I love to flirt, to desire and feel desired. I especially like to flirt with words, slipping in sly double-entendres or spelling out brazen, naked lust from behind the safety of a screen.
Face to face, I’m less well-equipped for the dance; mostly because the line between meaning and intention is usually too blurry to discern, and so I tend to err on the side of restraint. What’s the difference between “I’ve always imagined how your lips would taste” and an actual invitation to bring that speculation to life? I’ve put myself in many a poorly-considered situation as a result, ambushed by ambiguity I’ve been trapped by my own willingness to engage and reluctance to reject.
I’m not a subtle flirt, overtly sexual and feverishly intense – knowing that I could get so caught up in my own excitement that I might overstep a boundary, mine or yours, I do make an effort to hold back these days. I’m in a long-term monogamous relationship, to which much of my energy goes willingly towards maintaining; I suspect that even if the parameters of fidelity were to shift, I likely wouldn’t have the capacity to extend that effort across multiple interfaces anyway. Caring is easy, behaving as though one cares is harder.
Flirting while autistic but neurotypical-presenting; it’s a challenge. I take things literally and allistic people don’t often say what they mean – or mean what they say. I do. I choose my words with care and precision, forget that most people don’t do likewise. Honesty is the best policy, of course, but it’s also a vector for vulnerability. There are predators out there, and I’m as determined not to be one of them as I am wary of falling victim to others. There’s been enough of that in my life already.
And so I flirt with meaning but not intent. As much as I might want to kiss you, nuzzle your skin, melt beneath your touch; no matter how many times I imagine us together, you in command and me offering control, these are desires not destinations. If I could, without causing harm to someone I love, or you, who I like and desire, or myself who I have only recently learned to respect; I would. But being a grown-up, a civilised adult, means recognising that everything comes at a cost. The price of following my whims is higher than acceptable; betrayal, hurt, disappointment, disillusion. Much too high a price for pay for casual indulgence.
I love to flirt, but it’s a dangerous pastime. Some of you, I know and trust well enough to be confident that you take my virtual eyelash-fluttering at face value – meaning without intent – and not expect or demand more than either of us can offer, safe companions for mutual enjoyment within the confines of acceptable parameters. I’d rather have the occasional twinge of yearning for what-if than the pain of damage to what is.
It’s safer this way, for all of us.