They told me the girls complained that I was a big flirt in middle school (said girls, in classic middle school fashion, never told me this themselves). This upset me at the time. Why did they think I was a flirt? Because I was comfortable hanging out with the guys and I laughed at their jokes? News flash: I thought their jokes were funny! I was /not/ being a big flirt! (Anachronistic observation: Sure, I wore quite the booty shorts, but that was for fashion and for fun, and was never intended to land me a man.)
My whole extended family functions by way of humor. Somebody's the straight man (usually me), somebody's got the witty retort or the hilarious story (never me, save in extra-familial situations), and everybody's the audience. My parents have always communicated via witty banter exchanged across the kitchen or over the dinner table. One of my earliest childhood memories is of desiring such a banterability with the man I would one day marry.
But this enjoyment of humor (and especially of banter) was not limited to romantic situations, not by far. I have bonded with many a friend over the years (both guys and gals) with such verbal interplay as could (I suppose) be considered flirting. But flirting seems to contain an essential element of showing off, an interior risk or danger, which has rarely been part of the situation for me.
This is not just a tension between my family and the rest of the world, though. In my secular office back home, wordplay and banter are absolutely essential to the friendly, fun office dynamic. I take this as a confirmation that it's not just the quirks of my family or the insularity that can afflict Steubenville circles but a reality of life that people banter and are funny, and this is good.
So why is it that women still get accused of being flirtatious for such things? Double standards? Jealousy? Certainly misperceptions, but is there more to it than that?
Let me know if I've missed anything. In the meantime, I've got some co-workers to banter with.