Ladies and Gentlemen

At some point during my recent and brief liaison with Saltdean, I arrived home from work one evening and carried out my usual ritual of reversing onto the ridiculously steep driveway. I was aware of a shadowy presence on next-door’s driveway as I did so and this presence spoke to me as I was locking up my car for the night.
“Was that OK for you?” he enquired.
I hesitated before answering because actually, I had no idea what was supposed to be ‘ok’ for me.
“Erm . . . What?” I enquired right back.
“Reversing onto the driveway,” he explained.
“I guess it must have been,” I assured him, “because here I am, at the top of the driveway.”
“It’s just I parked my car opposite, so I was worried it was going to be tight for you,” he elaborated on his ‘concern’, “and I don’t trust women drivers.”
I stared at him for a moment or two, just trying to assimilate the information I had been given. I gave a suitably hostile riposte in which I made no attempt to hide my light under a bushel and made it clear that I was so good at parking it was almost a hobby.
This is a great example of misogyny. This was a man with a bitter disregard for women. A mere disregard would have resulted in no conversation whatsoever, but his disregard was so deep-seated and angry that he had to manifest it to me, even though he had no evidence on which to base his lack of trust in female drivers. At least, not from my parking. He had watched my reversing intently – I knew that – presumably, in the vain hope that there would be a slight misjudgment of the biting point, or some over-enthusiastic revving. His disappointment brought about his desperate question which served as a crowbar with which to lever his misogyny. Or perhaps he considered his sexism a playful interchange; a humorous method of initiating contact; even flirting.
(In the event of anyone thinking I’m making heavy weather of this, let me reassure you that I will laugh at sexist joshing, if it is friendly, harmless banter amongst friends. And that isn’t favouritism; it’s a case of knowing who means it, so that’s one of the criteria too – they have to actually be joking. But even if this were banter . . . How should I know, without knowing the guy?)
As most of you know, I tarried in Saltdean a matter of months . . . Well, just over a year, but I went out so often (to avoid being in The Hovel, amongst other reasons) that it didn’t seem a year. Shortly after I moved in, the neighbours moved out and were replaced by a serious-looking chap whom I imagined to be about my age. He left for work every day at approximately the same time as I did, wearing a suit and driving a nice car. Our conversations consisted mostly of ‘hi’, from one driveway to the other. We had about three longer conversations, one when he introduced himself and I instantly forgot his name, another when he asked if he could fetch some rubbish that had blown from his garden onto my driveway and another when he told me he’d called Environmental Health because he’d seen a rat. The last conversation happened shortly after the discomfiting incident involving Lysistrata (aka Rocky, the chicken) and my pyjamas and I wondered if he was implying the rat problem was my chickens’ fault. But anyway, the point is, I barely knew him, but when the shadowy presence made inappropriate remarks about women, I knew my new neighbour well enough to know it wasn’t him. The guy looked old enough to be his dad, so I made the assumption that he was and I begrudgingly forgave his shocking attitude by attributing it to a generation difference, although I hasten to add that I do not necessarily assume all men of a certain age are sexist. That would make me ageist, which is as bad as any other ‘ist’.
In time, I relocated across Telscombe Tye, from East Saltdean to Telscombe Cliffs and did not expect to see The Misogynist again. However, a quirk of fate brought me to him shortly after my move. It was roundabout Christmas, or maybe New Year and friends had an ‘open house’ one afternoon. I almost bailed, as I still found my initial move from Woodingdean traumatic and attending the open house would mean being in Woodingdean. But I went along because I am very fond of said friends and whiled away a pleasant hour or two there. The gathering comprised a small, select crowd and as the last to arrive, I was introduced to everyone in turn. My eyes lingered on an older chap, because he looked familiar but I could not place him. Conversation continued; one conversation serving everyone, so it was all rather public. Then the familiar-looking chap randomly asked me where I lived. I told him, adding that I’d lived in Saltdean up until very recently. Randomly, he stated my old address, asking if that was where I’d lived?
Then I realised. He was the shadowy presence. The Misogynist.
“It’s you!” I accused, “You made a sexist remark to me!”
