A long time ago, when I was 16, my sister tipped a glass of water over my head at the dinner table because her neighbour asked me if I wanted to accompany him on a horse ride out to the back of the farm next door with him. I did not even begin to comprehend what was going on.
The summer before that, the 30-something year old bachelor neighbour next door said I could make a tape of ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and while the tape was recording I sat on his lap. Holy crap, I had no idea what a predicament I was in. I feel uncomfortable just thinking about it, and how lucky I was to be unharmed.
Last week in Kuala Lumpur, one of the men in the meeting assumed that I was something rather more than a business associate of my male traveling companion. I have no idea why. Why didn’t he think the other woman and I were partners?
Yesterday I had lunch with a client who told me among other things that the position of personal companion was not vacant but would be made so should he find what he is evidently looking for. After half a bottle of pinot gris it was tempting to fill in a job application on the spot, and for once I think I actually understood what was going on. But then again I could be completely wrong – perhaps I have reached the ‘invisible’ age?
I can only conclude that there is no rhyme or reason to the way male and female attraction and repulsion works.
I don’t think I have any false illusions about myself. I am, let’s face it, a middle-aged mother of two, with grey hair, and am 2 – 3 kgs heavier than I would like to be. I wish I had the time and resources to put together a decent wardrobe, although I am liking very much my $37 stretch jeans with skinny legs. I shouted myself a grab-one manicure before I went away, and opted for the gel. After it was applied, (bright red of course, and amazingly resilient to chipping and scratching), they told me it is quite hard to remove. I now have ‘regrowth’ lines on my nails, damn it, and will have to find a solution quickly.
I think I am reasonably intelligent, I read all sorts of weird and wonderful things, and more or less keep up with current affairs. I have given up on the Arab spring, I must confess, and wish the voice of reason was playing from the minarets of the mosques around the world instead of insane nonsense. I like cats and dogs, and actively participate in volunteer environmental projects. I am currently knitting a new cardigan for the first time in years, and was hooked on ‘Broadchurch’ but did not see the end coming. I did a bit of a double take, and replayed it, because I didn’t see it was a man and boy hugging in the chair. I love James Spader, although I fear ‘The Blacklist’ may wear a bit thin in series two unless some explanations are forthcoming. I will not care what the connection is with her Father, or even if he is her Father, which he has already denied.
In short, I think I am pretty much average. I am therefore slightly bewildered by offers or assumptions of liaisons I have neither sought nor encouraged. Not quite as bewildered as Rolf Harris must be right now, in his little jail cell. Or the Malaysian diplomat waiting to return to NZ to face charges of attempted rape.
There are more defining moments in my catalogue of awkward encounters:
The boat trip when I was 19 with my friend’s parent’s friends – the wife some 7 months pregnant. We go for a walk on shore so she can have an afternoon nap and he asks me – ASKS ME – if I have any interest in him. No. Not one bit. I stomp off, disgusted, I am staying on their boat though, there is nowhere to go. I find out later that she assumes that we had in fact ‘done it’. I don’t know why. Does every woman assume their man is a sexual God that every other woman will find irresistible? Let me tell you, we do not all fancy your husband.
The close working relationship the entire office assumes must be some kind of fling. It is not possible, it is assumed, for males and females to control their base urges therefore given enough opportunity they will ‘do it’. Again, not true. Without doubt there is sometimes a level of sexual tension, but some of us can actually tell right from wrong, even in this day and age. We retain some small grip of control over our behaviour.
The wife telling all her friends and some of my working associates that I am in fact sleeping with her husband. That made me really mad. Firstly he is older, and frankly, not in the least attractive to me in THAT way. Secondly, they had no right to assume I had the same moral compass as them. Thirdly, why in God’s name would you go telling everyone? She denied her story telling when I expressed my displeasure. Short of calling her a liar, I think I made my point. What I wanted to say, which is childish, is that if her husband was sleeping with me she would be able to tell because he would be very satisfied. Ouch.
The client who ends a business meeting with a handshake with extras. Let me just say there is something rather unnerving and frankly quite creepy about someone tickling your palm. Apparently it means he wants to sleep with you. Really? I would never have guessed.
And so to lunch. “I’ve come all this way just to have lunch with you” he said, jokingly. This is not true, because we are only alone for lunch because one guest has a sick child and the other is at a funeral. He is charming, wealthy, funny, and by his own account quite the romantic. All in all a very attractive package. Enough to make me wonder just how much I would sacrifice – what is the price you would pay – for a secret liaison.
I wonder if the French attitude is much healthier – that we expect too much for one person to meet all our needs, emotionally and physically. He is certainly very sure that having a mistress is a good thing, in his experience. My friend who found herself as the mistress in a relationship didn’t seem to think so – she wanted to be the No 1 woman, particularly on high days and holidays. He concurred, and agreed those occasions can be tricky. He assures me his ex-wife never knew. I ask him whether he ever considered that his philandering ways contributed to his wife turning into a grumpy alcoholic – it seems to never have occurred to him. The whole conversation seemed so bizarre – we are virtually strangers.
I like my life. It is not perfect, but then some of the imperfections are mine. In the sober light of a new day, a long lunch with a handsome man is a flattering way to take stock of what matters and what doesn’t. I don’t want to play, but thanks for asking.