Metro 72

I was walking home, enjoying the summer sunshine, when I encountered a thin man in his fifties who had a complexion that suggested he might enjoy a drink. His unsteady gait suggested he might have enjoyed a drink that afternoon.

He deliberately caught my eye, then pointed at something behind me (though thankfully not directly behind me), before observing wistfully: ‘I haven’t seen an arse like that for years.’ He smiled a knowing and naughty smile. I assumed he was talking about the arse of the woman who’d just passed. As a feminist I could not approve of the way he was sexually objectifying her.

Then again, he looked like he had seen a lot of arses in his lifetime and still felt that this one was so extraordinary that it was worth notifying a complete stranger. Perhaps the arse was juggling or firing darts at a dartboard or playing some kind of anal flute.

I had to look. Only out of scientific curiosity. I want to make that very clear. I do not approve of surreptitiously checking out other people’s arses. It’s something I would never do.

After all the hype, I was a little disappointed. There was nothing extraordinary about this arse at all. It was maybe a little larger than average (I am guessing, because as I say I never look at people’s arses and so have nothing to compare it to) and, while not without its charms, was the kind of arse that one would see 20 or 30 times a day if one spent all one’s time walking around the streets surreptitiously examining the arses of women and men. I imagine.

I don’t ever look at arses or compare them with other arses I have seen and then go home and draw them in a notebook that I have entitled Arses I Have Observed, Compared and Contrasted which I have decorated with pictures of arses that I have cut out of magazines, stuck on
with Sellotape. And anyone who says I do do that and that they’ve seen the book in my bedside cabinet is lying.

I bet that man had such a notebook (the pervert) and yet he claimed that he had not seen such an average arse for years!? I can only assume he has spent the last decade chained to a radiator in a basement or had just regained his sight after a long period of blindness and was simply sharing his delight at seeing anything at all and this arse was the first thing that popped into his field of vision.

It certainly wasn’t worth wasting the time of a stranger by making him stop to turn around and look at the arse which, although perhaps unusually pert and undrooping for an arse of that size, would only appear as a footnote in any serious notebook comparing people’s arses to other people’s arses.

Perhaps that’s why we should admire him. Uninfluenced by media images of ‘perfect’ body shapes, he saw wonder in the ordinary. Was he a sex pest or a postmodern feminist making me reconsider society’s narrowly defined and bogus ideals of beauty?

Plus, he was so happy. I wondered if he’d once fallen in love with a girl with an identical arse. If they’d drunk together in the sunshine and laughed. But their love had died. And decades on, now drinking alone, he sees an arse that reminds him of what he lost. It doesn’t make him weep, only smile. He can’t recapture what is lost. But he has his memories. Of a normal arse that was extraordinary to him.

For details of Richard Herring’s live dates and his forthcoming new Edinburgh Festival show, We’re All Going To Die!, visit