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It’s half five on a Wednesday evening and I’m lounging on the couch – half watching Pointless, half texting a friend. We haven’t caught up in a while and among the pleasantries and Netflix tips, we get talking about the Harvey Weinstein controversy.
‘Has that stuff ever happened to you?’, asks a text, as Alexander Armstrong beams handsomely at a matching old couple from Surrey.
‘Of course’, I reply, eyes back on the screen. They’re trying to come up with words ending in ‘-eek’. I’m shouting them out: seek, meek..
‘I suppose’ comes the reply, ‘sorry if that was a personal question.’
His skittishness surprised me. Was it a personal question? I’m suddenly upright, thumbs pecking frantically on the keyboard, impelled by the force of something that seems to have bypassed my brain.
There was the restaurant manager when I was 17 who, on his third pint of Smithwicks, would grab us waitresses around the waist and plant hard, sore kisses on our cheeks while paying us wilted, greasy compliments. We laughed nervously along with the kind old man who sometimes gave us an extra 5 minutes of break…
There were those chefs in that other waitressing job: ‘Oh My God, Frank is such a PERV!!!’ we’d chant, red-faced and giggly, as one of us recounted how we’d just been whipped by a towel, been prodded and poked in our sides, or had the words ‘you’re so sexy’ slipped oilily to us as we filled salt and pepper shakers…
There was that guy in the office job that summer who never once (never even once) missed an opportunity to grab me as I walked by. ‘How are you chicken?’ (hand snaking to hip), ‘How’s my love?’ (two hands pinching my sides), ‘Ha ha, come here and I’ll give you a laugh’ (ambushed from behind in a bear hug, arms stapled to my sides). Eventually, exhausted and frustrated, I confided in a (male) colleague. ‘Really?’ came the response, ‘I suppose he probably does it to all women though, does he?’
He probably did. God, I thought, I’m coming across as big-headed and dramatic here. I flapped about trying to do damage control – the last thing I needed was a rumour around the office that I was dramatic or (worse!) no craic. ‘Ah yeah, I’m sure he does’, I scrambled, ‘it’s just a bit creepy or something. But yeah, you’re totally right, he’s harmless isn’t he?’
…reek, sleek, cheek…
I sat back and looked at everything my thumbs had churned out – batches of unexplored memory recalled and laid out in HD on my phone screen. Wow.
It really was a personal question, and I haven’t been asked nearly enough of them.