. He took in the man he was observing with great detail. There was a special vibe he picked up from Frank, and he pursued a very advanced course of action: Going up to a man and introducing himself with an icebreaker. Notice he got flustered because Frank was so nice (yes, they’re out there, guys!), but he kept his cool and stayed on course. Remember: Danny could cruise and have quick sex, but flirting was a totally new way of interacting for him. Danny was on the road to becoming a “Master Flirter.”

Flirting needs to be fun and spontaneous. Though Danny had the ordinary jitters about going up to a man, he kept a sense of humor through the interchange.

Jim Sullivan coaches gay singles on dating and relationship issues and is the author of Boyfriend 101: A Gay Guy's Guide to Dating, Romance, and Finding True Love. He has 25 years counseling experience and holds masters degrees in counseling from New York University and in religious studies from Manhattan College.
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