The Men of Today: documenting what men did to me this week
These experiences all happened within two days in the space of last week
BOOKSHOPPING FOR KAWABATA
I’m going to Waterstones, near Oxford Street. It is a Saturday and bright, cold. I’m out at about 2pm. Not the middle of the night. Not a dodgy neighbourhood. But I immediately regret my skirt as I walk up from the Piccadilly line.
A man, turbaned, mid thirties, stares. I keep walking. “You are so lucky!” He shouts, forcing me to look up at him. “You are so lucky!” I keep walking, confused. “Do you know why you are lucky? Because you are so-” I’ve been walking so fast, or maybe because I’ve learnt not to hear, that I can’t make out the end of the sentence. Seconds later, I walk past a tall twenty something hipster with a Canon. The old fashioned, huge lense ones. He starts shooting at me, click click click click click click and I wince at the white light and the surprise that he didn’t even ask-
Dazed, I walk into Waterstones. This is my safe haven. Old, rich dull people who don’t give me a second glance. Wives and husbands. Au pairs with 9 year old boys. I relax and gravitate to Kawabata and then the horror section. Ooh. Feminine horror. My exploration is interrupted by a floppy haired leather jacketed twat.
“Wow, they have so many books.”
Is he talking to me? Who would say such a stupid thing in one of the world’s largest book shops?
“Ahaha.” I say flippantly, in a scared laugh that I tend to reflex with when feeling trapped. Especially when trapped by an idiot.
“I don’t really read myself, babe.” He continues, in a slick drawl that makes him sound like a wanker. What the fuck are you doing here then, I nearly say. But the truthful answer of I’m here to follow girls to meet my geek fetish isn’t one I really want to explore.
“Ahaha.” I say again, equally unconvincingly, and whisk myself away in a way that I think politely says fuck off, I’m not interested in fucking you.
He follows me around for the next twenty minutes, across three floors. I see him out of the corner of my eye like some particularly stupid and uncharismatic ghost. He lurks behind The Gruffalo and The Complete Works Of Germaine Greer in a way that suggests he is completely illiterate.
He bumps into me and I’m too fed up not to stop myself rolling my eyes. We’ve made eye contact and even though I’m fiercely staring at a copy of Tapestry For Beginners he still tries to speak to me. “Look, can I ask you something-” he says brashly, trying to touch my arm.
“I’m engaged, sorry.” I say harshly, and all but sprint down the stairs.
“Oh no, I mean-” He sounds mortified. “Babe-”
Don’t call me babe I’m not your babe don’t call me that don’t call me that
I stare down at Kawabata’s large ears and settle into some comfortable depressing prose in Costa. Another guy, late forties, comes up to my table, and I shoot him a glare that I reserve for my little sister or the guy groping my ass on the Northern Line at 10pm. He hurriedly leaves.
I resolve not to wear my blue mini skirt again.
A TAP WATER IN SOHO
I’m a big girl. A grown up. A sensible woman. A responsible young lady. I’ve never smoked weed, got drunk on anything beyond limoncello or wandered around Soho by myself without a northern bodyguard. I’ve heard about the underworld and experienced my own brief seconds of terror before my muscular Harrogate-tongued mate returned from the bathroom.
Anyway, on Thursday I got invited for a coffee in Soho to do what I usually do with my friends: discuss politics, Blade Runner, women and the worst cinematography of all time. The problem? This coffee was scheduled in at 10.30pm. Ah.
No matter, I reassured myself. I’m hardly dolled up. No blue miniskirt this time. I shove on my black knee length dress I wear for teaching and the frumpiest cardigan I can find. It covers all of me. I put on my big black rimmed glasses and rub away at my eyeshadow. I look older, tired, sexless. Fantastic.
So I get on the tube- Archway to Tottenham Court Road, standard- and sink into The Evening Standard. A guy with grey hair, incredibly tall, is staring at me. He’s clearly pissed because I do not look remotely sexy. I look somewhere between Jane Eyre after a bout of pneumonia and your headmistress at primary school. He starts singing at me. Yes. That is more awkward than talking. Singing. Who sings? Who does that? This isn’t Evita. I get up and hurriedly sprint up the escalator.
Delighted with my escape, I charge up to the great expansive pavement near the Dominion Theatre and get my bearings. I start walking, normally, not sashaying, not batting my eyelashes, and I realise there is a voice behind me. Ah well. Probably a sad act SOAS poet jamming into his phone. Lame.
It’s a good minute before I realise he is talking at me, following me. He’s been rambling about brains and cerebral cortexes for a while but now I realise it is about me. Very specifically about me. And it is creepy as fuck. I don’t bother to turn around, I don’t want an amphetamine filled man being passionately incensed to knife me. He talks about my dark hair, and the way it falls around my neck, and how if he shot me in the back of my head, how the blood would run and stain my skin red, and how beautiful it would look. And how he would mingle his brains with my cerebral matter so we could ‘create beautiful things’. I walk faster. And faster.
I remember what someone told me, although I know it is consciously antifeminist. Look for a man to protect you. I want to go to a very hench looking guy in a suit, but he’s on the phone and I don’t have time to explain with this freak metres behind me. I sprint straight out into the road near Foyles, not bothering to look if a car is coming, and keep running until I get to a normal looking fellow carrying a camera. I ask him if he can walk with me a bit because a guy is following me. He agrees without hesitating and we walk in silence as I turn around every few seconds. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I thank him and leave.
I’m not sure if I see someone again a few minutes later so I tell a man in a suit that there is a man talking about shooting me in the head and following me. He looks disapproving and says that I should be more understanding, the man is clearly crazy
I find my friend having coffee, and we end up having tap water because for some reason London doesn’t serve hot drinks at night (what is up with that). He’s a gent as always but, like most nights, I end up saying how frightened I am by men