Everyone stopped talking. If the anger from that day hadn’t jolted right back into my whole being, I would have felt embarrassed.
He laughed, sheepishly.
Everyone looked at him.
I recounted the story.
It was ok – there was no awkwardness, no embarrassment. I could see contrition all over his face as everyone in the room looked askance at him.
There was playful tut-tutting and he visibly squirmed, just slightly, in his chair. I felt vindicated. I didn’t mind that I didn’t get a proper apology, let alone any grovelling, but I felt satisfied that I’d seen him again and had my opportunity to expose him to his friends. I chatted to him some more after that, about other things like his grandchildren and career choices. It was good to have the opportunity to have a different conversation with him and to experience another facet, other than the sexist one, to his personality. He was lucky that this happened and I was lucky, because it meant that my anger from that day was abated.
I don’t know how he came to be a misogynist. He is not the first and I doubt the last, with whom I will have had dealings in this life. Maybe some men have some evidence on which their sexism is founded, but my guess is that most misogynists have been nurtured along that path, in much the same way that some people are raised to support Man U or to have a disdain for opera.
In the year and a half since soon-to-be ex hubby left me, I have talked to both men and women about men. I have had dealings with a rum bunch of men, frankly. I went on a few dates with a friend shortly after soon-to-be ex hubby left me, but it was too soon and we rapidly returned to ‘friend’ status. I downloaded Tinder and went on one date with computer nerd Andrew who was highly anxious, one date with David the artist who was the quietest person I have ever met and two dates with Duncan the welder who was a bit of a geezer. I quite liked Duncan, but I met Wimbledon Man and had to choose. I chose the latter, as you will know, if you are an avid blog follower of mine and it was clearly a poor choice. After the chicken disaster, I met the Italian and we all know what happened on non-date number three. Again, only if you are a devoted fan. The Dude was the last of the Tinderites and then, after a respectable three month break, the Rastafarian sloped into my life. The Tinderites were not relationships. They were dates. I didn’t even hold their hands (apart from Wimbledon Man and The Dude . . . We might have even kissed a few times). The Rastafarian has had way too much air time (so to speak) in my blog, so we don’t need to revisit that debacle, but suffice to say, that was a relationship.
Also in the last year and a half, I have had a little more time to indulge myself in friendships. Like most people, I have friends across genders and across sexualities. Talking to my friends about relationships has been an interesting pastime, whether male or female, hetero-, homo- or bisexual. I don’t mean to say that it wasn’t interesting before, but when you have been rejected and you have the vantage point of hindsight from which to reflect, it makes for interesting conversations. Being single and ‘dating’ also makes for interesting conversations. I have had some interesting conversations about men, with men, but not if I am on a date with him/seeing him/possibly being about to start a relationship with him. I have had many fine conversations with the latter on plenty of other topics, but the most revealing chats on the subject of the (potentially) more muscly sex, have been with male friends. Their forthright candour has been refreshing and telling. The overriding theory concerning the male psyche has been that men are simpler creatures than women. I am not certain that I fully embrace this theory, but let me continue. The evidence for this, according to several male friends, is that men are principally driven by three factors: food, beer and sex. Again, I am not convinced, but the fascinating part of this phenomenon is that the male friends who have imparted this to me, are not typical of this hypothesis. They are intelligent, sensitive and thoughtful people to whom I would not have attributed this belief. But it is precisely because they said it that I have taken the information away to mull over.
The last year and a half, because of finding myself propelled into the world of dating unexpectedly, and being a rather different person from the teenager I was, the last time I lingered so long in this world, has been a journey. I have uncovered layers of myself as well as other people’s – both old and new friends. I am no misandrist, but I have found myself railing against the male sex in exasperation at times, over mixed messages, game-playing, feeling ignored and other unsatisfactory elements of relationships. My long-suffering boss has borne the brunt of my dissatisfaction, because she is a lovely, wise, listening person and because I see more of her than most people on a day-to-day basis, especially first thing when she is often the first human I speak to, apart from the animals (why, of course they’re human!) I’m sure men suffer from similar feelings of angst, directed against the ‘fairer’ sex. The conclusion that I have reached is this – and it is not particularly remarkable – that men and women are very different. Discuss.

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