Wednesday, 1 March 2017


What do you do if someone is rude to you? I asked my husband this question. He said a woman once walked past him in a nightclub when he was 18 and gently caressed his nuts, which was not the sort of rude I meant at all and which had me in fits of laughter. Especially when he added she was about twenty years older than he was and later winked at him from over at the bar. When he recounted the story again that evening to friends at a dinner party, all the women collapsed laughing and all the men agreed they would find this funny if it happened to them, and quite nice. But no, I didn't mean that sort.

A few years ago, just before Christmas, a man pushed in front of me in a queue for the cashpoint on the high road. I did nothing until he'd finished retrieving his money and turned to leave, when I cheerfully wished him a Merry Christmas. Another example, a woman interrupted my swimming the other day to tell me I should move to the slow lane, despite the fact I was in the fast lane before her and wasn’t swimming particularly slowly and there were already four people swimming very slowly in the slow lane, and no one but us in the fast lane. "Why?" I asked, losing my rhythm and standing up. "Because you’re doing breast stroke," she said, "and this is the lane for crawl." It wasn't, because there isn't one, but I moved anyway. But not before issuing this stinging reposte. "Okay," I said.

On reciting these two incidents to my sons I was told I was pathetic. I shouldn’t have let the man push in front or the woman bully me out of the fast lane, they said, I should have told them both to ‘fuck off’. But I would never do that. Mostly because it's rude but also because I'm a coward and wouldn't dare. But some people do dare, and can be quite witty with it.

I once overheard two women having an altercation in Primark in Tooting, with one apparently calling the other a racist. "Fuck off!" the second woman shouted at the top of her voice. "You calling me a racist? You want to take a look at my kids!"

Another friend is hilarious when dealing with unwanted sexual advances, which she gets a lot because she's beautiful. At a party a creepy old man sidled up to her and whispered, "I’d really like to lick your *****." 
"Yeah, yeah," she responded, not missing a beat, "everybody does, mate."

And my brother once followed another driver a very long way out of his way because he had been dangerously overtaken by him on the inside lane of the motorway. He said he wanted to tell him where to get off. I told him this was dumb. And dangerous.

But occasionally I will respond, especially if I'm premenstrual. Years ago I had a row with a woman in the dairy aisle at Waitrose, who was tutting at my children. "I don’t want to be here, either!" I snapped, as she glared first at me, then at the three little boys who were rearranging the Actimel. "You want to try taking three boys grocery shopping." 
"My mother just died!" she replied, just as one of my boys started laughing. "And there's nothing funny about that!" Which kind of took the wind out of my sails and I suppose went a long way to explain why she was so grumpy that day. "I’m sorry," I said. "That’s terrible." And she burst into tears. I ended up hugging her in front of the full fat milk.

"You see," I told the boys, when they told me you should always tell someone to ‘fuck off.’ "You never know. Best to do nothing, try biting your tongue and counting to ten. Any number of things might be going on behind the scenes in that person's life. Perhaps they're mentally ill, on drugs, suffering from domestic abuse or irrational with depression or grief. And perhaps one day you’ll be really unlucky and run into a proper nutter who could do you some actual harm in response."

Because what inspired this blog post in the first place was one of my boys planning a big night out just after I'd been reading about Oliver Dearlove, who was standing talking to a group of women late one evening in Blackheath, when someone took a disliking to him. "If you don't get out of my face, I will knock you out," that someone reportedly said, before punching thirty year-old Oliver to the ground. Sadly he died a few hours later in hospital.

Love E x


P.S. This blog post is dedicated to him.

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