I like to think of myself as a friendly sort of person. So it’s not unheard of for me to strike up conversation with, say, another shopper standing in the same check-out queue as me.
‘Oh dear. Looks like somebody has lost their purse,’ I
might respond to the woman in front of me who, exasperated with the woman in
front of her has turned to me to roll
‘Yes, but I just wish she wasn’t
in my queue, I’m in such a rush.’
‘Ah well, these things
happen. Are you rushing off anywhere
‘I’m babysitting my little
And so on. My daughter has always been somewhat
embarrassed at my talking to strangers.
I don’t know why. Maybe it’s an
age thing. I’m at an age where I don’t
care who I talk to, and my daughter – sixteen – is at an age where paranoia is
normal and of the opinion parents should be seen and not heard. I find most women in the same age category as
myself to be exactly the same as me. One
minute you are strangers, the next you’re discussing the most intimate details.
For example, earlier this week I
had a lady visit from a well known curtain company. She staggered into the hallway with five
heavy swatch books and, pushing her specs up her nose, sat down to do business
with me. Mulling over fabrics needs a
cup of tea. Ten minutes later we were
settled, at the table, as I pored over textiles. Somewhere along the way our conversation
strayed from thread counts and prices to the menopause, the pros and cons of
HRT, and whether to have a boob job. All
deeply personal and private stuff.
However, whilst it is marvellous to hit it off with someone, sometimes I
suppose I do need reminding of who precisely I’m striking up conversation with. Like the time I was with Eleanor, in River
Island, paying for shopping.
Young Man: ‘That will be umpteen pounds and twenty-two
pence.’ Broad grin.
Me: ‘Thank you.’ Proffers MasterCard and returns smile.
Her mother is in the shop to pay for goods, not indulge in making smiley
Young Man: Takes MasterCard and shoves it in
machine. ‘Very nice weather we’re
enjoying at the moment.’
Me: ‘And I see you’re dressed accordingly.’ Gives another smile whilst waiting for
terminal to prompt for pin number. ‘That’s
a lovely t-shirt you’re wearing. Looks
nice and cool.’
Eleanor: Rolls eyes at me for making embarrassing
parent chitchat with young man.
Young Man: Beams.
‘Thanks. It’s my favourite.’
Me: ‘It showcases your wonderful biceps.’
Eleanor: Looks astonished.
Young Man: Looks astonished.
Me: Enters pin number blissfully oblivious to the
fact that this is not my son I’m talking to.
Young Man: Leans across counter. ‘I’m very proud of my muscles.’ Lowers
voice. ‘I’m a gym addict.’ Waggles eyebrows.
Me: ‘I always admire anybody who has the
dedication to work out.’ Waggles
eyebrows back, just to show there is a bit of me that can work out without
breaking into a sweat.
Eleanor: Mouth drops open.
Young Man: ‘Do you want to feel them?’
Me: Retrieves MasterCard. ‘Okay.’
Snaps purse shut with a flourish and leans across counter.
Eleanor: Mouth so wide there is danger of treading on
Young Man: ‘Rock hard.’
Me: ‘Gosh, yes you are, aren’t you!’
Eleanor: Eyes flicking backward and forward from Young
Man to Mother.
Young Man: Whispering.
‘I could take you to the gym.’
Me: ‘Do you think?’
Eleanor: Eyes in danger of crossing.
Young Man: ‘Have a think about it.’
Me: ‘I will.’
Picks up packed shopping. ‘That’s
Eleanor: Snatches shopping from me and flounces off.
Young Man: ‘Bye for now.’
Me: ‘Thanks again.’ Dashes off after daughter.
Eleanor: ‘Oh my God, Mum!’ Strops at high speed
through other shoppers. ‘I’ve never been
so embarrassed in my life.’
Eleanor: ‘You were giving him the come on.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous.’
Eleanor: ‘And then he flirted with you. With you! You’re old enough to be his mother.’
Me: ‘He was just being friendly.’
Eleanor: Doing a silly voice. ‘Oooh, do you like my muscles? Oooh, yes I’d love to feel them.’ Dropping the silly voice. ‘It was outrageous.’
Me: ‘Oh don’t be so absurd.’
However, being friendly – or as
my daughter thinks – over friendly,
could indeed be misconstrued as flirting.
Earlier on this week there was possibly such a misunderstanding by a man
living a few doors down from me. I was
sitting in my car, having just pulled into my parking bay. There was a knock on the driver’s
window. Accordingly, I buzzed it down.
Another Young Man: ‘Er, hi.
You’re in my parking bay.’
Me: Produces dazzling smile to diffuse a
potentially iffy situation. ‘I believe it’s
my parking bay.’
Another Young Man: ‘It’s definitely mine.’
Me: Smiling so widely my lips are in danger of
meeting at the back of my head. ‘No,
it’s definitely mine. The Marketing
Suite showed me a map and this bay belongs to Plot 129. That’s me.’
Another Young Man: ‘I’ll go check with the Marketing Suite
Me: ‘Sure,’ getting out of car, ‘I’ll come with
Another Young Man: Looking alarmed. ‘I’m fine, I can go by myself.’
Me: ‘It’s no problem. Let me join you.’
Another Young Man: Backing away.
‘Really, there’s no need.’
Me: ‘Truly, I insist.’ All set to be jolly good neighbours. ‘I’m Debbie by the way.’
Another Young Man: Gone in a cloud of dust.
So, did that particular young man
get the wrong end of the stick and, far from thinking I was just being a
friendly neighbour, think that I was...you know...after him? Surely not. Which reminds me. My next writing project is a telephone
book. So can I have your number?