The confidence I have in my appearance has taken a slight temporary knock! On more than one occasion in the last couple of days I think that I've been 'sirred'.
I first noticed this after I'd had a fringe trim two days ago, on Friday. I then went to Waitrose and was served on the till by a young girl who seemed to add a half-stifled 'Ssss' to the phrase 'Would you like some carrier bags?' so that it sounded like 'Would you like some carrier bags, ssss...'. Just as if she had meant to say 'sir' but changed her mind while saying it.
Although I picked this up immediately, I made no sign that I had. And she did go on to treat me as if I were just an ordinary woman shopper. This left me wondering. Then, having parted from her with a smile, I noticed that she did exactly the same thing with the next customer, a rather slender older lady with very short grey hair. But this following customer was unmistakably a woman.
So what could I make of this?
First off, I'm clearly sensitive to these things just now - maybe over-sensitive! (I wonder why)
Second, the young girl might simply have poor eyesight. So that all tall or thin or short-haired women might look vaguely male to her. Or indeed anyone who wasn't as obviously pretty as herself.
Then, yesterday, I had a conversation with a BT engineer down the road, who was investigating a service complaint made by C---, the neighbour who lives two houses along from me. We're all ringing up BT to complain at the moment! It's my own turn to have an engineer around tomorrow.
Anyway, I walked over to him in my breast-hugging black top, black leggings, and black slippers. I dare say my hair could have been a little tidier and fresher. And I wasn't wearing lipstick. But I felt that I looked feminine enough. He was examining what lay under the pavement cover. A tangle of wires inside a connection pod. I engaged him in conversation long enough to see that when the pod was opened some moisture had got inside. I said to him, might that affect the quality of calls and the Broadband? He agreed it might, just as the other engineer had done the other day. But all he was going to do was put in another pod.
The thing is, I was hovering around him for nearly ten minutes. It wasn't a fleeting thing. Whatever impression I gave him at first, he had plenty of time to reconsider. He was seated. I was standing, and looking down at him. Like a woman would. He may even have got a glimpse of cleavage. Anyway, he was perfectly friendly and at ease throughout. And then, as we parted, I could swear that he said the word 'mate'.
Did he really say that? My hearing isn't the best. I wasn't sure. He certainly didn't say 'Cheers, love' or similar.
I couldn't believe it. The top and the leggings showed off my figure well - and it wasn't a male physique. My voice was fine, as always. My demeanour and stance and movements were all properly, naturally feminine.
Back in my house, I admitted that the fringe trim, combined with hair that could do with a wash, didn't make me look especially alluring. And, sans lipstick, the bare lips were not especially female. Maybe he'd assumed that I was a gay person wearing clothing for dance, or some other kind of performing art. Maybe an ancient ladyboy. Oh dear!
Well, at least he had been civil and friendly. That was something. But I was mildly annoyed all the same.
And what on earth had 'given me away'? Or at least subverted all the other female signals? After all, I've been out and about looking much less girly than this, when country walking for example, and yet I've not not knowingly been clocked. It must have been the hair, and the lack of lipstick. Strange that equanimity should rest on simple things like that. A lesson then!