“Flirtation, attention without intention.” Max O’Rell

Mimi and Spoon-cropped, lightened 1500

Fill Her Up

You fill me up like a Pop-tart fills the toaster,
Sweet and hot.
You’re every recipe my grandmother made
And I forgot.
You’re all my lost relatives
Come home again.
You’re my old address, my old dress—the one I wore
To the ninth grade prom.
You’re my virginity come back to haunt me.
You’re new rains, old pains, cinquains I wrote
In the fourth grade. You’re every note
I ever passed.

You are a branch bank opening in my neighborhood
With free lifetime incomes to the first 100 customers.
You’re a high like exercise (if exercise behaved as advertised).
Like hitting butter halfway down the popcorn bucket,
Like staying in the movie for a double feature
I didn’t even pay for.

You’re a microscope that sees through my skin,
A telescope that lets me keep my distance.

You fill me up like premium gas at Costco
Caught before the cost goes up,
All that power in my tank—and at such a savings.
You fill me up like the first snow
Fills the junkyards clean again.
A million flakes to cover one defunct Caddy
And suddenly it’s young again,
It runs again.

Mimi Herman

Princess Leia copies Mimi
As a child, I was so shy and self-conscious that when the school photographer said, “Smile,” tears leapt to my eyes. So in every elementary school photo, I look like I’m about to cry.

As writers, we’re often stuck with those glossy-eyed photos in our albums—and a sense that we’ve never been socially “ept,” as opposed to inept. A lot of us grew up thinking we weren’t attractive or suave or charming enough to flirt. We say to ourselves, “Right, as soon as I get my self-esteem whipped into shape, I’ll be able to flirt.”

So here’s the secret. You don’t have to be perfect to flirt. You don’t have to be good-looking, though, of course, you happen to be stunningly gorgeous. You don’t need a perfectly healthy well-balanced self-esteem. You don’t need zenlike ease, a rapier wit, a stockpile of clever rejoinders. That stuff, by the way, will come with time and practice, as a useful byproduct of flirting. All you need is situational confidence, which is something you can put on at whenever you choose to do so.

Now what does all this have to do with writing? Well, I think we run the risk as writers of serious poetry and fiction, work meant to do more than “just entertain,” of leaving our best selves off the page—our witty, charming, devious, delightful, intriguing, entrancing, and enticing selves—when we write. These are the selves you play with, the ones that are available to you when you have a little extra ease and comfort, and you trust your reader to want to get to know you.

Flirting is always about balancing opposites in delicious tension:

  • generosity and reserve
  • mystery and openness
  • rapid-fire and lingering
  • desire and self-sufficiency
  • intimacy and distance
  • inviting and holding back
  • secrets and surprise revelations

Flirting is a gift, a way of sharing your best self, your most delicious and delightful self, with someone whose attention you desire. And isn’t that exactly what writing is?