THE BLOG
10/04/2013 11:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Literary Flirting Styles

Man, do I love books. As an undergraduate, I felt lucky to get a degree in reading books. Now, I have written a book of my own, "The Five Flirting Styles," based on nearly 10 years of research on flirting, dating, and courtship. In the mean time, I never stopped reading books. What better way to marry my two passions than to identify each of my five flirting styles in literary characters throughout the ages?

First, a quick introduction. "The Five Flirting Styles" is based on the idea that there is more than one way to flirt, and the way you flirt says a lot about what you are going to be like in a relationship. Your style of flirting influences the kind of person you attract, and how long your relationships last. While picking out literary characters, I didn't just look for how they flirted, I looked at how they approached relationships in general and what happened as a consequence of the way that character communicated attraction.

(Curious about your flirting style? You can find out what yours is by taking the quiz here).

ron hermione

The Polite Flirting Style

Characters: Ron and Hermione ("Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince;" "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows" by J. K. Rowling)

We all figure out early on in the Harry Potter series that Ron and Hermione are destined to be together. It is only in the last two books that we see just how their relationship comes together, and their romance has many of the hallmarks of the Polite flirting style.

The Style: The Polite flirting style focuses on proper manners and non-sexual communication. They privilege respect and loyalty over sexual come-ons. Polite flirts believe that friendship is the basis of true love, and they tend to know their partner for a long time before making their move. Once in a relationship, it is long lasting and meaningful.

The Plot: While we never see Ron and Hermione start a romantic relationship, we know they care deeply for each other and are building a relationship based on friendship and loyalty throughout the series. Their interest in something more than friendship is hard for the other to interpret. (Recall that Ron even buys a dating guide to try to figure out how to impress Hermione). In the final book, Ron's temporary departure makes Hermione upset for its disloyalty. We only learn of his jealousy for Harry and Hermione's non-romance through visions brought about by a horcrux. You can tell they aren't quite sincere flirts because it seems like they both talk and confide in Harry more than they confide in each other (a source of much frustration for Harry). The epilogue also tells us that they have a long lasting union, just like polite flirts do.

As an added bonus, I love the fact that the movie version of the last book throws in a kiss between the two because the audience is all saying by that time, "Get on with it already!"

The Physical Flirting Style

Characters: Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza ("Love in the Time of Cholera" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez)

The passion, the sexual energy, and the intensity of the love story between Fermina and Florentino is wondrous. The two fell in love in youth and are separated by a lifetime only to be reunited in their twilight years.

The Style: The Physical flirting style is the communication of romantic and sexual interest through body language and physicality. Physical flirts experience love at first sight and experience intense sexual chemistry with their partners.

The Plot: A casual glance between Fermina and Florentino begins a cataclysm of love that lasts the entire novel. Before talking to one another they communicate through a sign language and stolen glances. Just like Physical flirts, they fall in love immediately and intensely. There are other telltale signs of the Physical style, particularly Florentino's passionate love affairs with hundreds of women and his charming demeanor. Physical flirts are the only style, that like Florentino, that are involved with several partners at the same time. Physical flirts are erotic lovers, just like Fermina and Florentino. Also tellingly, both find love in romantic partners through sex, which is the Physical style through and through.

The Playful Style

Character: Jade ("Special Topics in Calamity Physics" by Marisha Pessl)

I happened to reread this book when I was doing research for "The Five Flirting Styles," and it seemed to me that Jade was a perfect representation of the Playful flirting style.

The Style: People with a Playful flirting style flirt with little interest in romance. They flirt to have fun and for an ego boost, often with no romantic strings attached. Playful flirts tend to adopt a devil-may-care attitude about most everything. They flirt for its own sake, or maybe for a quick fling, but rarely for love.

The Plot: Blue Van Meer is brought to yet another small American town by her fathers, and is shortly thereafter adopted into the Blue Bloods, a clique of popular students, by their ring-leader and teacher Hannah. Midway through the story, Blue is at a bar with Jade and Leulah (two of the Bluebloods) ostensibly for the purpose of picking up men. Jade plays every guy in the bar. Just like a Playful flirt, Jade uses pick up lines. Just like a Playful flirt, Jade beds men for the night, not for tomorrow. Jade is annoyed when the men she seduces make the mistake of thinking something else is going on. Jade is an expert flirt, but just not particularly good at relationships. How playful of her.

princess bride

The Traditional Style

Characters: Buttercup and Westley ("The Princess Bride" by William Goldman)

In everyone's favorite love story, the dashing Westley leaves to make his fortune to be deserving of the beautiful Buttercup, only to return to see her betrothed to another. There are so many elements of this story that perfectly represent the Traditional style.

The Style: Traditional flirts believe men should make the first move and women should not pursue men. In taking a more passive role in dating, Traditional women will be coy, demure, indirect - even to the point of being haughty. Traditional men usually take one of two paths: the patient pursuer or the knight in shining armor - Westley is both.

The Plot: Not only do we have a classic tale of prince (or pirate) rescuing a damsel in distress, which is reflected in the beliefs and behaviors of Traditional flirts, we also have a few critical scenes to see how they court one another. Playing the role of the patient pursuer, Westley endures Buttercup's demands and distance. Traditional men find women who are a bit demanding and coy to irresistible, and believe they must endure all for love. In the book, it is important that Buttercup becomes jealous of the attention Westley gets from the Countess, and jealousy in Traditional women flirts is a key ingredient of desire. Playing the role of knight, Westley returns to fight all comers and save the princess, which is another route for Traditional Flirts. Is it conceivable that a story so steeped in romance can be a touchstone for modern dating? You be the judge.

perks of being a wallflower

The Sincere Style

Characters: Charlie ("The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky)

I wrote a whole chapter for "The Five Flirting Styles" dedicated to the friend zone, or the situation where you become friends with your crush. We decided to offer it as a free chapter on my website . The intimacy between Charlie and Sam, and the obvious connection to the friend zone unites my book with this modern love story.

The Style: Sincere flirting involves creating an intense emotional connection and communicating sincere interest. Sincere flirts seek meaningful romantic relationships that put emotional connection first and sexual chemistry second.

The Plot: After being rescued from loneliness by Sam and Patrick, Charlie immediately feels attracted to Sam, but doesn't share his feelings. Rather, he becomes friends and confidants to these best friends/step-siblings. He sadly watches as Sam chooses men who love her less than he, Charlie, would. When he finally professes is love to her, she is frustrated he took so long. This friendship and emotional intimacy route is how the Sincere flirt communicates love. This is how they flirt, and it is often confused for friendship.

According to my research, the sincere style is the most common of all styles and remains stable throughout the ages. The intimacy expressed in this quote from the book explains just why that might be:

"It's just that I don't want to be somebody's crush. If somebody likes me, I want them to like the real me, not what they think I am. And I don't want them to carry it around inside. I want them to show me, so I can feel it too."

I think we all at some level would like to feel that way too.