It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting on the tube.
I’m wearing an oversized sheep skin coat done up to the neck, jeans and flat black boots – obviously screaming for male attention.
A middle aged man somewhat resembling Ragetti the glass eyed dunce from Pirates of the Caribbean staggers toward me. Evidently, judging by the hoard of balding middle aged men behind him, he is on some hideous “LADS NIGHT OUT”. He stumbles from pole to pole until he reaches the one closest to me which he tightly grips. He’s here to stay.
Words fail him at first, so he stares at me like a deranged lunatic. He is mumbling slurred sounds under his breath. I have no interest in hearing them, and in a desperate bit to appear aloof, develop a fascination with a piece of fluff attached to my left glove. I’m not entirely sure whether he intends to be so threatening, but he is certainly succeeding.
He misunderstands my silence as an invitation to become more vocal. I can’t work out whether he is inadvertently hitting on me or plotting the way in which he is going to dispose of my dismembered corpse. Either way I really don’t like it.
After what feels like five hours I’m still adhering to the rules of urban solitude, and so is everybody else in the carriage. I implicitly ignore him, while everybody else implicitly ignores me. I now alternate between staring at my knees, plucking up the courage to glance around – willing anybody to make eye contact (nobody dares), briefly glimpsing up at my own reflection in the window – contemplating how pathetic I look, and then staring back down at my knees again.
I’ve pissed this guy off. Supposedly because he is drunk and because I am a girl alone on a train I am obliged to engage with him in some sort of unintelligent repartee. I resist and continue to stare at my knees, feeling like a small child and longing for somebody older and wiser than me to intervene. No such luck.
Apparently my antipathy toward crude drunk men means that I’m incredibly “stuck up”. He turns to the hoard of vile inebriates behind him to inform them, and the rest of the train, of this fact.
They, agree, and proceed to chant the fact that I am “SOOOO STUCK UP” in unanimous song which they seem to have pre-prepared should such an occasion arise.
The song finally ceases and silence resumes. – For about 30 seconds, whilst they regain strength sourced from their cans of Guinness and reaffirm the fact that they’re the “LADS LADS LADS”.
But apparently I deserve greater punishment and humiliation for my (lack of) action.
“She’s so stuck up”, announces the ringleader to the entire train, “she definitely takes it up the arse”.
Sorry what? I think, ok enough, I’ll say something now. There are words circulating in my head but I can’t seem to order them correctly, and I fear they’ll come out wrong. I gulp, I think I’ll just open my mouth and hope that an appropriately fiery feminist rant falls out. Instead I can’t talk at all. I feel I have no authority. Nobody else on the tube thinks I’m worth speaking up for. And now neither do I.
And so now they’re chanting “SHEEEE TAKES IT UP THE ARSE” in unison. – Clearly any girl who dares to reject the advances of a carousing misogynist must.
At this point, it’s not even the chanting that’s humiliating me. It’s the silence behind it. Nobody looks up from their iPhones – which, last time I checked folks, don’t actually work when you’re underground.
“You’re so stuck up, you’d take it definitely up the arse” one man summarises frankly, as the train eventually reaches their stop.
As he started it, it only seems fair that the original marauding, misogynistic lunatic should finish the whole hideous episode – this time with a brand new insult “you’re only a 7 out of 10 love”.
They trample off the train. Victorious and chanting “LADS NIGHT OUT, LADS NIGHT OUT” – no doubt anticipating an exciting evening of the unapologetic belittling of many, many more women.
I want to be relieved, it’s over. But in truth I feel pathetic. The silence of the entire carriage speaks volumes more than those 10 men did. It’s palpable. Solitude is valued over standing up and actually saying something.
I wish that I could say this is a solitary encounter. That it is in some way unusual. A unique incident. It is not.
And after an appropriate time spent staring at my knees, I glance up into the reflective glass to see a pathetic, stuck up, 7/10 staring back at me. Vile men 1: Feminism 0.