Flirting By Fan?

Flirting By Fan?

by Holly Jonak

Today’s teens flirt via Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook using pictures and words, but in Colonial times they flirted by fan!

In the warm Virginia climate, fans provided more than comfort – they were also conversation starters and permitted silent communication between young people.

Let’s look at the fan design and then some common “fan” language.

The fan’s front had a painting, saying or riddle which became a conversation starter and the folding, unfolding and waving of the fan provided a way for young ladies to non-verbally communicate with potential suitors.

Here are some examples of such communication from “So Faithful A Heart” by Lynette Erwin Waller:
  • Fanning slowly: I am married.
  • Fanning quickly: I am engaged.
  • Placing half-opened fan to the lips: You may kiss me.
  • Touching index finger to the tip of the fan: I wish to speak with you.
  • Drawing the fan across the eyes: I am sorry.
  • Letting fan rest on right cheek: Yes.
  • Letting fan rest on left cheek: No.
  • Drawing fan through the hand: I hate you!
  • Drawing fan across the cheek: I love you!

Flirting between young men and women has existed for centuries. In Colonial times it was accomplished by folding and unfolding a fan. Today flirting begins with clicking “like” on Facebook!