Julia Stephenson

The world’s worst flirts

Why can’t British men show a natural, healthy appreciation of women?

Why can’t British men show a natural, healthy appreciation of women?

Last week, on the Paris Métro, I had a marvellous boost. I’d been feeling wretched after a flaming row with my boyfriend on the station platform, when a charming man winked at me and offered me his seat. I gratefully accepted. My eyes sparkled and my pulse quickened. Suddenly the day seemed so much brighter.
 
I can’t remember the last time I saw this happen on the London Tube. Naturally timid British men have now become so terrified of causing offence that they’ve given up on flirting altogether — even that casual meeting of eyes that used to make the day go with a swing is a thing of the past. And as for chivalry, what’s that?

I can’t entirely blame British men for their timidity. A friend was recently sacked from his job as a photographer when he complimented an attractive employee on her outfit. I suppose risk-averse management types think they’re protecting women by outlawing chauvinism, but the truth is they’re draining the joy from life. We love being chatted up, admired — although not in a threatening or unpleasant way. If men lose all interest, we assume we’re unattractive. And I dread the thought of being single now. What are the chances of ever dating again in a country where the art of flirtation has all but withered away? 

It’s no surprise British women have such a loose reputation abroad. We are so starved of masculine interest that we’ve no resistance to the smooth patter of continental Lotharios. Bellissima, they murmur as champagne is poured and hair is stroked and our knickers just fall off. Who can blame us? What’s the British equivalent? A shout from a safe distance: ‘Get your tits out?’ That’s not appreciation, that’s laddish misogyny.

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