I'm so jealous of older women.
They exude a potent, competent magic. They're the ones who help stranded children on buses. They're totally fine with returning things in shops. They're cool with telling the "I'm not a racist but ..." guy that he needs to leave before he is impaled on a cheerio.
This week I read the Guardian's review of Jean Seaton's book about the BBC. It talks about the culture of sexual harassment that existed at the Beeb in the 70s and 80s. What I found particularly striking was the line, "the middle class, aspirant women who were transforming the BBC in the 1970s and 1980s were not damaged by [groping]. Indeed they were on a crusade to stop it."
It's something I've read and heard repeatedly, that older women are far more blase about groping than us young 'uns. Yeah, they say, it happened all the time, you just dealt with it. You had strategies. Tactics.
That nonchalance! That jaded wisdom! Those middle-aged babes!
But when it comes to being groped, I can't handle it with the same resilience. Although it's never happened to me at work, I have a depressing roll call of memories of being groped, pinched, slapped, propositioned, and once being cornered in my uni dorm room by a staff member. And what I've realised, is that every time it's happened, my response has been the same.
I freeze, panic, and lose all ability for speech, thought and movement.
It reminds me a bit of the kea, whose primary defence against predators is to stand very, very still. Why is it that older women can be so resilient to groping, but every time it has happened to me, I've been reduced to a quivering lump? My generation might be portrayed as kick arse in movies, but in real life, I'm less likely to attack a groper than apologise to one.
The only theory I can come up with is that I don't expect to be groped. That means I'm wildly unprepared if it happens. Hence my quivering is a mixture of shock, inexperience, and a complete inability to know how to respond.
My generation grew up with post-sexist man. We were told that groping was grossly wrong. That meant it was never acceptable, and would only ever be done by the most feral of men. That meant two things.
One, we'd see it coming. The guy would be greasy, wheezy and have "Creep" tattooed on his head. We'd clock him and know to run away.
Two, groping wouldn't happen except in the places where the scum of humanity cluster. In clubs I've been slapped, pinched, grabbed, ground on, twerked on ... but it's never fazed me. I just brush it off with a shove, some sarcasm and an eye roll to the girls.
However, when the same thing happens anywhere else, I revert to kea mode. When my generation goes into public, especially into the office, we think of that as a place of equality, professionalism and civility. We don't expect anything seedy, and so if it happens we may just freeze in shock. Whereas the BBC girls, who would have been expecting it, would have been prepared accordingly.
My theory explains another part of my response to being groped. Every time it's happened, I've obsessed over the idea that it's my fault somehow.
Why? Not because I think I walked up to someone and said, "Hey! You! Squeeze this! I need something to write about!"
But because in my mind, men are so post-sexism that if they are going to do something like this, then I must have asked for it. How else could it have happened?
So my pathetic response to groping isn't because I'm weaker than a 70s babe, or more vulnerable, or more of a delicate flower - it's just because I don't see it coming.
And I'm pretty sure my mum would be happy that I don't expect groping. Her generation fought doggedly so that their daughters didn't expect to be touched up over teatime Tim Tams. And thank God for them.
But while it's brilliant, it's also made us a bit unprepared for the times we run into the nastier, uglier, and depressingly persistent side to humanity.