Back in the day, when I used to haunt bars like a poltergeist, we called it "crossing the bar". Could you, a mere customer, ask out a bartender? On this battlefield, it was Everest. The customers were all fair game, all combatants, clearly in battle dress. Bartenders and staff, however, were civilians, bystanders, off-limits. On the battlefield to do their job, like medics, or UN observers, they were immune from attack, under the Geneva Convention of creepy drunk men in bars. Somehow, this only made them more alluring.
The Jamaican cricketer Chris Gayle certainly tried to cross the bar last week during an interview, live on TV, with sports reporter Mel McLaughlin. He's since been fined A$10,000 by his team. It's during a match, and he's just hit a bunch of sixes. Her job was to ask him about cricket. He began by answering about cricket. And then, Chris Gayle's id, which had recently clubbed so many sixes, grabs the wheel of his mouth and starts driving.
I've watched this interview more than any of the cricket. Like a third umpire for sexual harassment, I've replayed this interview almost to the point of slo-mo. Like a social etiquette Hawkeye, I'm trying to predict whether Chris Gayle's next leering utterance will cross the line, based on the bounce of his previous statements. Was that an LB? What's the angle of her front leg? At times I felt like I was studying the Zapruder film to work out the location of JFK's shooter. Indeed, I believe I've identified the exact frame where the reporter breaks eye contact.
"I wanted to come and have an interview with you as well," Gayle lilts in his Jamaican accent, prompting an involuntary eye-roll from her.
"... just to see your eyes for the first time," he continues, prompting her second, confirmatory rolling of the eyes. Yellow card is now red.
Her gaze moves, as if on rails, down and to the right and stays there, holding him at bay in her peripheral vision. It's a crouch, a play-dead, an instinctive defence to the wolf-stare of Chris Gayle.
He could back off - there's an audience, after all - but he doubles down - there's an audience, after all - and a catch-phrase is born.
"It's nice, so, hopefully we can win this game and have a drink after. Don't blush, baby."
Suffice to say this isn't the kind of rom-com where they have a drink after.
Let's agree that sexism is bad. Sexism is treating a woman as less capable than a man, and limiting her opportunities. But sexual attraction - being turned on by, being hot for, falling in love with, having a crush on - these are honest (arguably positive) feelings towards another human. It's how we got here. Sexual attraction makes the world go round. This is why heartbreak is painful. This is why the language is universal when Borat says "Wa-wa-wee-wa!"
It wasn't the reporter's job to be hit on, and she didn't ask for it. They were both at work. But does love stop during work hours? Don't most relationships begin at work? What's the point of a workplace, except to meet a spouse? (Science will back me up one day.) Every great romance started at work. Antony and Cleopatra were meant to be making a trade deal. When Marie Curie won her Nobel Prize, do you really believe all the nerdy science dudes in the room didn't notice her? (To be fair, she was probably glowing a little.)
Chris Gayle was upfront. And it's hard to ask a girl out - let alone in public. He wasn't crass. (He talked about her eyes, nothing else.) He didn't abuse his power. It was an interview, but not a job interview. He didn't say: "Hey, I'm looking for someone to write my autobiography. Why don't you get to know me tonight?"
Some say Chris Gayle should have waited for a private moment: but that's quibbling about his tactics, not his ethics. Meanwhile, other female reporters say he's come on to them too, so the private moment doesn't work either. He can't win! I say, if you think you've met your future spouse, seize the day, let them know. And if you put your heart on your sleeve, rejection is punishment enough. A fine of A$10,000 because you crashed and burned? Even The Bachelor doesn't do that.
Look at it this way. This scene was pure Notting Hill: Chris Gayle was saying: "I'm just a cricketer, standing in front of a reporter, and the commentary team, on camera, at a capacity stadium, asking her to love him." And imagine if she'd said yes.