Monday, March 29, 2004

status games at Collins

Allow me to share with you a little piece of working at Collins Hall. Its funny working at the front desk as all the freshman girls prance by. I have gotten to know a few of them by name and a few of them know my name. The fun part this time of year is watching all the girls with the boyfriends. When these girls were single, it was advantageous for them to come up to the desk and talk/flirt. By doing this ritual, they proclaimed to their friends and all watching that they know the guy at the desk "personally" and that he knows their name.

This has positive effects on their general status. To the other girls, it shows them that she is worthy. To the guys in the lobby, it shows them that she is a valuable catch. This all works, of course, until the girls get a boyfriend. Then the rules change. Upon the acquiring of a boyfriend, the guy at the desk becomes just that, a guy at a desk.

The girls who were so "friendly" a few months ago now adjust the appropriateness of their interaction with me. Its as if it dawns on them that what they were doing could be construed as "flirting" by their boyfriends. So to avoid this danger, I soon become nameless. Likewise, I move from "friend" status to "acquatance" status. I become merely that guy who gets their keys and vacuums for them. They even try not to make eye contact with me as if to say, "Please, dear God, don't strike up our normal superficial conversation with me. Not today! Not in front of the boyfriend!" Ah, how fickle the flirtation becomes.

All of this is a great reminder to me. In the end, if any flirting comes my way I can be assured it is less about me and more about the girl. It is not about how "cute" I am or how "charming" I'm not. Its about what flirting with me will get for the flirter. If it will help her gain a bit of status or a bit of self-esteem then she is a willing participant. If it will hurt their social functioning or her new relationship, then she will avoid it like the plague.

This cautions me against my own motives for flirting with people as well. I try to avoid returning the serve with freshman girls altogether, but with girls that are closer to my age range, I should probably question my own reasons for flirting. Why do we humans flirt in the first place? What may have once been an innocent play in the mating game, I fear, has turned into a deeply selfish endeavor. But alas, I am probably making too much out of so little.


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