Sunday, 21 April 2013

55. I always feel naked

Derek has called me in for a meeting.

He has given very little notice of this, which means I can't modify my clothes. Ideally, in meetings with Derek, I would wear a burkha; since I don't possess one, a trouser-suit and buttoned-up shirt have to do. But today Chris asked me to go for lunch, so I am wearing a tight grey pencil skirt and a fitted yellow top, with long sleeves to compensate for the low neckline. I picked out seamed tights and tan high heels to complete my outfit. I am, currently, deeply regretting all of these choices.

It doesn't make any difference really. In front of Derek, I always feel naked. Even the trouser-suit doesn't help.

I am what is kindly known as curvy. Generous-busted. I have big tits, is what I am trying to say; 36G, to be precise. They started sprouting when I was 10 and by the time I was 12 I was already aware that they were distracting to members of the opposite sex of all ages.

Now, you might say that grown men should not look at a 12 year old's tits, and indeed they should not. And in fact very few of the adult men I met were looking at me at that age. For most of them, at 12, I was below the radar. But "very few" does not mean "none". And one of them was my Social Studies teacher, which was disconcerting because he was in his mid-40s and had a bristly moustache. There was also the man in the corner shop who suddenly started giving me free sweets one day, whenever I went in. He would talk to me about school and ask how my day was. I stopped going to that shop. I didn't really analyse why. I just knew I didn't want to buy my sweets there any more, just like I knew I was going to drop Social Studies as soon as I could.

Sometimes I think I was lucky I escaped childhood with only Matthew to contend with.

Anyway. Here's the thing. As I grew older, I noticed more men looking at my breasts. I don't mind being looked at. When you see a thing which you find attractive, you want to look at it. Most men appear to understand that my breasts are mine and while they are allowed to unobtrusively glance at them, outright staring would be offensive and they should try not to get caught.

I'm ok with this because it shows that most of them are trying to balance their desires (to look at my breasts, which is understandable because men like breasts) with what makes me comfortable (feeling like the man talking to me is aware he is dealing with a person rather than a inconveniently demanding life-support system for a pair of tits).

Derek is, however, not that kind of man. He doesn't care that I know he's looking at me. He considers it his right to openly wander his eyes up and down my body as much as he likes because my body exists and is therefore his, it is there for his perusal and possible consumption. Because, in other words, the "me" that I understand as "me", my personality, the "me" that looks out from behind my eyes, the bit that likes Graham Greene and dislikes EL James, likes magenta and doesn't like leeks, the bit that paints and reads and thinks, that bit of me is an inconveniently demanding life-support system for a pair of tits.

Derek shuffles through the paper on his desk.

He leans back in his chair and steeples his fingers. Looks at me over the top of them.

"And how are you today, Alice?" he asks.

"I'm very well, thank you, Derek," I say.

"Did I see you out on the town the other night? With your blonde friend and your black friend?" he smiles.

I pause. I recalibrate.

"I do have a blonde friend. And a...a black friend," I say.

"Your blonde friend is quite unusual-looking. So tall."

I know what he is getting at, and I'm not going to make it easy for him. He's obviously paid a lot of attention to Amanda. These days, not everyone can tell.

"Yes, she is tall."

"Your little group seems very diverse. I think that's great. This city isn't very good at diversity. It's nice to see a group of three such different people who are good friends."

I remember Amanda, in a coffee shop a couple of weeks ago. It is 10am. She is wearing a short magenta dress draped in sequins, a grey feather boa, and a black denim jacket with the words FUCK SHIT UP roughly painted on the back in green. She is making a face and saying "Vile!" This is the word that springs to mind now as well.

"Of course, it must be difficult for you to meet people. Make other friends. Most people are so intolerant." His eyes flick down the front of my top again, and I lose my temper.

"Was there a point to this meeting?" I say. "I have a considerable amount to do."

His eyes narrow. He doesn't like being spoken to like that. 

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