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How To Not Start A Gender War When Some Strange Guy Touches You

Aunt Claire demonstrates how a calm, level-headed woman handled a stranger's caress with the benefit of the doubt



It’s just so cute. A man stroked his wife at a Tom Jones concert in Wales in a loving, husbandly way, thoughtfully recorded by her nieces. Just one problem: It wasn’t his wife, it was Aunt Claire, attending with her nieces, with a clear humorous WTF look on her face as she gets more action than she might expect.


She obviously finds it funny, looking around and smiling at her phone-wielding nieces, so of course it wound up on CNN. Aunt Claire clearly isn’t offended or frightened by what’s happening.


The mistake was understandable. You can see a little of the man’s actual wife from behind in the video, with the same hair color, cut, and blue denim jacket as Aunt Claire. The poor Welsh gent had simply moved behind the wrong woman while enthralled with Sir Tom, who, ironically, was singing ‘Sex Bomb’.


It’s fortunate he made his mistake with an older woman, one less likely to be hypersensitive about accidental (or not) male touch. This could have gone down much differently if the pair were younger.



Aunt Claire’s Big Adventure


Although there was nothing sexual in the nameless man’s touch, it was clearly disconcerting. Some women might have reacted more aggressively, turning around and smacking him one or scolding him. A victim-oriented feminist might have made a huge stink and #MeToo’d him immediately on social media.


I thought it was sweet, and Aunt Claire reacted more humorously than I probably would have. I imagine, in her shoes, I might have immediately turned around and said politely, “Excuse me?” Then he and his wife and I would have had a good laugh all around, although it wouldn’t likely have made CNN.


No need to get histrionic about it. Mistakes happen.


Having a sense of humor certainly helps.


The video demonstrates how different a simple mistake like this is for different generations. We Gen X’ers and earlier Boomers don’t always lose our minds when something like this happens, whereas younger women raised in progressive, liberal families where inappropriate touching may have been discussed might have reacted more angrily.


When I was a small child my mother warned me only of stranger danger, not inappropriate touching. No one ever considered Dad, Uncle Tom, the neighbor or Father McFeeley might molest the child. They were far more innocent days, before the Catholic Church was unmasked as a haven for pedophiles and incest was believed to be quite rare.


It wasn’t adequate training for a child but no one knew much about molestation back then. Fortunately, I never got victimized. Mom talked to me as I grew older about men’s advances and how to handle them. Some of her advice was good, some of it, in retrospect, not so much, but she got right more than she got wrong. She taught me never to tolerate bad behavior from men, and it worked.


Today’s young women, steeped in Third Wave victim feminist culture and pumped up by gender studies nonsense (the kind that teaches women to think of themselves as helpless and forever in thrall to ‘the patriarchy’), have been taught to engage in performative overblown hissy fits on social media or blogging platforms, like ‘Grace’ who shamed comedian Aziz Ansari years ago because she didn’t know how to set boundaries with a date (although he respected them when she finally did).


As I watched Aunt Claire turn around, smile at her nieces and allow the man to caress her arm, I marveled at how this might have gone down just as easily in decades past, before everyone got so hypersensitive.


“We were all laughing, there was nothing offensive about it,” Aunt Claire told CNN. “We just went with the flow.”


What’s also heartening is that her much younger nieces also thought it was funny rather than a hegemonic patriarchal phallocratic assault on their auntie.

“My auntie is such a character, so it was just so funny when it happened,” one of her nieces commented.


Nice to see a young woman not losing her mind over something so minor.


Whoever this gentleman was, he’s fortunate he stroked the arm of a much more casual woman than another who might have reacted very poorly.


Which could arguably have been from pre-existing sexual or violent trauma, but also perhaps from the post-pandemic craziness that seems to have engulfed the world, when private rage explodes in public violence or just angry tirades against others. Like the woman who pulled a public apeshit at Miami-Dade Airport at Christmas because she’d lost track of her children. Her violent actions and words suggest entitled frustration rather than fear for her children. The tirade erupted not because she couldn’t find them but because they were about to miss a connecting flight.



Aunt Claire’s adventure at a concert, along with her nieces’ reactions, are gentle reminders that we don’t have to assume others bear us ill intent, and that sometimes an inappropriate touch is a simple mistake.


When I blogged on Medium years ago, I was regularly regaled with articles by women making a huge fuss over minor male interactions, many of which were inappropriate by most people’s standards but which didn’t merit the world-class meltdown these women engaged in, performatively exaggerated so as to elicit the maximum amount of feminist support, outrage and attention. Which they always got, with a lot of overblown hand-wringing and laments about entitled patriarchy and how hard it was to be a woman and men just don’t understand. Because feelings are paramount in Third Wave feminism unless they’re male feelings. Then they can be easily brushed off and mocked.


Whereas I might have said to the miscreant who impudently touched a brooch on my chest, “Don’t touch that, it’s not yours!” with an icy stare and turned away.


No need to ruin my entire weekend by turning a minor, inappropriate reaction into an Epic Battle With The Patriarchy.


Aunt Claire is the kind of older woman I try to be - one who takes something like this in stride and doesn’t react to make the guy feel like a dirtball. It could have been a different story, and events like this have probably played out similarly in other times and places where the man knew what he was doing, especially to a younger, more naive woman who might have been less willing to react, stop him or fight back. But Aunt Claire kept her cool, seeing the humor and showing us that we can make mistakes without shaming the shit out of each other on social media.


The gentleman in question commented later, humorously blaming it on Tom Jones and his sexy songs. He and his wife got a laff out of it, as did many others, and no harm was done. A good time was had by all. Hilarity ensued.


Aunt Claire did what so many are unwilling to do in these hostile times: Give a man the benefit of the doubt and not assume he was up to evil. His wife handled it well too, not taking it personally that he mistook another woman for his wife for a few seconds.


The whole affair was quite sweet and evocative of a simpler, gentler time not so long ago, one that we can return to one day if we make a collective effort to treat each other better, with kindness, rather than violence and aggression.


One thing I’ve begun doing is thanking people for their kindness and consideration when they might have reacted badly and don’t. As a career mostly phone salesperson, I often irritate and annoy many. Sometimes I call when they’re on vacation, or in the middle of a family crisis. I’ve called people visiting a loved one in hospice. Or just in the middle of a meeting or Zoom call.


Sometimes they’re angry or irritated and snarky, which I understand and accept. But often they’re not, and I apologize for interrupting whatever I did, because I would never intentionally call someone in those circumstances, but I can’t know. “Thank you for being so nice about it, enjoy the rest of your vacation and have a pina colada for me!” I’ll add.


I do appreciate their not reacting negatively, even though it’s entirely justified. I try to do the same for others, and remember they may not necessarily be trying to aggravate me.


I’m not always kind, but I’m kinder than I used to be.


The benefit of the doubt. We’d all do well to offer that more.



Did you like this post? Would you like to see more? I lean left of center, but not so far over my brains fall out. Subscribe to my Substack newsletter Grow Some Labia so you never miss a post!

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