On Friday mornings I head to my favourite Cafè, where I enjoy stuffing my face after my regular Thursday fast day (the 5:2 diet is pleasing, but takes some serious getting used to. My stomach keeps making noises like an angry puppy). I eat joyously and ravenously, while catching up on my work. On this occasion, behind me and to my right sat two men loudly discussing setting up a new business.
They were definitely older than their attire might have suggested, but each to their own. It was 9am on a winters day and as a woman nearing forty wearing shorts and a leopard print faux fur, I have no grounds for fashion crit whatsoever…
They interrupted my ferocious attack of breakfast (I am Mama Lion, watch me tear the fuck out of this chicken wrap!) by making me curl up with embarrassment. Thanking the cafe owner with a patronising ‘cheers buddy’ and finishing sentences with songs (“it’s like that and that’s the way it is!”). I clutched the checked tablecloth as I winced at their discussion. In a small cafe of only around ten closely situated tables, they made no attempt to temper their volume, speaking far too bloody loudly and (unforgivably) with their mouths full. Thankfully I couldn’t see their half-chewed scrambled eggs swilling around in their meticulously-styled stubbly-bearded gobs.
Still, I am a normal (ish), moderate human being. I can usually cope with the shortcomings of the human race. I’m not perfect – after many years of being on the receiving end of my best friends repulsed facial expressions, I still persist in sniffing my own armpits on hot days. I forget to put the cotton wool from my salt soaks in the bin (urgh) and sometimes wee with the door open. We all have our peculiarities.
They used phrases like “let’s be the best that we can be” and “tell us what you’re going to deliver”. They also have their priorities seriously bloody wonky (“we need two coffee machines!”). Regardless of their volume, however, I could have completely zoned out of their conversation and concentrated on my abundant Friday tasks (yes, I have frightfully mismanaged my workload. Yes, I am panicking like a stranded pussy up a poplar) had they not started rattling geezer-style about their staffing requirements.
- Sales Manager (“I’ve employed enough of them to know a good salesman…”)
- Cold Callers
- Accountant (a bit further down the list than I would’ve put it, but…whatever)
- A bit of totty to make the tea and do the filing
This was the point at which I started to write. I’ve learnt through long experience that you can’t change the nature of a thing by confrontation. As much as I’d have liked to stride up to their table, call them fuckwits and ask why they think it’s acceptable to speak that way, it would’ve changed nothing. It would basically create a superb anecdote for them to rattle off at the boozer with their similarly daftly attired chums later that day. I would’ve been THAT ‘mental fucking feminist’. The ‘fat angry bitch’. They’d have laughed heartily and clinked beer bottles as they agreed that I’m ‘an ugly lesbian who needs some cock’. I’m no oil painting, but I’m long enough in the tooth to know that even the most attractive women suddenly deteriorate into repulsive harridans the minute they challenge ingrained misogyny, so I mustn’t take it personally.
I’m making a lot of assumptions here.
They might have just meekly apologised and offered to make a donation to a charity of my choosing, but I doubt it. It’s a long and deeply depressing road that has led to a point where I can see the value of documenting and reporting blatant sexism, rather than confronting it head-on.
But on this occasion, I wasn’t in a hurry. The digesting of my very delicious breakfast actually allowed me some time to reflect upon my primary feelings towards them.
It would be so easy to just call them out for sexism. It would be simplicity itself to start railing against the patriarchy and the way in which their disgraceful attitudes have been passed down through generations.
Sexism, misogyny, objectification, chauvinism, discrimination…Yes. It’s all of these.
But they weren’t the words that jumped into my head first. As I sipped my peppermint tea, responded to my text messages with sharp stabbing fingers and allowed their affected speech, clumsy phraseology and cringe-making appropriation of language (that should only be used by much, much younger people) wash over me, again and again the same words entered my head…
“What a pair of total nobs.”