What's wrong with flirting? It shows emotional intelligence, says Kathryn Flett.
"Wearing a dress and chewing a pen is interpreted as something else," says Good Morning Britain presenter Susanna Reid, who has been accused of flirting in the line of duty. "It's frustrating - I'm a professional interviewer whose job it is to get the absolute best out of people... But as a woman in the media, you have to take that [criticism]."
She's right - not least about needing to get the "absolute best out of people". She's also damned if she does "flirt" and professionally doomed if she doesn't. When men do, it's called being "charming" and "winning someone over"; if women show a modicum of warmth, then "outrageous flirt" it is.
For Susanna, however, I suspect flirting is like breathing: instinctive and effortlessly deployed as part of the proverbial arsenal of "feminine wiles". And what is wrong with that? Rather than be ashamed of our flirting abilities, why not celebrate them and show them off?
Because if flirting is seen as a bad thing because it's a woman thing, then women should take flirting back.
We may start to learn to flirt young but, happily, rather than atrophy, a woman's skills evolve entirely age-appropriately over time, and can become coolly gender-neutral, too.
For the time-poor, it pays to be empathy-rich - and flirting to make an instant connection marks out the emotionally intelligent among us. Which is why I am a big fan of non-sexual "empathy-flirting" with other women. It says "I hear you! We share a language, and we are awesome."
Even when our efforts at flirting are met with varying degrees of success, we are all capable of it: to my mind, every woman between the ages of 17 and 70 works her way through what I call the "Seven Ages of Flirting" - whether intentionally or inadvertently.
Throughout the teenage years, flirting is avoiding eye contact. Or indeed any hint of being remotely interested in a man whatsoever. These days, apparently, it involves staring at your phone and deploying heartfelt emojis via Snapchat/Instagram.
The exception in my day came if there was a disinhibiting lubricant to hand - most likely a Pernod and Black - in which case, woo-hoo, look out boys!
However, that was also the era when I avoided eye contact with boys while simultaneously attempting to be funny. I recall one alcohol-fuelled evening back at His Place. As my new friend uncorked the wine, I glanced around and said: "Nice flat... where's the rest of it?" The poor man's confused expression told me: a) he wasn't looking for a woman who made jokes about the size of anything he owned, and b) the sarcasm-as-flirtation, romcom-one-liner approach only works if you're actually Jennifer Aniston, and I bet even she doesn't do it in real life.
By the time a smart woman hits her thirties, it's the lucky tradesmen who are on the receiving end of the casually flirty arm taps and plumbing-related chatter. Most women recognise that flirting with a tradesman is simply the most efficient way to get done whatever it is she doesn't want to do/can't actually do herself.
It's just common sense: supplying a man-with-tools with endless tea and smiles strategically oils the wheels of the domestic engine. Just save your Diana-eyes routine for "date nights", when they can be put to good disguising either your exhaustion or your boredom.
The next stage - peri-menopausal flirting - is when we reach our peak flirting powers. At 40-plus, we take our inspiration from Claire Underwood, the the cool and classy First Lady of House of Cards, played by Robin Wright - all secret smiles, Louboutins and intense sexual power.
This is also known as the Taking Care of Business school of flirting. For example, I doubt Susanna Reid fancied David Cameron one iota - but as a stylish brunette in her early forties, she'll have known that she's sufficiently Sam-Cam-alike to be just the PM's type.
I am currently in my Fifth Age of Flirting and am, miraculously, happily coupled-up. Neither of us can recall quite how it happened, as he is a rubbish flirt, too, but we must have done something right.
From here on in, there is nothing left to prove, flirt-wise, yet everything still to play for. One's sixties are the golden years; here, Dame Helen Mirren - she who can tackle noisy drummers half her age and still look great in a bikini - is almost certainly your inspiration.
For the 70-pluses, these are the Dame Judi years. Her unexpected late-life romance with conservationist David Mills is proof that the power of a good flirt doesn't have to dim with age.