Monday, 11 October 2010

Chain reaction

It could have been my cold, settling in for it's third day of head clouding. Or worries about whether next week I'll be starting a new job, or resuming the search for one. Or the need deep down for a grand romantic gesture; the kind that becomes rare as a relationship goes on.

Perhaps I was feeling intimidated; unable to react in a part of London that wasn't my own. Maybe it was just that for all these reasons and more, I was having a down day, feeling low, and yesterday's blue skies papered over the cracks.

When asked, I couldn't put my finger on why I was crying, or what was wrong, or what I wanted. How could I best explain why a stranger's uninventive, inane and off-hand words were having the effect they were? Why I was standing by Tower Bridge, blaming the Boyfriend for his lack of reaction to words he hadn't heard, rather than feeling angry at the person who said them?

Minutes earlier, we'd walked under the bridge and down the cobbled back streets of SE1, before turning back onto the shaded Thames tow path, busy with tourists and their cameras. A group of girls and a man - early 20s, low slung jeans, tall, dark, unremarkable - was walking along, listening to the tinny treble of music through a speaker on his mobile phone.

It drew my attention (as, I suppose, was the point) and I glanced in the direction of the music. No words, no opinion, no longer than half a second, just a flick of the eyes to locate the sound. So what came next,

"Don't look at me, you fucking slag."

stung like a slap. I glanced behind to check it was aimed at me. It was.

"You're not what that man called you. You know you're not. I'm sorry." said the Boyfriend, once the tears had dried, the silence had ended and we'd resumed our day in the London sunshine.

I know I'm not. But sometimes, that's not the point.


Anonymous said...

You poor thing. That is really horrible. Street harassment, and the accompanying misogyny, are a real problem these days.

You're right, though, that none of what he said had anything to do with you, at all.

Anonymous said...

I think some people have such empty, meaningless lives that they try to hurt others for no reason other than to get a reaction. It's mindless and shows their own insecurity.

I wonder if he gets a lot of people looking at him because of the tinny music? I know that it's the sort of thing I hate and that would register on my face. I'm not saying that it registered on yours or anything, but if he had been getting many 'looks' maybe his back was up and you were an easy target - perhaps because you looked without the look of disgust that he'd been getting from other people? It's always easier to kick out at someone you perceive as vulnerable.

I don't know you, so I couldn't say "you're not a slag" but from what I've read you strike me as a woman with morals and a strong idea of right and wrong. Your posts about men - be it the ex or your current beau - have never given any reason to think that you are a woman who gives it out willy nilly, if you'll excuse the choice of expression.

It's obviously very easy to say because it wasn't me who was subject to the abuse, but don't let the careless words of a stranger upset you.


Anonymous said...

I don't know you, so I couldn't say "you're not a slag"

I realise on reading this back that this sounds really, really awful.

I'm quite the beetroot here just thinking about how clumsy it is.

What I mean is, I don't know you so perhaps I shouldn't go making sweeping statements about the sort of person you are (even if it is a positive one) but...

(see rest of my last comment)...

Oh Jesus, you'd never think I work with words for a living sometimes...


Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

tender - Yeah, it's not the words, it was just the shock and the culmination of a bad day made worse, I think.
soup - You silly sausage, I got what you meant. What you mean on earth would I have time to be a slag when I'm living in the same house as my parents? I know, right? ;)

Nah, I take the term 'slag' on the nose, really. It's often a term slung at girls who stick their fingers up at the leering passengers of a white van, in my experience.

I think you're right, people don't play their music loud on the street for any other reason than to draw attention to themselves. If it was for personal enjoyment, they'd use headphones. The reaction is key. You could go one step further and suggest he did it to get a rise out of my boyfriend - who of course, didn't react. Which is partly why I did, I think.

Although the last thing I'd have wanted was for my boyfriend to jump up infront of this idiot, crowded street or not. I read the papers, after all.

Anonymous said...

There is some real scum around nowadays.

Cowardly as it seems, the betst option is as you did - to ignore it, be the better person and not sink to their level.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

You were assaulted, my dear. Your reaction was both understandable and appropriate.

Laura Jane Williams said...

It just baffles me how rude people can be full stop, let alone to total strangers. Of course you don't need me to tell you that this was definitely a, "It's not me, it's you," moment but. Well. If you needed me to I would.


not twitter said...

Unfortunately some people are just dicks and seem to be content with remaining so.

I always have a "Your zip's undone" handy for people like that. By the time they work out it isn't you're gone, reverse dickery.

Elaine said...

This effin' infuriates me. What a total tosser.

If I were you, I wouldn't have wanted my boyfriend to react either. I hate violence. Can't stand it. And if he did react and twatted the guy, I'd have been absolutely livid with him. But then, someplace secret, sometime later, I'd have curled up under my duvet and fallen in love with him a little bit more.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Perp - That is indeed the best option, as I think the guy was spoiling for a fight. Which I'm not very good at, being small.

Unbearable - So much for the 'sticks and stones' saying, eh?

Laura - Summed up nicely in the final sentence of that comment, for that is exactly what this guy was. An absolute corker of a bellend. Aka, a twat.

Not twitter - Haha, you actually just made me wish I could go back and try that out. I would have loved to seen the guys face.

Elaine - I didn't so much want my boyfriend to react, but I did want some comfort or some acknowledgement of having a right to be upset by it (cold or no cold). I'd like to say 'usually I'd laugh it off', but I can't think of a time since school that I've had a name called at me - without any provocation on my part - so 'usually' isn't the right word.

Ellie said...

What a dick.

It's true what UB said. You were assaulted.

Anonymous said...

Bloody hell. Some people don't deserve to breathe (him, not you)! Never in a million years would it even enter my head to say something like that to anyone, let alone a stranger. I'm more and more convinced some people were raised feral.

Huw said...

Total bell end.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Ellie - Makes you wish he said something a bit more inventive, doesn't it?

cynical - It's certainly a different world. I try to imagine what his upbringing was like, or whats happened with him. But then I just think, what an idiot.

Huw - Beautifully put.

laurenne said...

Well.... we Americans have never even heard that expression, so to me,'slag' could mean anything.
Maybe the guy was American, had no idea what it meant, and was just trying to fit in. Or maybe he thought it meant 'literary genius and brilliant professional.'
What the hell is a slag?

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

According to Wikipedia (fountain of all knowledge)

"Its meaning is broadly similar to the terms "slut" and "skank", and other words used in the same manner include "slapper", "ho" and "scrubber".

Anonymous said...

I've been walking around all day giving people 'looks' in the hope that someone will call me a fucking slag just so I can use the undone flies line.


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