Alcohol, no: mace, perhaps

What IS IT with blokes and alcohol? Fotr all that I may occasionally protest, daytimes are largely OK for me. Part, I guess, that I am passing better: part that there are just moer people around – and more sober ones at that.

So apart from the occasional lapse into intolerance (as at the Leisure Centre) , daytime is mostly a space where I get funny looks and young children embarrassing their parents by asking loudly and in earshot “is that a man or a lady?”

Then there’s night: more particularly, Friday and Saturday nights on public transport. These, I soon realised, are mostly nightmare, with blokes and alcohol the usual cause of discomfort.

Last night was no exception. Heading for London and the F-Word’s 10th birthday bash (of which more later) I boarded a slow train from Peterborough. Empty. But it soon filled up.

Half way thru the journey I felt the effects of the Americano I had downed earlier on, and made my way precariously to the loo, about two carriages down. This necessitated negotiating a party of about half a dozen blokes in what I now recognise as alcohol-inspired mode one. That is, they were loud, irreverent, but mostly cheerful.

I don’t like such encounters. The booze seems to diminish the wittiness of comment, whilst simultaneously lowering any embarrassment threshold that might have acted as restraint on uttering same. So I get the usual catcalls and “what’s this?”, called out with not a care as to whether I hear or mind on my way thru – and then much the same on my way back.

Leaving the train at Kings Cross, the process is repeated. “Where are you going, honey?”, sounded like a proposition, though I doubt it. Unless there is some hitherto untapped reservoir of interest in middle-aged ladies with slightly mad hair, I doubt there was any serious interest.

I don’t like this although, as one friend – Kathy – has pointed out, there’s probably no real threat involved. The lads think they’re being funny, don’t have a clue how boringly boorish they are being and probably some would be ashamed if they understood the effect they have.

Still, I cope. Its alcohol-inspired mode two that worries me – frightens me, actually – and is reason to think twice about where I walk, and watch my back when I do. It’s the way lads get when they go past cheeriness, and start to plumb the darker emotions: become angry, demanding and aggressive.

It started on the way back, on the station itself. I queued for another coffee (ooops! Personal bad habits coming out now!) and the guy in the queue in front of me swayed, turned, clocked me as “different”. No comment. Just a long and seemingly angry stare that went on long past any decent inquisitiveness.

I averted my eyes and nacked off a pace. He shrugged and went back to his queuing. So far so good.

On the train, though, another drunk makes his impact felt. First, he tries to occupy a seat next to a pre-teen girl: her mum objects. He swears and moves off. There is a seriously angry swagger to his depart. On the station, heading for the exit, I suddenly feel myself shoved from behind: its him. I’m in his way. I get out of it.

Then it’s a five-minute walk to the car. I leave him behind at the taxi rank – only, two minutes later, to find his path and mine cross once more. Only now its just us two, in the semi-dark, with no-one else around.

He approaches: wishes to talk. He puts a hand round my shoulder. I jump back like a scalded cat. We eye each other for a moment or two, then more swearing and he’s off. I let him go: watch as he looks at the bottle he is carrying and then, in a fit of pique, hurls it into the air to smash down in the middle of the dual carriageway. Ugh!

And then…a minute or so from my car…just as I think I’ve lost him, he approaches again. What? He’s incoherent. Maybe he just wants to know the time. Maybe not. Earlier still I watched him square up for a fight with another guy. I just want away from this idiot.

And that, thank God, is that: I turned a corner into the light of a late-night burger bar. My drunken companion seemed to prefer the shadows – and slunk back into them. I made my car, got in, and hit the door lock.

I end the evening thinking, as I often have, that if government really wants to help people, they would do a lot more to clamp down on booze. I also wonder about legalising mace – or similar. The case for that just feels a whole lot stronger.




7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Liz Church said,

    Deep Heat spray, Jane, not mace. It’s for your calves. Don’t use it in a confined space. Wait until you get off the train.

  2. 2

    Faith said,

    Being six foot tall I get a lot of unwanted attention too! Like you, I look away but hold my head high.

  3. 3

    Lucy Melford said,

    I confess not ever having such a scary experience – yet – it’s bound to come – but this sort of thing is constantly in my bad dreams. I’m VERY circumspect about who’s about when walking anywhere, and I don’t think I’d ever willingly face a solitary walk back to my car at night. Like you, I hit the car lock button straightaway, although a bottle-carrying brute can still smash his bottle against a side window. Damn them.

    I found a useful book written by Fiona Bruce and Jacqui Hames called ‘Savvy!’. They have in the past been part of BBC’s Crimewatch team. It was published in 2008 by Bantam Press (ISBN 978-0-593-05989-0), and is all about personal security in all areas. I got my copy early in my transition, on 1 September 2008. It’s a good, useful read, and I’d recommend it.


  4. 4

    kathz said,

    For what it’s worth, drunk guys are less competent at landing punches and slower in their reactions. This may make them slower in realising how stupid they’re being but it can also mean that it’s easier to make a quick getaway.

    On the whole, I think it depends on the drunks – I feel quite warmly towards the alcoholics who were drinking cider early one morning as I went to work and, seeing that I was plainly unwell (flu) called out friendly warnings urging me to take care on the icy steps. But then, I’ve seen them regularly for a few years and they know I’m no threat to them either but quite willing to return their friendly – if not exactly sober – hello. (They hang out near one of the homeless shelters and I reckon that if I were cold and homeless the drunkenness produced by strong cider might be quite comforting.)

    I would always be cautious of a drunk with a bottle rather than a can, however.

    I think it’s particularly hard for you because you’re not used to it whereas I’ve been working on ways to deal with aggressive or sexually threatening males since I was 12 or 13. If men are looking for difference, they will find it – whether it’s a young Asian woman (I once saw a “respectable” white man evidently on his way to work deliberately push a young Asian woman he had never met off the pavement) or a disability or some other aspect of appearance. An individual or group can pick on body shape, clothes, hairstyle, etc. – they’re out to humiliate and demean and they may do it when they’re not drunk too.

    I realise it doesn’t help much to be told that this is how things are but Solidarity among the Sisterhood! Reclaim the Night! – and lots of other forgotten feminist slogans that still encourage me to travel alone at night – on foot, on a pushbike and by public transport. (I will not be imprisoned by the threat of male violence.)

  5. 5

    Stace said,

    Sorry you had to go through this – it’s the idea of these sorts of situations that mean I always fetch my wife when she is out t night, and vice versa (the peace of mind is well worth the fuel bill of driving a 110km round trip to do it).


  6. 6

    Jane said,

    Ugh!What a nightmare …

    I haven’t gone full time yet , and in guy mode at 6.2″ with a shaved head , no one usually dares fuck with me (Just shows how appearances can be deceptive).

    That said I dread the time when I’m walking down the street looking very different ,I keep meaning to find somewhere where I can learn to punch and block properly, I live in a rough part of Newcastle , they don’t like Trans people here….

  7. 7

    melonf said,

    Looking around the world, I think you are probably safer in a society that tolerates drink to one that doesn’t.

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