ALL RIGHT DARLING?
I bought a mattress over the weekend. It involved a few telephone calls – mainly because I had thought there were only one or two sizes of double beds. I was wrong. ‘There’s a lot of different of sizes darling.’ A pleasant gruff voice came over the line. We measured the bed – a futon. We squabbled over the tape measure, as you do, (or we do anyway) and realised we had a ‘continental’ size bed. I got back to Mr gruff and told him the size. All right darling, I ‘ll get it to you by four o’clock.’ ‘Oh thanks darling’ I said, ‘that’s brilliant.’ The delivery man continued the affectionate exchanges and didn’t even give me time to bung him a tip for lugging it up four flights of stairs he was smiley and charming, not what I expected at all, a nice surprise.
Today, before 10 o’clock I was greeted and addressed as ‘hen’. My lovely one and sweetheart by total strangers. All fairly exuberantly and with a good deal of matiness. In the first instance I asked the guy whereabouts in Wales he came from, which got a laugh, thank god. I once quipped something similar to a guy from South Africa who took my hints of antipodean ancestry well amiss.. I can’t resist a one liner.
Last night in the chippy the governor addressed me as darling and I reciprocated. He gave me a glass of wine. I also find that I have a tendency to mirror accents which is sometimes seen as piss taking, it is not, I am not sure what it is and suspect it may be some kind of grovelling attempt to fit in, anyway it doesn’t work but I persist.
I guess it’s in the intention because in hospital I can get quite starchy if people call me dearie or my love, I smell patronage. In the eighties I would cheerfully challenge any man who had the temerity to use terms of intimacy, now, I find myself returning the compliment – if that’s what it is. This way is certainly more peaceful.
I often get invited by ciderheads in the park to have a drink and have been known to have strangers come up to me in boozers and ask me where they can score, so I reckon I must have one of those faces – approachable? Deviant? Take your pick. In foreign towns I find the roughest cafes or bars by instinct and I seem to fit in. A gift I think. I seldom get challenged and am mostly ignored after my initial entrance, though strangers often offer me fags, I watch points and people, it is astounding what you can pick up without being able to understand a word. The hierarchies seem similar in most cultures and there is always a top dog, often inexplicably. In a Lisbon café the chief honcho among a group of old guys was a man with one tooth, and memories of Aden during the war, we got along famously with him feeding me port and me making the company roll ups. The conversation was distinctly limited but friendly until my companion insisted we went to look at ceramics.
I prefer to look at people any day they fascinate me. And now that I am not seen as potential conquest I can look to my hearts content..
All this comes up because of the sexual harassment furore at the moment.
I remember being mortified when three young guys walking past said: ‘Nice tits for her age!’ Never entirely certain which bit annoyed me more but I felt a flush that saturated my face & neck, still glowing when I got home.
I worked at Fords factory in 1979 in the canteen where sexism ruled. I took a trolley with tea to the workshops & it was rampant. I noted though, that a perfectly good conversation was possible until more than two men were assembled. We could be having a chat about the scandalous price of toys or the weather, but after more than two were assembled the chat would slump into ‘You got hairy legs darling that mean you’re sexy?’ Followed by sniggers from most of the guys. My hairy legs were a feminist gesture & I
regularly took Spare Rib which I would leave in the cloakroom for the perusal of my fellow workers – such arrogance! They did not respond.
Another part of my duties involved clearing tables while the men lurked lusted & lunged from their tables. On one occasion a man told my fellow worker that she was ‘Dickable’ I protested & she said she didn’t mind. I spent a lot of energy & time there being angry! We tormented the young boy who worked with us with ritual debaggings as a team while I stood po faced & appalled,
I got a job on a ferry after that to indescribably filth from the male kitchen staff. All laughed off by the females.
So what do I feel about male harassment of women & men? I found it offensive then & I do so now. It diminishes a person & has become a habit so ingrained that it should be squashed out of our lives completely.
I am still a feminist & if I choose to address people as darling that’s fine but if anybody objects that’s OK too. We get to assert our preferences.
Likewise if any woman cares to whack an offending male in the kisser, GREAT!