Neil Gaiman, the author of Neverwhere and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, was once asked on Tumblr whether he could give advice on how to seduce a writer.
Here’s his answer:
There is a lot of truth in this. And I love that he speaks from personal experience, includes himself in the “us” when he say “if you flirt with us.”
We may be good at writing witty and flirty dialogue and passionate love stories, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into everyday life. Just because we can imagine it, doesn’t mean we speak from experience.
Sometimes we do need hints. A note would do. Or, you know, a post-it that say “Flirt Alert” or something like that. Whatever happened to buying her a drink and slipping her your number on the napkin, while you watch and then catch her eye from the other end of the bar? That would be a hint. The kissing definitely helps to make intentions clearer as well.
All through high school, I was used to being ignored. Sure, I got along with guys, was friends with them (to this day, my best friend is a man and we’ve known each other 17 years now), but I got the distinct impression that not a lot were all that interested in me as a potential girlfriend. Of course I had boyfriends, every now and then, but I got used to being invisible.
Which is why I don’t always notice when I’m being flirted with. One of my ex-boyfriends had the same problem and to this day I think it is a minor miracle that we managed to work out we were interested in each other. It got rather awkward for a while. I knew I was flirting but he was oblivious. I also knew that if I dared to take it further, I’d probably end up spilling my drink all over him or doing something equally embarrassing.
A friend recently asked whether I’d heard from a guy I used to go dancing with. “You know, the one who was crazy about you all these years?” That floored me. He’s a good friend, and has been since we got thrown together for the school musical. When I did my Gap Year, he studied abroad, and we managed to catch up for a week in Australia. Was he ever interested? I have no idea. Whenever we met up either one or both of us were in relationships and it never came up.
Earlier this year, a former colleague mentioned he’s back in Germany. We used to work together in the UK, but actually both hail from roughly the same region of Germany, about 40 mins apart. Back when we were working together, I was still in a relationship, so I never really thought he’d be flirting because he knew I was taken. We joked around, spoke the same language and got along. Then he got a job offer somewhere in Ireland. He was the first to invite me to stay with him when my ex and I broke up, (an offer I reclined at the time for several reasons). That was a first clue, but then I moved back to Germany. Then I got a message this spring that he’s back and would I like to meet up? He actually sent me a message saying “you don’t notice people flirting with you, do you?” after we’ve been chatting back and forth for a while. I said I sometimes didn’t, after which he confessed he’s had feelings for me since 2010. Since we worked together and I was in a relationship. But despite all that, we’ve still not had a date. Since April.
So yes, as Neil Gaiman said: Send us a note so we can prepare to be seduced and we’ll know what’s going on. That might save everyone a lot of frustration and second-guessing!