Flirt Factor

Unreal learns the fine art of flirting and later endures a wrenching ordeal.

There, on the Missouri History Museum events calendar that fluttered across Unreal's desk, was a talk featuring Webster University professor Monica Moore. Not yet a household name, the social sciences Ph.D. is an expert in arguably the most interesting of all academic subjects: flirting.

More specifically, its nonverbal forms: the coy smile, the primping, the look-then-look-away.

Unreal penned an e-mail to Moore one recent afternoon, and when the message went unreturned for not one, not two, but almost three days, we started to wonder if we were a pawn in a little match of cyber-hard-to-get. Luckily, Moore got in touch and shared a few insights from her 29 years in the discipline.

Unreal:Who were your forebears in the field of flirting?

Monica Moore:Some of the early research was done by zoologists. One of the early names I just love is Ray Birdwhistell. He started out studying bird calls, which is just fabulous, I think, because of his name. Among some species, like wild turkeys, which we have here, there's like a courtship dance that they do. Birdwhistell decided to look at human comparisons and did the same thing, observing U.S. teenagers.

Did you come from a family of flirters? How did you get interested in the subject?

I was looking for a dissertation topic. The joke that I tell, which is actually true, is: Esther, my dissertation supervisor, said, "You need to pick something that could keep you interested for a 30- or 35-year academic career." What popped into my mind was, "Food or sex, food or sex, which is it gonna be?"

Great choice. I read that flirting isn't necessarily linked to good looks. How can that be?

Oh, that's my favorite study. We observed women that had been randomly selected and saw how much they flirted or didn't flirt, and saw how much male attention they got. We found that a high-signaling, but let's say moderately attractive woman, would get more male attention than a low-signaling, drop-dead gorgeous woman, which I think really flies in the face of popular culture.

Well, what do you think of the increasingly popular American practice of renting so-called "wingwomen" in order to facilitate flirting?

Love, romance, all this sort of thing is so important to people, and sometimes they do feel inept. It's kind of unfortunate that we don't get good lessons about practical subjects (like courtship behavior) in school.

If somebody doesn't answer your e-mail for three days, are they flirting?

I don't think you can ever make a definitive statement like that. I don't do research on e-mail courtship. There's a whole other group of researchers who do that.

Absolutely Wrenching
Two years ago Kristofer Hewkin and Jeff Adams, brothers from Warrenton and Moscow Mills, were fixing up an old junker when they realized their socket wrench wasn't long enough to reach deep inside the car's engine. Their solution? The Extension Wrench, a tool they developed that may soon revolutionize the wrench as we know it.

Unreal: Allen, crescent, flare-nut, combination and pipe: The world already has a lot of wrench varieties. Are we ready for another?

Kristofer Hewkin: This is really an improvement of the socket wrench. I got tired of trying to squeeze my wrench into tight engines. Sometimes we'd have to take the entire engine out or cut holes into the fender.

Did you have a "voilá!" moment. or did the Extension Wrench develop over time?

What I did was slip an iron bar over the end of the socket wrench and made do with that. The Extension Wrench is a sort of a variation on that.

When can we buy an Extension Wrench?

We're looking for a manufacturer and hopefully [are] close to striking a licensing deal. But it's hard to say when the product will come to market.

How will life change for you?

I truly believe it will overtake the socket-wrench market. I foresee me retiring and sitting on a beach somewhere, fishing.

What about improving other wrenches?

I've thought of applying the same concept to crescent wrenches, but for now I'm taking it one step at a time.

Borrowed Time
The thing about bling is, the thrill usually expires quicker than a Catholic schoolgirl's virginity.

Soon as you got the goods, there's always that burning urge for bigger, brighter and better. Since bling has been big for the past ten years, it's kinda weird that St. Louis' Titus Davis was the first to come up with a bling-borrowing service.

(It's also totally nuts that the Wall Street Journaland BusinessWeekbeat Unreal to featuring Davis' brainchild. Don't their readers get monogrammed Rolexes for college graduation?!)

Davis' Web site, www.watchmywrist.com, ensures that you're never obligated to wear the same gems twice. For a monthly fee (à la Netflix), users can rent watches and jewelry designed by the likes of Seiko on up to, yes, Rolex.

Davis says he and his father/business partner trade in commodities: "gold, fuel, diamonds, silver, stuff like that." Unreal had to know more.

Unreal:So, watches were a natural progression from gold, fuel and diamonds, obviously?

Titus Davis: It's more of a hobby-turned-profession. My father and I started collecting watches about a year ago and really got into it. I kept borrowing watches from his collection to wear and he was like, "Man, I should start charging you," and I was like, "You know what, that's not a half-bad idea." There are all these watches that people can't afford but would love to wear for a special event, an occasion, what have you.

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