For the first time in decades, somebody tried to pick me up. To my surprise and bemusement, this wasn’t in a club full of loud music and people shouting, but at breakfast on a Monday morning.
There I was, eating my bowl of offensively overpriced porridge (alongside a miniaturised glass of beet juice, and shortly after consuming a Lilliputian fruit scone) when I was complimented on my beard. It is a fine beard, a most luxurious one, although a little ragged after I got drunk on Friday night and attacked it with scissors. I was alone at the bar in the hotel restaurant, and it seemed rude when invited by my complimenter not to go over and sit at the adjacent empty chair.
He was an architect and showing off pictures of his apartment to a lady sat next to him, who in turn ruthlessly name-dropped the designers of her chairs, lamps, paintings (and I got the feeling her toilet brushes, door hinges and grapefruit spoons were soon to be listed too). He’d concentrate on mentioning how his apartment looked down on Gramercy Park, and getting me to look out the window at it, so he could lightly touch my shoulder with his hand to guide me. It was all a bit strange. This, combined with a slightly effeminate voice, and the woman next to him, carrying on about her pneumatic Philippe Starck stool and other nonsense, made me feel like I’d sat down in a bad caricature of some New York middle-to-upper-class daftness.
The last time I had a man make any sort of advances was in Vauxhall in 1996 or thereabouts, when a bald chap called Jasper kept following me around a techno club telling me how I was a beautiful dancer. Anyone who’s seen me dance knows that Jasper was either the world’s biggest liar or on drugs. Or both. So I was quite unsure how to rebuff these transparent advances.
On the one hand, it’s mildly flattering. On the other, I’m British, so being vaguely concerned and not sure what to say for fear of giving offence comes naturally to me. What was going to happen here? Would I end up going on a date with a random man just because I was trying to be polite and couldn’t think of a way to extricate myself?
I assume for the average woman it’s not mildly flattering to have somebody you don’t feel any attraction to start coming on to you. Then again, the incident rate is much higher for most women, and it’s not like I felt any kind of physical threat looming. Ah, the relaxing state of life of a white, heterosexual man…
He asked me if I had any children. Hoorah, I thought, extolling the joys of my daughters and my wife. Wasn’t he going to take notice of the wedding ring and the talk of children, and figure out that he didn’t fall in my Venn diagram of attraction? But on he spoke, continuing to point out his apartment and show more pictures of it, like I was some kind of furniture-fixated flapper.
Then the chap asked me if I wanted a drink (he was on at least his second drink, and by drink I mean something murky with an olive on a cocktail stick in it, at 8:30 in the morning, and what the hell does that imply?) and then asked for my number Well, I couldn’t honestly have a drink at that time of the morning, not with meetings ahead of me, but I also wasn’t sure how to decline a request for a phone number politely, so I gave him mine, paid my check and then went to my room to pack. And then received a flurry of texts in which he asked if he could stroke my beard.
I had never realised that all this facial fuzz would make me attractive to a random man in a bar. I was only growing it because I’m too lazy to shave, and because it amuses me to look ridiculous. I wanted to reply to him and point out that it’s the height of desperation to send 7 texts in close succession to a complete stranger, but that seemed a bit complicated so I pointed out that my wife wouldn’t be very happy if someone other than her got beard access rights, and then marched to the office.
Back in the hotel at midday, I spied him still sitting at the bar. Or maybe there are a whole bunch of identically dressed men who lurk in the hotel restaurant, looking for suitable bearded men.