I got back home from the Cotswolds yesterday afternoon at 3.00pm, had fully unpacked by 5.00pm, and by 6.45pm was heading off down to Brighton to join a monthly gathering to meet and eat, on this occasion at the Camelford Arms. (Gosh, my second meal out in two days! Simple repasts for the next few days, I think, to get that waistline under control)
The meal was very good, and it was really nice to see people I knew so soon after returning home. But of course this was on top of a long drive home in the rain, and I knew that at some point in the evening I would begin to feel very tired. That point came at 9.30pm. Abandoning what was left of my wine, I made my excuses and farewells, and headed for the door. Halfway through it, a big man appeared from nowhere - although I suppose he must have been propping up the bar, and had seen and heard me exchanging merry goodbyes and then walking to the exit. Anyway, here he was, holding out his hand, which I automatically took. He said something that I didn't catch.
I was focussed on getting home, and mentally not geared up for unexpected social chat with a man looking for company. I gazed at him blankly, a little numb-brained, and idiotically said 'Um, what do you want?'
'I just wondered if you'd like a drink with me,' he said. He said it pleasantly, but this was the last thing I wanted, to linger on in Brighton, with a stranger in whom I'd somehow kindled a spark of interest. He wasn't attractive to me, a bit overweight and pudgy, his fat hand enveloping my own. I wasn't in the slightest tempted to stay and find out why he'd made this effort to have a word with me, nor what programme he had in mind if I fulfilled whatever imaginings were in his head.
The only thing we had in common, so far as I could see, was that we both wore glasses. 'I'm sorry,' I replied, 'I've driven 160 miles home from holiday today, and I'm really tired.' He seemed surprised that I'd refused him. 'I only make an offer once,' he said, as if these were magic words that would stop me leaving and make me his. But I said 'It's still got to be no, I'm afraid,' and I withdrew my hand, which, to his credit, he did not prevent. I then fled, wanting no further barriers between myself and getting back to the safety of Fiona, and ultimately the quiet, uncomplicated comforts of home.
No, he definitely wasn't 'my type'. And this wasn't the kind of easy, no-problems, casual encounter I have most days with men in shops and elsewhere. This was specifically a bid to ply me with drink late in the evening, and (if I came up to expectations) apply pressure on me to share some intimacy. The word 'sex' was hanging in the air. He had the air of a persuasive man, one used to getting his way, a man on an expense account (if these still exist). The Camelford Arms is one of Brighton's gay pubs (which isn't saying much really, as most pubs in the centre of town cater for a rich mix of customers) but he didn't seem to be gay himself. Maybe he was a businessman who had left his hotel to sample one or two colourful local pubs, and had let chance bring him a woman to speak to, and then who knows what else.
I don't think of myself as a physically attractive proposition, so that's one reason why I was quite unprepared for an approach. Perhaps the Cotswold fresh air had made my face look pink and healthy. Perhaps he detected something else about me - maybe he thought I would be a good listener, especially if he had a relationship on the rocks and wanted to discuss it. Whatever it was, I was too tired to stay.
Funny how the encounter pushed me off balance. I couldn't help analysing it. I chastised myself for giving him that stupid 'What do you want?' as my first response. Was I a moron? I hadn't found him at all attractive, but at the same time felt guilty for admitting this dislike (I hoped I hadn't shown it in my face) - as if, as a woman, I should have played the game, said the right thing, and let him press the buttons and get the expected response. A cool woman in command of herself might have let him buy that drink, just to see where it would all have gone. I had not been adult and sophisticated. I had just said no, no, no - and then ran away.
Very well. Another lesson learned. At the very least, I should make myself prepared for more such approaches. Clearly, to some men, in some circumstances, I'm an object of desire! I need a smooth strategy for dealing with them.
Don't think that I'm preening my feathers here. I see this kind of incident as a potential nuisance, and something to be managed.