It has been 336 days since Lincoln shut down because of COVID-19. It has also been 336 days since I could morally justify going to a bar to flirt my way into free drinks and a drunk make out sesh with a rando at 2 a.m. I miss those days.

I feel like there is an inaccurate perception of flirting people have. I’ve spoken to a fair amount of friends who assume they can’t flirt and they are condemned to a life of awkwardness sitting barside with a Dirty Shirley in hand. Personally, I couldn’t disagree more; anyone can learn how to effectively flirt, and I know this because my awkward self learned how to do it with such strategy that, to this day, I have yet to pay for my own drinks at a bar. 

While getting one’s drinks paid for isn’t a huge accomplishment, it is a point of pride I aim to uphold. You don’t have to be a runway model or a conversation virtuoso to flirt well. Flirting is a human instinct, and at the end of the day, it doesn't come down to looks or wit, it comes down to perception and your ability to manipulate someone’s impression of you.  

People are much more willing to approach a stranger who seems open, approachable and cheery. The first tip I can give to anyone who feels like their flirt skills need sprucing up is to look happy. Even if you feel like gum on the bottom of someone’s shoe, fake it till you make it. People are attracted to confidence, and they are much more likely to approach someone who seems comfortable and approachable than someone hunched over a Long Island iced tea not making eye contact with anyone. 

Smile, laugh with your security-blanket friend you brought and roll your shoulders back to convey the best message of poise and fortitude. Once you’ve mastered the art of emulating complete and total self-assurance, it is time for the delicate game of eye contact. 

Sitting at a bar and waiting for some schmuck to approach you is fine, but it’s child’s play to say the least. The real strategy is scanning the herd of sweaty drunk people and signaling the one you want to come talk to you, all without saying a word or leaving the barstool. 

My personal approach is to lean back in the stool and slowly spin around to observe your surroundings. I scan the crowd and no matter who makes brief eye contact with me, I don’t back down. Once I find a guy I like enough, I pick him with a slight — and I mean slight — crooked smile and a slow look down. Without fail he will still be looking, and I bring my eyes up once more. This time I lock in. 

The secret is to always remain in control of the exchange. For just a brief moment you make them feel like the only person in the world and only allow that moment to end when they back down. Within about half an hour, they will approach you, and that’s when the real fun starts. 

This is the part a lot of people get tripped up on: hooking the line. In my experience, once someone comes up to you, they’re committed to interacting for the majority of the night. Unless you straight up tell them to screw off, they will probably skulk around no matter what. Know that the hardest part of the game has been played and now you just have to sit there, look like your wonderful self and laugh every now and then at a corny pickup line. 

When conversing with a person you’re trying to flirt with, it’s important to know they are also a bit nervous talking to you. They are also looking for a bit of an ego stroke that can easily be attended to with a cute grin, a delicate chuckle and some novice-level conversation skills. 

Bar and/or party talk seems to always go one of two ways. It will either revolve around horrendous small talk or weirdly deep topics no one expected to delve into during the evening. The latter is low-key where you want to be; small talk is the equivalent of a death sentence unless you’re plastered. 

There is a Goldilocks zone of deep bar and party conversations, and it tends to revolve around subjects you can still crack a few jokes at without being offensive. My personal go-to is to make caricatured yet accurate observations about the person I’m speaking to and then allow them to joke around about how I’m right while also allowing them to butter themselves up. People like talking about themselves, and it allows me to remain under an air of mystery. 

Don’t be too eager, either. The majority of people like a little bit of a chase, and Sherry Argov made a killing on her book, “Why Men Love Bitches.” Don’t be mean, but a sarcastic quip followed by a compliment goes a very long way. By the time you’ve begun to banter, they tend to be hooked and open for whatever your goal was for the evening — whether it was a free drink, 2 a.m. make out, or their Snapchat — all are now accessible because of your obscene amount of flirt game. 

The moment I got good at flirting was the moment I obtained the wild audacity to pretend like I owned the world for the night. It isn’t rocket science or some coveted ability only enjoyed by pretty people, it’s a simple manipulation of perception and radiation of confidence. If you walk into a bar or a party or even a coffee shop as if you own the place, it shows. This self assurance is the key to accessing the exaggerated gall to flirt like you spent tuition money on the skill. 

Despite the fact that it isn’t exactly responsible to go make out with a stranger at a bar during a pandemic, there will come a day when we can all resume making questionable decisions in a seedy tavern. When that day comes, be ready with your best outfit, killer smile and the reckless notion that you are the hottest person alive and deserve to be treated as such.