Being looked at: thoughts on being seen with a tall woman.
People often look at me. I don't let it bother me much: my parents brought me up not to care what other people think. (And were rather disconcerted by how successful they were, but that's another story.) Some looks are presumably related to my great personal beauty, others to the fact that I am not small and walk quickly, and that it would be unwise to bump into me. I have noticed that the recognisably appreciative looks are more numerous when I'm in a good mood, and that the number of them coming from men went up again after I started feeling too fat and got thinner. None of this is particularly worrying, unusual, or even interesting. Please don't go away, I'm getting there.
When I am with someone else, people look at me differently, particularly if that someone else is a woman. My impression is that when I am out with my wife people look at us more than they look at me when I am alone. I had always assumed that this was because she is a beautiful and sexy woman, and because we make a particularly striking pair due to the contrast between us, she being both small and dark and I being neither, but she recently tried to persuade me that her being visibly older than me was also a significant factor. (I remain unconvinced.) A couple of decades ago I had occasion to notice that the proportion of unfriendly looks from women went up when I went around holding hands with a rather fat girl, while men are more likely to look hostile if I am with a good-looking and obviously younger one, even more likely to do so if I am with two such, and clearly revise their assumptions once the number passes three. This can all be explained in fairly obvious and boring ways, and I'm sorry for taking up so much of your time.
All of this by way of introduction to my recent experience of various completely different kinds of look. I have recently made a new friend, who happens to be both a woman and taller than me. Many people are the former, few are the latter, this is the first person I have got to know who is both. Last week we went to a concert together. She wore a comfortable pair of shoes with moderately high heels, putting her eyes somewhere around or above the level of the top of my head. This was the first time we had been anywhere outside the social context in which I met her, and was so the first opportunity a random selection of arbitrary strangers had had to stare at us like morons. It took me several days to work out what the various looks we got had in common, but in the end I came to the conclusion that somewhere within most of them there was a question. I shall therefore describe them to you by providing suitable answers to these questions:
"Yes, she is quite tall. Congratulations for noticing, Albert."
"Yes, I am quite tall, too. But not as tall as her. Well spotted."
"Yes, Sherlock, even without those shoes she would be taller than I am."
"Because they're comfortable and she likes them, I should think."
"No, it doesn't bother me. I think they look good."
"Of course I'm not frightened of her. What are you frightened of?"
"I am going to a concert with her. Most of her friends aren't into this kind of music."
"I'm not into that kind of game. I don't think she is, either, but you never know."
"I expect she could. That might be quite fun."
"I don't know. But probably not, actually, given how stupidly you're looking at her."
"I really don't know."
To be fair, some people looked at us appropriately: with the adulation due to two great beings of divine beauty who had deigned to grace them with our presence. And we both rather enjoyed the attention: so much blatant and harmless stupidity is fun in its own little way. One so seldom gets the chance to feel smug these days.