Saturday night. Queenstown CBD. 7.20pm. I stepped out of the car outside Betty's Liquor. There was a chill in the air. I zipped up my leather jacket and set off, striding towards my destination. Japanese takeaways. At the same time, a guy, late 20s, charged out of Betty's. We looked at each other. For a cool five seconds.
Then he shouted, 'GOD! What a SEXY woman!'
I didn't look back at him. I kept striding. I found myself in a tight alleyway between a concrete wall and a building-site hoarding. Another man was walking towards me. I felt that feeling only women feel in a situation like this. Danger. Irrationally perhaps. But still. Danger. I looked straight ahead. Made no eye contact. My long navy blue shirt dress (worn a million times, Glassons) has two thigh-high splits. Over my thighs. Centre front. I had black platform boots on, sparkly socks and leg makeup (think water-soluble tan tights. Fragrance-free.) I started thinking about a comeback. What I would have said if I was the stunningly dressed, potty-mouthed Katherine Ryan in The Duchess, or the hilarious Phoebe Waller-Bridge in Fleabag. If I was right then, being filmed in a middle-aged version of Sex-in-the-City, Queenstown release.
KR: 'Out of your league, cockwomble.' or 'I've seen your porn channel.'
PWB: 'Does your mum know you're out?' or 'I was in that movie.'
What I was really feeling. Was uncomfortable. And saying, 'You're pissed, mate. I'm 56.'
But his remark wasn’t really about the wrinkles and the silver hair, he clearly couldn't focus in his beer-tinted-goggles, it was aimed at the confidence. I was striding like a woman who looked like she knew where she was going and what she wanted when she got there. A Bento box. Salmon. I wasn't a young woman in an awkward-to-pee-in jumpsuit, teetering on uncomfortable sandals (that looked supportive on the leggy model on Asos) heading out on a night on Aperol Spritzes with my posse. Hoping to pull. Get pashed in a bar. Drop-it on the dance floor. Whatever the young and beautiful do on a Saturday night. In Queenstown.
But older women are sexy. I look at Helen Mirren and think, you sexy bad bitch. Owning that face, owning that body. In that cleavage revealing, haute couture gown. Owning that life. Aged: 75!
However, I was also slightly unnerved at the time. Would the dude follow me? Down the narrow alley. The H had just dropped me off. We'd just been at our son's pre-formal get together at a hotel in town. And GOD that room was full of some sexy women. 16. 17. All dressed up in subtle tones of slinky stretch satin with spaghetti straps. Under a shroud of fake-tan and professional hair and makeup. Their rose petal corsages bruising each time they hugged their stunned, Hallenstein-clad beaus. All so sweet. All so stunning. The flesh of youth. Lightly encased. Innocent.Stomping down that alley, I did not smirk to my self, and think, yeah still got it. That is not my station. I alighted at the one before. Station Invisible. Confusion was more my headspace. And hunger.
More to the point, isn't cat-calling, wolf-whistling not a done thing these days? Or do men still think its okay for their dick-to-shout-a-*compliment* to women in public any old damn time they feel like it? Would a Gen-X have called this guy out? Or walked on to prevent a scene? I proceeded on to my destination. Ordered dinner. While I waited, a guy at a nearby table was retelling a story loudly into his phone. I'll save you from its contents. TMI. Jeesh. If I could have caught his attention, my eyes would have eyed him. Eyeingly. Shut up.
Earlier that day, I stood outside a cafe while my daughter ordered a coffee. In that ten minute-wait, I watched a cafe-worker place a freshly baked loaf of banana bread on a chopping board. Oooh that looks good. Steam rose. I could smell that sweet fruity dough. I watched her slice it. The knife was super sharp, it made no crumbs. She arranged half the loaf and the sliced pieces on a plate. But as she ferried them to the display counter a piece fell to the floor. She looked at her co-worker for advice. The advice must have been something like, 'Five-second rule! Just pick it up.' Because next thing, that slice was on a plate. Then that slice had a butter pat beside it. Then that slice and the butter was being served to an unsuspecting customer. I do not lie. Right then, I wanted to catch the cafe worker's eye. I wanted to give her the two-fingered, two-eyed wave. We live in a Covid world. Times are tough. But. Hygiene.
My Bento boxes arrived within 15 minutes, as advised. A slight drizzle had started. I strode up the street, passed the church and met my ride outside the cop-shop. We went home and watched Election 2020. I was thankful for the results. Humanity is key rn. I went to bed, and hoped, as I always do at the start of a new term of government that Aotearoa will be better. That the world will be better. The cake will be clean. And we will all be good humans. Even after a few beers.