I've become good friends will a local neighbour and we discovered her husband and my partner work together. Well, at the same company anyway. The other night they told us they were meeting some friends at a local pub we like. It's in a cellar and therefore very cramped. Half its clientele were sat on the ground at street level that night because it was so hot downstairs. Anyway, we go with them and are introduced to about 5 other couples, who like my neighbour are all about 20 years our senior. I'm not bothered about that as this lady and I have a lot in common. We are all crowded into a corner at 2 trestle tables with bench seats, which in true micro pub fashion are such that people sitting are at the same height as if they were on barstools, if that makes sense, so they're still on a level with those forced to stand.
The evening passes well and we all sink a few beers. Nobody drank to excess, it just wasn't that sort of crowd. One guy however, let's call him Bill, immediately detaches himself from the table he's at once my partner and I have been introduced to everyone, and parks himself next to us. He's a big bloke, tall and broadchested. I'm 5 foot 2. I'm slim, reasonably pretty and had made an effort, batwing top and leggings, hair piled up etc. Nothing remotely slutty. Bill joins in our conversation but I end up gradually moving up the bench and making my partner do the same because of Bill's notion of personal space. He leans over me when talking to such a degree that I realise I can't actually roll a smoke without getting too close to him. His social skills are not the most polished. We were discussing other micro pubs with my friend's husband until Bill went on a wild tangent about zoo keepers who have died hideous deaths. My partner and I tire of humouring Bill, so we head outside for a cigarette. He's one of these people who is very hard work, asking pointless questions after each anecdote that are only tenuously related to it at all. Everything he says is accompanied by such an effusive grin however, that we don't burst his bubble. He's not learning impaired or anything but he definitely doesn't get out much. I can see how he's looking at me, he clearly cannot handle unexpectedly being in the company of an attractive 30something for the evening. My partner describes him as a creep, I concur.
When we go back in, I seek out my friend, specifically to avoid returning to the table where her husband and Bill are sitting. My partner goes to the bathroom. After a few minutes chat she also heads for the bathrooms. I stay where I am, which is stood next to a corner trestle table that boob height on me. Sure enough, before I have time to plan evasive action, Bill is bearing down on me. I try to decide how cold to be without being needlessly rude. I certainly wasn't encouraging him by the time we went outside to smoke. I weigh up the likelihood of having to be rude to get through to him and sigh, this is not how I wanted this evening to go. His wife is way across on the far side of the other table and by all accounts she has hardly glanced in his direction.
He positions himself so that I'm isolated between the corner of this table and the wall. He doesn't try to touch me but the look he's giving me is just revolting. He is a good foot taller than me and twice as wide. I opened my mouth to announce I also needed the toilet but he spoke over me.
"You're still in the dirty phase of your relationship, aren't you?"
I was so stunned I just stammered an incredulous "Excuse me!?" But I knew I hadn't heard him wrong.
He then told me about a meal out his wife had had and that they were offered coffee after dessert. He said his wife had refused the coffee and said, "Do you really think I want HIM up all night." Which he said put him in his place far as amorous expectations were concerned. He laughed at his own joke and then finally seemed to register the look on my face, at which point he went back to his wife's table without another word.
Now on the face of it, it was just a inappropriate comment and I suppose he must have been merry from the beer. What I don't like is that he picked his moment, when my friend and my partner were both using the restroom, and he cornered me. He was never about to touch me in front of his wife in a public bar but that doesn't necessarily mean he wouldn't have gone further given different circumstances. He made me feel threatened and sullied and spoiled what was a perfectly nice evening. I was so jangled by what happened there was no hiding it from my partner but I refused to elaborate until we got home because I didn't want him to get angry. He maintains that was the wrong decision but whatever, it's done now.
My partner and I weren't exactly all over each other either. We were usually tactile, which meant holding hands, pecks on the cheek or lips. He put his arm around me when we were sitting on the bench together. It's not like we were making out in front of everyone.
The next day I phoned my friend and explained exactly what happened and how it had made me feel. Just a dispassionate report, because I knew she would be upset. I said I didn't want her thinking we didn't want to hang out with them again. Because the night before she had said she would let us know when the group were meeting up again. She said she understood how I felt and she would let me know when Bill wasn't going to attend. That was pretty much how we left things.
Now, though is where I'm starting to get pissed off about the whole thing. To be contemplating withdrawing from a nice group of people, because one bloke was inappropriate. This is how women them themselves in, by taking responsibility for their safety. They join a gym instead of jog, drive to work instead of walk or use transport, go out to pubs in groups etc. When confronted by inappropriate behaviour we de-escalate first and get angry later. It's reflex for us, because we can never truly know what men are capable of. So men who should be informed in no uncertain terms what they're being like have us colluding in their conduct by laughing things off, being polite, disengaging from the situation carefully. If I go hang out with these people again, including Bill and his wife, am I being forgiving or belligerent? Am I putting myself at further risk? I mean a public bar with my partner is a low risk venue but these are the choices women are confronted with every day and men wonder why we have the occasional sense of humour failure, why we end up on the defensive and are swift to exit any situation we're not happy with.
It's not fair that I should be left with these choices because of someone else's behaviour. Men are often completely oblivious to the way they can make us feel. Bill's actions were pretty deliberate but how am I to know if he's a harmless midlife crisis or a serial rapist? Do I sit there next time, unable to relax and monitoring him in my peripheral vision? Is that not the antithesis of what a relaxing evening out should be?
Unless my friend speaks to Bill or his wife, his little misdemeanour has no consequences for him. He probably won't have given it a second thought, unless it was to jerk over it when he got back home. That's the bit that makes me angry. He can go his merry way completely unaffected. I didn't even have the opportunity to put him in his place myself, to tell him what I thought of his behaviour. They were new acquaintances and I didn't want to cause a big scene.
This is seriously getting to me... and I'm really pissed off about that. That I'm giving this idiot that kind of importance.
Well thanks for reading. Advice and comments welcome.