I couldn’t let this week pass without writing about an uncomfortable experience with the photocopier repair man. In he came, with his hard black case and his porn moustache, a distinct throwback from the days of Jason King. He unpacked, immediately requested cup of coffee, and began to work on the machine.
Eventually I decided it would be polite to ask how he was getting on. He stood up and looked at me. “Congratulations!” he said gleefully. “What do you mean?” I queried, although I already had a hint of what was about to occur. His eyes drifted to my stomach. “Well, your either expecting or you’ve eaten all the pies!” I fixed him with my best PMS stare. “I ate all the pies then.” He laughed. “Yes. When’s it due?” I clarified. “I’m not pregnant.” He became a little more serious. “Oh. Sorry.” Me, making it worse. “I’m too old to have babies.” Him: “No. You’re definitely young enough.”
Now, passing over all the feminist connotations of this interaction and ignoring the fact that he had practically accused me of lying twice on account of his personal opinion – and that he was clearly weighing up in front of me whether I was ‘fit for purpose’ – I was momentarily stunned. Then I was elated. The first thing that came into my mind and stayed there was: “Wow, I still look childbearing age!”
My colleague, who heard the conversation, asked me if I was OK. I told her that I was pleased with his assessment of my youth. She looked at me hard. “How do you do that? He’s just really insulted you, called you fat, and you still get something good out of it?” I was only half listening to her because I was now starting to feel sorry for photocopier man who was hurriedly pushing his tools into his back case, the sweat dripping from his ‘tasche.
It did make me think, though. I’m not the slimmest person in the world and I expect people notice that. After all I am hurtling towards 50 and don’t ‘diet’, don’t use any ‘beauty products’ and take moderate exercise. I think the key is that I don’t really care. Obviously, I care what people think of me professionally and I really care that people see me as a nice person. Yet aesthetically, I’m not so concerned. Having grown up being bullied for my ginger hair and having had people point at me in the ’70’s when I had a child at sixteen (yawn, yawn; cue Alanis and ‘I see right through you.‘), I have had my fair share of other people’s opinions thrust at me. Maybe I’m desensitised. I guess I’m a ‘glass-half-full-person’.
I’m not sure if positive thinking is something that comes naturally to people or if it’s something we have to work on. I am fairly sure, though, that worrying what other people think and trying to predict the future contribute to negative thinking. Sometimes the worst-case scenario, the most gut wrenching horrible situations do happen and then it’s appropriate to feel bad. But on all the other occasions there is usually a the dregs of happiness at the bottom of a half empty glass. I’ve often heard people say, “I’m a natural worrier!” yet I hardly ever hear people say that they are natural optimists.
So I’m off to sit in the sunshine and feel pleased that I still look young enough to reproduce, happily ignoring my middle-age spread. Made me wonder which is real, though, what other people see or what I think? Or both?