Old men are often going to chat up younger women; that’s basically a fact of life. As a platinum blonde I tend to get this a lot, especially with men in the 60-70 age bracket who saunter into my work and stare at me. That stare with all it’s greasy connotations is a whole issue in itself and deserves special attention in a separate article, but today I’m going to share with you my experience on Thursday morning.
A bit of background on my job: I work as a retail assistant in a second-hand bookshop. I price stock, alphabetize, read, and have awkward conversations with sweaty customers. This Thursday, a man with grey hair, a startlingly red face and an over-hanging stomach waltzes in. I looked up from my book briefly and said, “Hellohowareyou?” This is known as the standard acknowledge-then-ignore tactic, which I use on all of my customers.
He replies with, “Oh…you know…crap. I’m an artist you see. But more importantly,” he leans on the counter, “how are you?” He stares me directly in the face. One eye twitches nervously.
“Oh yes I’m fine thanks. Just reading.”
“Mm yes. You’re quite cute.”
At this point I have to note something important: when you work in customer service you are obliged to be bubbly at all times, even if the customer is getting upset or is making a scene, or if he says something like that. There are other customer’s around and I don’t want to scare them off by swearing and yelling at some guy. He has only complimented me, after all.
“So, what type of artist are you?”
“Guess.” He whips out his iPhone and shows me stifled landscapes and charcoal nudes. I, of course, say that they’re lovely. But then…
“I’ve noticed you because you’ve got really great, short hair so I can see your neck and your big, beautiful eyes. I really like the way you stand and hold yourself.”
He then starts going on and on about how some of the models he’s had have been shaved and how he prefers the “pubic region” shaved because there are beautiful lines and shadows – and all the while I’m standing there nodding wondering what he’s going on about, while hoping that the phone rings or somebody buys a book or SOMETHING!
Finally he asks me if I would model for him. After noting my “small breasts and nice, big hips” he says I would be a perfect model for him.
Now, I need to be honest here, because what are blogs for if not to tell the truth? I genuinely considered it. What was going through my head was, “Oh well you’re applying at schools and universities to do nude modelling and this really is quite similar and cash in hand is always nice although being naked in his house is a bit weird and what if he has a sex dungeon and what if all these past models of his are dead now and maybe you’re being too judgmental here because he might actually be genuine so think about it and stop being so prejudice against men but holy crap I can’t wait to tell the guys about this.”
He gave me his card, told me to contact him and left. I looked up his art online and although his drawings were technically good, they didn’t have any life in them. They were all too stiff. About 15 minutes later he came back, saying he was hanging around the shops waiting for his wife. I immediately thought: “I bet you don’t even have a wife.” He started telling me about his art and how people are asking for commissions and what not, and that when he draws nudes, he needs to take photos for future reference to perfect the piece. Alarm bells ringing yet?
That was the line for me (even though the line should have been crossed ages ago). I wasn’t totally happy with the idea of being arse-naked in this guy’s house, but apparently he’s going to take photos as well? He certainly didn’t tell me that with the first sales pitch. I can’t think of anything worse than having naked pictures of myself floating about this guy’s home. He was bloody pushy too: “So will ya do it?”
Finally I said, “Look: you’ve walked into my shop and straight up asked me to do nude modelling for you and you somehow think I’m not going to be creeped out by that?”
He said, “Well okay fair enough. But if you give me your phone number I can let you know when I’m in town next and we can have a proper chat?”
“No. Look. I’ll text you okay?” And with that, he left.
Only tonight have I managed to work up the courage to tell my parents what happened. They know that I’ve applied to do nude modelling for art classes and have no problem with it, but this is what my dad had to say about this dude:
“Send him a text on my phone. Tell him that you’re not interested, and that he’s not to contact you again. If he tries calling or anything then I’ll speak to him. I’ll tell him that no fucking means no and what does he fucking think he’s playing at, and that I know where he lives, what he does, I know every-fucking-thing about him. And if he tries anything else, I’ll take a fucking baseball bat to him.”
Here’s what I learnt:
1) No, not all men are rapists or perverts or serial killers. But not all men can be trusted. People can’t be trusted, and I’m far too naïve to constantly try to see the good in people.
2) There are gems like my dad, who care about me and want to protect me. But I can’t protect myself.
3) I’m not safe. Although this guy never threatened me – the whole thing is kind of funny actually – there is nothing stopping him from waiting outside my work and following me to my car if he wants to.
4) I need to be wary of old men who say that you’re cute and ask you to do nude modelling for them.
I just wish I didn’t feel so vulnerable all the time.
I’ll try to end on a lighter note: my dad was telling me that back in London, there was this rubbish-man who had an obsession with mum. He started off quite chatty and pleasant, then got creepy when she started seeing him everywhere, at the park, the bus stop etc. At one point he told her that she was the “sexiest woman in Walington.” Mum felt uneasy and told dad. One day, this bloke was two houses down collecting rubbish, and was walking up the garden path towards their house – note: he didn’t actually know mum lived there. My dad saw him, ran out his front door, jumped over two fences and pinned him against the wall by his throat. I don’t know exactly what he said to him, but mum never saw him lingering around her again.
As I closed their bedroom door I heard this and it made me smile.
Dad: “Am I your hero?”
Mum: “Of course.”