Month: October 2017

LEND ME SOME CHANGE

About four weeks ago after a long day out with friends, we rambled into a few different restaurants in the now gentrified, formerly funky part of town while trying to get a table for four without a reservation. It was a busy day in the city center with both football and rugby matches taking place, and these small, but desirable establishments were all full to bursting. Fortunately for us, the couple we were with that night reside in the neighborhood and whereas most people would think of our final attempt – a modern Indian place – as a treat, they think of it as their second kitchen. So when we walked in soaked from the rain and tired from wandering about, they quickly accommodated us with a table in the front and brought us our drinks within minutes.

The dinner was as lovely as the hours which preceded it had been: great conversation, easy rapport, great friends and good food. If you are a regular reader or follow me on Twitter, you know that we only recently returned to the UK after a fourteen-year absence. Reconnecting with some people – like the friends we were with that night – has been easy and delightful. Others I have either approached with caution or avoided altogether, with a small group in the middle whom I’ve left to fate a la, “if we run into them, it’s meant to be. If not, oh well.”

One of my closest female friends when we lived here way back when was a woman named Jan. Jan is beautiful; astonishingly, naturally pretty, and married to a multi-millionaire businessman who is one of the nicest, most down to earth souls one could ever hope to encounter inhabiting the realm of the wealthy. As we were getting ready to leave the restaurant that evening at almost 11pm, I took one more run to the ladies’ before venturing out to find a taxi and on the way back to our table to join our group and depart, I saw Jan – plain as day, almost unchanged after so much time – sitting with her adorable husband having a meal. Unsure of whether I should approach her, I went back to my friends who insisted that I do just that. I walked up to their table and apologized for the interruption, and almost immediately, Jan yelled out my name, stood, hugged and kissed me and invited us to sit. We did not accept, not wanting to intrude, but we had what on first blush was a polite, warm ten-minute exchange before she put my number on her phone and we said our goodbyes with a promise of meeting up again sometime soon.

Except that we won’t; though I have likewise hardly changed on the outside, I have changed spectacularly on the inside. Based on the evidence of that evening, she has not. During our brief talk, she made two back-handed comments which were actually quite cutting, one of which was accompanied with an overt and prolonged eye roll. The first comment and the eye roll were to do with me and my past as a driven workaholic bitch; the other comment was about my sister. Jan had not – has not – changed; she is still beautiful, rich, married to a wonderful man with whom she shares two gorgeous children. And she is still a sniping, incomprehensibly ungrateful and ungracious wretch. But standing there that evening, she assumed that I was – am – as frozen in and by time as is she.

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Wanna See my White Bits?

Yesterday in the midst of a wave of Harvey Weinstein-centric Twitter rants from various people, one of the quite reasonable men I follow tweeted in response to the male actor Terry Crews who had revealed his own harassment at the hands of a male Hollywood executive. The tweet essentially said – and I’m paraphrasing – “I now think I understand what women mean about harassment. A man said it, so he’s immediately believed, but a woman fears to say it because she knows she’s less likely to be taken seriously.” Nailed it. But why is this still the case in 2017?

Twenty years ago I was a cute little American twenty-seven year old who had moved, quite suddenly following a hasty divorce, to Wales, courtesy of my employers who knew the best thing for me was to help me get out; out of my judgmental as hell Southern city wherein my ex and his family were doing their best to pin the blame on me, almost entirely to throw people off the scent of the fact that my ex had taken to preferring both my clothes and my male friends. Wales was new and different and mysteriously dark and broody as a country; basically the same traits I’m attracted to in men. But it also contained something for which I was not prepared and which I now see today as a symptom of the plague in our society that allows, enables and cultivates men like Harvey Weinstein.

I had only been in the country maybe five months when I was invited to a supplier day hosted by supermarket giant Tesco. We were the new kids in town, as suppliers go, but I was making our mark and getting us recognized and I relished the opportunity to get out and meet people from within my own industry from whom I could learn. The day was designed as a competition of fun outdoor pursuits and we were broken into two teams. Fatefully, I was placed on the team of a man I’ll call Ward who was a Director of a large, prestigious PLC from the same product sector as the company for which I worked. I knew them by reputation and was immediately taken with his humor, outrageousness, and candor. He was based near London, he told me, but the bulk of their operations were in Wales and were headed by a man named Mark, and at the same time he was imparting this knowledge on me, he was looking me up and down and saying out loud, “Yes, Mark will like you very much.”

Fast-forward a few more months, I had forged a casual, but fun friendship with Ward and he would often call while driving or bored to see what I was up to or – more importantly – how business was going lest I should infringe on their territory. It was coming up to Christmas, and Christmas parties back then were new to me as they were a mostly UK phenomenon when it came to big, boozy work dos, but I was soon invited to more than a few and then, I found, was also expected to arrange one for my own office. We booked ours in a hotel near Cardiff that hosted joint parties in a large, nice ballroom and I put on the obligatory black dress, heels and my signature bright red lipstick and headed out for what I saw as a necessary indulgence for my team. As we entered the hotel that night, I noticed written on the marquee the name of the companies with whom we would be sharing the room, one of them being the one for which Ward worked, except the Welsh division. I knew his friend Mark of whom he spoke so frequently would be there, as he – unlike Ward – was a board level executive and in charge of the bulk of the operations in Wales.

The bar was long and like the party, communal, so at one point while going for a refill I asked someone from this other company where I could find this Mark. “He’s right there, the ponce in the purple tie,” the man responded and gestured. I went over to introduce myself and was immediately devoured by the intention of his look; this was not a sweet, fun little man who hid his flirtations behind his humor like Ward. This was a man who knew what he wanted and was only too happy to make those desires clear.  As it turned out, Ward had not told him anything about me at all, and again Mark made no effort to hide his displeasure that his friend Ward had not shared the news of this recent U.S. import. To say I was the sudden and intense focus of this man’s attention for the remainder of the evening would be a gross understatement. He was married, but he didn’t care; his wife was there, but she had might as well have been on another planet. He engaged me in small talk, asked how often I went to London (the next day for a meeting, I told him, actually), where I lived, if I had a boyfriend and generally dissected every part of my life that would give him the information he needed to determine whether or not I was ripe for the picking. Read More…