The scene: Just outside the ladies' room, Debbie grabs Sara's arm and, while casting a lingering gaze upon her chartreuse blouse and the cleavage it struggles to contain, purrs, " a great...shirt."

As Debbie brushes past, Sara wonders: "What the hell? Did I just get hit on by a chick?"

Millions of fumbling straight people ask themselves these kind of questions every day. In this enlightened age, what does constitute same-sex flirting, and what's just palling around? Here's a primer to avoid any accidental hits.


For straight guys: The winker must be at least 20 years older than (and preferably related to) the winkee, and must be imparting a bit of wisdom or telling an in-joke. Otherwise, never.

For straight gals: Only the Southern or very sassy wink; unless that's you, stick to a wave. It just looks like there's something stuck in your contact, honey.


Guys: In any sport that can played with slacks on, a butt pat is not OK. Yes--"Brutal tackle, Mitch." No--"Nice putt, Theodore."

Gals: No tush tapping--unless you're trying to remove lint from her skirt. Although it's more common since Title IX leveled the playing field, unless you're trying to score some extra points, keep your hands above the waist.


Guys: A valued manly rite of passage, but it must always be done at full strength and involve considerable pain for one party.

Gals: If a woman grabs you, flips you over and attempts to pin your arms behind your back, obviously her next move is to jam her tongue in your ear.


Guys: If it must happen, it should be done side to side (never face to face or--mother of god--front to back), and halfheartedly. Talking about how much it sucks while doing it is a plus.

Gals: Steamy girl-on-girl dance-floor antics are the "Wild On" trademark of every hetero college temptress.


Guys: Permissible if you are buying a round while viewing a sports game.

Gals: Buy away, darling. A drink is a drink. Nice shoes.


Guys: Only in extreme cases, such as when (a) both men are totally broke or (b) only one bed is available on a road trip. Head-to-toe is a must.

Gals: No rule against two women sharing a bed, but there's an imaginary line in the middle. We know a girl who shared a bed with her female roommate in France for six months. And they only made out twice in five years. So there.


Guys: Must be followed by the word "dad," and the speaker must be standing at his father's grave on a rainy night.

Gals: That's so sweet. I miss you, too.

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