I look very young. This fact is often acknowledged, indirectly, by the public at large, who feel more than usually entitled to offer me advice, reduced fares, discounts, a wide berth, or a concerned stare.
Very rarely do these quasi-familial impulses graduate to the offensive/ hilarious….
I am paying for my order in a small cafe. A woman who has been chatting away with other customers approaches.
‘As a mother (are you? I see no evidence! Where is this poor child!) I have to say (do you? why? my mother never feels this impulse. Are you well?) that your skirt needs a good pull down. If you went to see a gynaecologist (pronounced as if with a J, for good measure) then you wouldn’t even need to bend over! (My dear woman. Amend your medical contact list immediatly. I promise you, they have chairs and beds and stirrups, and if he is making you *bend over* then he isn’t a gynaecologist.)
At which point the waitress chimes in, apropos of nothing, ‘I haven’t had a skirt that short since I was three years old!’
In this topsy turvy world of perverted medical professionals and tiny babies in sexy clothes, a few questions came to mind as I laughed my customer service laugh (outside, I am laughing: inside, I am spitting tacks at you. Hard.).
These questions are:
1. It is five pm on an idle Saturday in a town centre. In less than four hours, you will be mobbed by women wearing far fewer clothes than my sensible black tights, jumper, scarf, and (admittedly quite short) skirt. Do you also petition them? Comparatively, can my outfit truly be considered worthy of comment?
2. I am twenty two. I am perfectly old enough to wear whatever I like without needing to be told to tuck my shirt in/wear a bib/ ensure my buttons are correctly done up. I am not fourteen, and this skirt, regardless of what it may look like, is not an accident. I put it on (all by myself!) this morning. I zipped it up and checked in the mirror. If I had come in to your cafe with a mohican, tattoos, and a short skirt, you would have assumed the look to be intentional. Does the fact that I err on the side of ‘poorly dressed and scruffy’ rather than ‘cool and edgy’ render my outfit any more troubling?
3. I repeat, HOW OLD DO YOU THINK I AM?
4. One of you is wearing a bum bag, the other an apron. I have not investigated your religious beliefs (due to my controversial belief that people should be allowed to go un-abetted about their daily business) but have you ever heard the catchy little axiom ‘Let he without sin cast the first stone’? I suggest you go home and look it up.
5. Anyone for the first rule of customer service? Yes? Well it is my bloody skirt. And I am buying your tea. So my skirt is right.
6. I thought I looked really nice. My partner thinks I look really nice. Any need to spoil my day with a public service announcement?
7. For the love of god, HOW OLD DO YOU THINK I AM????