A chill chased up my spine, sending a subtle shudder through my shoulders. The bar’s end allotted a full view of the room. It also telegraphed fresh patronage, via a blast of cold air, each time the front door opened.
An over-the-shoulder glance, as a perky, petite, 20-something, brunette bounced in. Sporting white with red-swooshed Nikes, a snug red mid-thigh mini-skirt, topped off by a bare midriff, long sleeved white turtleneck. With a wave of recognition she bounded to the back of the bar to join some friends.
My attentions returned to a plate of pub chips and second-to-last beer of the evening, but were distracted by a low whistle emitting from the right, followed by “It’s a good thing I’m not a rapist!” in a low, conspirator’s voice. My gaze cast to the guy leaning in on my right. It appeared he might have been an athlete in his teens and was in the early stages of letting himself go. Wearing dark brown loafers (sockless), tan khakis, a white long sleeved dress shirt and a malicious grin.
Considering our proximity, I commented that I was eternally grateful. Ignoring this, he thumbed over his shoulder in her direction, whom he referred to as “little miss mini-skirt”. Omitting a plethora of vulgar, expletive-deletives he uttered, a summary of his take on the situation was that, “Dressed like that — she was just asking for it!”
“Asking for what, exactly?” I queried, turning myself and full agitation his way. “It seems very doubtful that young lady selected her wardrobe this evening aspiring to being sexually assaulted. Or that she dressed with the intent to be harassed throughout the night by potential assaulters, ergo interrupting and spoiling time with her friends.”
He sank back with a look of apprehension as I pressed on. “Ya know I’ve a male friend who, by sheer coincidence, has an inexplicable fetish for guys dressed EXACTLY the way you are right now (I actually did at the time). If he were here, by your own admission, are you currently “just asking for it?”
“C’mon man,” he stammered, “it’s not the same thing.”
“How in Helsinki Sweden is it not the same thing?” I retorted. “You want to base someone’s sexual desires on the way they’re dressed? What exactly pray tell is the proper dress code for wanton sexual advances? In truth, no matter what anybody puts on, there’s somebody out there who’s going to find it alluring, attractive or consider it submissive. So by your definition we’re all “just asking for it”, pending who is answering.” Before he couldn’t respond another chill struck me as his friends swaggered in; thankfully he went to join them.
The last hour was spent smoking, sipping sweet tea and observing the two groups. One with intermingled sexes, self-contained and enjoying each other’s company. While the other, predominantly male, sought entertainment outside their own and at the expense of others’ ‘questionable’ reputations. Same planet — different worlds.
Time passed, the hour grew late. When suitably sobered I paid my tab and was preparing to depart when there was a tug at my sleeve. It was little miss mini-skirt (never learned her actual name). Her friends were hanging out a bit longer but she had to go. With a nervous glance toward Mr. Loafer’s leering jeering brood, she asked if I could walk her to her car.
Nodding and taking her arm, we stepped into the wintry night. Outside she shuddered and I draped my coat over her shoulders to which she smiled appreciatively. A light snow was falling as we made our way across the parking lot in comfortable silence.
Being ever the chivalrous gentleman, upon reaching her car I opened the driver’s door: “Your chariot awaits milady.” I quipped with a bow. Tittering, she produced a small curtsy, “Thank you good sir.” She started to climb in then paused, placing a hand on my shoulder and whilst biting her lip, looked me up and down, from the backwards ball cap, red sleeveless flannel over white thermal shirt, ratty knee jeans, down to well-worn Chuck Taylors. Then said with a smile and a wink, “You know, coming out to the bar… dressed like that… you’re just asking for it!”
I wasn’t, but I let her keep the coat.
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