This one is for Patti.
Everybody needs a nudge from time to time. We don’t always realise it. Often we ignore the nudges that others try to give us. Or we make it difficult to be nudged. But nudging is a part of life … or it damn well ought to be.
What is a nudge? It’s when someone sees that you are going off track and tries to push you gently back to where you need to be. Done well, it’s a thing of love, of friendship, of citizenship.
There’s the rub. Nudging has to be done well, otherwise it feels like shoving. And few us of like to be shoved.
Here’s a fr’instance. One day, I was in the works canteen when I noticed that the lady ahead of me in the queue had her skirt tucked into her knickers.
I am told that this is an occupational hazard for those who wear skirts. I am no expert on the subject. I’ve only worn a skirt once in my life, when as a yoof I took the invitation to come in “fancy dress” a tad too literally.
That experience didn’t really equip me to deal with the skirt-in-knickers situation. I had a hunch that she wasn’t trying to start a fashion trend. But should I tell her? Would she be embarrassed to be told of her wardrobe malfunction by a man?
More importantly, would she think me to be a perv or an old lech, because pointing it out would be conclusive proof that I had been looking at her bottom? And as every red-blooded male knows, you can look but you can’t get caught looking.
Incidentally, one of my female friends once told me that women know that we look. They just tolerate it out of pity, in the same way that they tolerate a puppy weeing on the floor when he is so excited to see you. Poor little thing. He can’t help it. And nor can the puppy.
What to do? I thought of asking another woman to tell her, but that would mean telling another person about her embarrassment. I could write her a little note and try to slip it to her discreetly … but no, no, no, that could look all wrong. How could I make this into a friendly nudge and not a creepy shove?
Eventually, I decided that I had to do something. I couldn’t have her walking like that for the rest of the day with everyone noticing and no-one having the courage to say anything.
I swallowed a metaphorical brave pill. As quietly as I could, I stammered in my best Hugh Grant/ Jeff Goldblum: “Um … excuse me … I’m very sorry … ah … I hope you don’t mind me saying … ahem … your skirt is caught in your … um …”
She turned around, looked behind her, and an expression of complete horror appeared on her face. She abandoned her tray of sandwiches and made a hasty exit, stage left, pursued by demons.
Had I done the right thing? That was the thought that weighed heavily on me as I sat down to eat my lunch. Was I about to get a reputation as the manager who stares at women’s bottoms?
A hand touched me on the shoulder. For a brief instance, I thought it might be the police – either the thought police, the fashion police or the genuine article. I imagined a deep voice saying: “Could you come with me, sir? We have had a complaint…”
And no this wasn’t the time for the old joke about “anything that you say may be taken down and used in evidence”, to which the comedy answer is “knickers”.
No, the hand on my shoulder wasn’t the Old Bill, the rozzers, the men in blue. It was the now-properly attired lady. She gave me a lovely smile (with just a few top notes of embarrassment).
“Thanks,” she said.
And that, my friends, is one of the secrets of happiness. A nudge, kindly meant, gently given and gratefully received.
Patti has given me two nudges. Earlier this month she said I should start a blog. The thought had never occurred to me. I write fiction and non-fiction. I write in forums/ fora … whatever. But I had never thought of blogging. It turns out that it’s a lot of fun. There is much more interaction with other people than I had realised. Maybe I am naïve and inexperienced, but it seems less confrontational than some forum chat rooms can be.
More nudging than shoving, you might say.
And Patti nudged me again this morning – a sentence I hope my wife does not misinterpret. She said: “Sheesh. How about a happy blog for a change?”
I have to admit that she has a point. A very good point. When I look back at the last few posts … yeah, she has a good point there.
So there is only one thing I can say to a nudge like that….