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Comment of the Fortnight
24 October 1998
Foreign Chain Letter

I have received a great deal of feedback on my Korean alphabet tutorial, and was quite surprised to find an email in Korean today.

I took out my trusty dictionary, and, after two sentences, realized that I had in my hands the quintessential chain letter.

As far as I am able to determine, the letter originated in England and has been around the world many times. Someone in England received it in 1930, sent it on, and later won 2 billion in the lottery. Someone else "...sent 28 copies of the letter and got a good job. An American whom he sent it to simply threw away this letter. Fnally, nine days later, his mother died. Remember this."

I was delighted to receive this chain letter for two reasons.

  1. It proves that some things never change.
  2. I now realize that I know a little bit more about Korean grammar than I thought I did.
If you have received chain letters in languages other than English, I'd appreciate seeing them. Send a copy to me, but please, only one copy!


In several news reports after the Matthew Shepard murder, heterosexual males have been quoted as saying that if anyone flirted with them, they'd kill the flirter.

Guys, this is not necessary. First, you have to understand that the flirter is not trying to embarrass you, but rather compliment you. Your objective, as the flirtee, is to let the flirter know that you're not interested. Think: have you ever been approached by a woman that you didn't like? How did you let her know that you weren't interested? Did you start out by screaming at her or punching her? (If you did, this may explain why you don't get too many second dates. Or first dates, for that matter.)

On the off chance that you've never been romantically approached by either a man or a woman, and have no idea how to handle the situation, here, from polite to rude, are several approaches for stopping flirtation:

Sorry; I'm waiting for a friend.
This simple phrase is the universal gay bar code for "I'm not interested." The fact that your friend is halfway across the country and won't be arriving for six weeks is irrelevant.
Sorry, I'm waiting for my girlfriend.
A stronger version of the previous phrase. It also clues in the flirter that you are straight. Again, the friend need not be on her way, nor even exist in reality.
You know, that's just what my girlfriend says about me.
This is the phrase to use when you get a compliment about your physical attributes. You acknowledge the compliment and let the flirter know that you're interested in gals, not guys; all in one simple sentence.
Any of these phrases should deter the average flirter without any apparent rudeness on your part. For the truly clueless flirter, you have to up the ante:
I'm flattered that you like me, but no thanks; I'm really not interested.
The ultra-polite direct approach; may be laying it on a bit too thick in some cases.
No thanks. I'm not interested.
The direct approach, but still superficially polite.
I'm not interested.
Dropping the "no thanks" drops any pretense of politeness.
I'm not interested. Go away and quit bugging me.
Now there's no question as to your meaning.
So what if even that doesn't work? First, you aren't alone in the bar. Walk away and start a conversation with someone else. If the flirter interrupts, you can then tell the bartender, "this guy is hassling me. Mind telling him to quit?"

If you must, absolutely must, take physical action, then here's what I'd recommend -- but only as a last resort, and you're on your own as far as legal consequences are concerned.

  1. Go to the bar.
  2. Get a glass of ice water. It must be plain water, and it must be cold.
  3. Sit down at a table with the flirter.
  4. Accidentally push the ice water into his lap.
This is guaranteed to dampen his enthusiasm (both literally and figuratively), and it will get his undivided attention. Now say, "I'm. Not. Interested," and walk away.

Above all, remember this: the person flirting with you is interested in you; he's not trying to humiliate you. He's not your enemy. He's not out to get you. He's just barking up the wrong tree. Handle the situation accordingly

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