I was out with The RMC the other night.
The RMC comprises four women including myself. We like food (too much) and everyone in the group apart from me owns a designer handbag. We met in 2004 when we were all runners on a TV show. It was a really great gig in which we got to learn loads about how to make TV programmes: we divided our time cleaning up human waste in portaloos, animal waste in rainy fields and running back and forth along a muddy lane getting meals for lazy producers. For weeks and weeks and weeks. No wonder we bonded. No wonder none of us has ever once suggested ‘hey, let’s all go camping!’
I’d suggest camping to almost anyone but these girls. Enough outdoor trauma for us. Nowadays we meet in restaurants and nice bars and we wear dresses and heels and only talk about the old days when we’re severely drunk.
So. Last weekend. We went for drinks and canapes at Annie’s house. It was civilised.
We went for dinner at a local restaurant. We ate goat’s cheese and quail. It was positively middle class.
Then we went to a friendly local pub for a nightcap. And, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it was like arriving in hell.
There were few differences between this place and the pub I drank in as a fifteen year-old.
– Men in rugby ties (bad sign) drunk beyond all comprehension; hugging and bumming each other
-People dirty dancing and snogging in that awful, we-don’t-even-know-each-other’s-name-but-are-drunkenly-clutching-each-other’s-faces-like-this-is-the-most-romantic-moment-of-our-lives-oh-shit-sorry-did-I-just-belch-in-your-mouth? kind of way
-Drunk women bursting out of their miniskirts pretending to really enjoy dancing with their annoying thin friend who is getting all of the attention
-Vom in the toilets
-Shrieking girls in the toilets
-No toilet paper in the toilets
-The usual bunch of posh kids in the corner (who grew up round here but went to boarding school, obvs babe) dancing enthusiastically to The Cure without any idea who The Cure are, let alone what the song lyrics might be.
-A nice-little punch-up outside that was kicking off just as I left for the night bus: I actually heard the words ‘ARE YOU STARTING?’ Someone actually said that! Fo’ real!
But it wasn’t the bumming rugby men that killed me. Or the toilet-paperless toilets.
It was the prowling gropers; a species that had long-since disappeared from my consciousness.
I suppose I’d forgotten the effect of four well-dressed blondes marching into a pub full of drunk men. And I say that without ego too because it had nothing really to do with how we looked. We could have been wildebeest straight from the plains of the Serengeti but we were female, we were in a group, we were groomed and – therefore – we were clearly available for sexual intercourse.
I had begun to think that I was now invisible to men, because I am 32 and do not walk around with my breasts or vagina on public display. But I think the actual truth of the matter is that I simply don’t go to establishments where men have NO HESITATION in coming up to you with the aim of obtaining some sex as quickly as possible. And NO SHAME about grabbing you and EVEN LESS SHAME about persisting in shoving their beery faces into yours. Even if your body language is saying ‘It’s not that I don’t fancy you, or even that I dislike you. I ACTUALLY HATE YOU. GET AWAY FROM ME BEFORE I SET FIRE TO YOUR PENIS.’
My friends and I were confused, then amused and then gobsmacked by the attention we received just on the short walk from the bar to the table we were sitting at. And that was just the start. Here is what happened just in an hour:
1. A group of morons burst up to our table, all of them making a beeline for HT. I don’t know if it’s because she is an absolute fox or if it’s because they could scent a single woman in our midst, but when they had tried every tactic at their disposal to get at her (she had us old wives on either side of her) one of them simply yelled “what have I got to do to get you lot out of the way?? I want to get at your bloody friend.”
2. Another really lovely man who smelled faggier than a fag’s arse asked me, every time he went outside for another fag, if I would look after his bottle of Becks. Every time I nodded and carried on conversation with my friends. And every single time – every single FUCKING TIME – he then shoved his nasty, leery, faggy face into mine and whined ‘thanks so much darlin, yeah, thank you, yeah, thanks, right?’ and then fixed me with a really significant stare that said ‘we are in an important club of two; two people who have both acted as guardian to this bottle of becks. We must therefore fuck.’ And when I finally started ignoring him he actually grabbed my head and made me look round at him. ‘Alright, yeah darlin, was everything ok with the drink, yeah, yeah? Can I get your number yeah?’
3. A man who’d been watching us from the other side of the pub marched up next. ‘Hi,’ he said smoothly. ‘You lot look like you’d enjoy this.’ He got out his phone and showed us a picture of Richard and Judy performing sexual acts on each other. (I’ve checked online. It was a fake.) That was it! That was his best move!
4. Bald man in rugby suit and tie falls on me. ‘Hiiiii,’ he says. ‘I want you to take a photo of ushhhh….’ he points vaguely at my camera and then smells my hair. I move away violently. He tries to grab my hand, I grab it away. He tries to grab my elbow, I elbow him. I do NOT LIKE BEING TOUCHED BY MEN I DON’T KNOW. FUCK OFF. To cut a long story short I strike a deal with him that if my friend takes a photo of him and I together – on one of OUR phones, not his – he will leave our table and not come back. The photo is taken. And while it is, he pulls my arm round his shoulders and caresses my (totally trapped) hand with his sweaty thumb. An arm-wrestle ensues. In the photo I look like I’m about to be sick.
6. Wrestling continues. Someone else wants a photo with my friends and tries to actually fight me for my phone. Because I am not drunk, I win, but the man in question calls me a ‘slag’ for not giving him the phone.
7. The best one of the night. Another group of men arrive at our table. ‘We’ve got some jokes about cheese,’ one of them begins. ‘What would you say to a Welsh cheese who’s about to do a tightrope walk?’
When I got home, The Man was asleep. I climbed into bed and hugged him so hard he nearly suffocated. ‘If you leave me I will kill myself,’ I told him. He smiled sleepily. ‘Ahhh,’ he said.
I allowed him to believe that I was being romantic.