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Dear Fifi: How am I meant to flirt with women in the #MeToo era?



It’s February next Thursday. I mean, I know that shouldn’t be surprising, but it is. I look at a calendar every single day of my life and yet still feel like the months creep up on me. What does that say about me? Don’t answer that.

I’m the one answering questions, y’hear. Send them confidentially here.


Dear Fifi,

As a male mid-twenties singleton, I feel in Ireland and beyond we are now walking on eggshells regarding complimenting and asking women out. What is considered the best approach without causing a fuss and annoying the woman?

I’m sorry, I’m not buying what you’re selling. We’re not in an era of eggshells. We’re in an era of new accountability for one’s inappropriate or even illegal actions, and understandably it’s taking some getting used to.

There’s been a bit of pushback to the media’s recent and long-overdue focus on women’s experiences, perhaps because the coverage has grown to encompass everything from creepy male entitlement right down the broad, diverse spectrum to criminal acts of sexual violence, as they’re all emerging rapidly at once. That does not mean a mistimed compliment is now being conflated with the Weinsteins of the world.

Please do us the credit of trusting that women can tell the difference between flirting and creepiness. (We can certainly tell the difference between a compliment and assault, so let’s not even go there.)

To answer your question, what’s considered the best approach is treating women you fancy like people and engaging them in conversation just like you would anyone else. That means respecting their personal space, reading social cues from body language, and basic manners above all else.

Bear in mind, if you’re randomly attempting to flirt with women out and about, women often feel unsafe in public spaces – for good reason. I guarantee you every woman you know has had something catcalled at her on the street, whispered at her, a noise made, comment hissed in the pub. We’re usually on guard for it. Sometimes, people latch onto you in bars if you are too friendly at first, so it’s safer just to not engage sometimes.

Let’s face it – this is not a meet-cute in a rom-com. If a random man starts going gorillas trying to talk to me at the post office and won’t take the hint, I’ve mentally assessed the exits. If you feel like you’re walking on eggshells, please for a second try and imagine the many different ways an unpleasant encounter can go for a woman if she says the wrong thing to the wrong person… That’s walking on eggshells, my friend.

You’re not entitled to a woman’s attention just because she’s out, don’t forget. No best man’s speech ever included a how-they-met story with the kicker: “And then he wouldn’t leave her alone at the bar for an uncomfortable amount of time, even though she’d clearly and politely said she was fine for a drink!”

Anyway, I digress. The best way to approach a woman is to treat her like a human being. That’s the bottom line. You would be amazed at how many people fall at this seemingly simple hurdle.

Broach conversation if you want to, but back off swiftly if it’s not going the way you’d hoped. Respect boundaries and read signals. Know when a compliment isn’t appropriate. Take no for an answer when it’s given, and try hard to figure out when asking someone out is likely to cause awkwardness for you both.

Be sensible. Don’t send someone you don’t know well a text you’d be uncomfortable with your own mother receiving. Err on the side of caution, above all in the workplace. That kind of thing. I think it’s referred to as “cop on”.

If you know yourself well enough to know that you have trouble telling when people are trying to wind down conversations with you, take this self-awareness and be careful. We all make missteps, but it’s important not to fall into a troublesome pattern of repeated behaviour.

If you’re worried about your actions being misinterpreted as offensive, then there may be an issue with your actions, not necessarily with the woman who dislikes it. Plus, maybe she’s just not that into you! You can’t blame that on PC gone mad, I’m afraid.


Want to talk?

Confess a story, ask for help or just shout into the void for a bit and see if that helps. All welcome. Anonymity totally guaranteed always. 

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