Richard Herring finds wearing a hoodie attracts some unwelcome attention…
Friday 25 Apr 2014
For Christmas, my parents-in-law gave me a hoodie emblazoned with a logo for the TV show The Walking Dead. I have never seen The Walking Dead and neither have my in-laws (they didn’t even know that it was a TV show). They thought this was a good gift for me because I was doing a stand-up show about death.
But, of course, if you’re out and about wearing a Walking Dead sweatshirt, people, not unreasonably, assume you are a big fan of The Walking Dead. But as I know nothing more about The Walking Dead than I can gather from my sweatshirt (I reckon it’s got some zombies in it), it can be a bit confusing if the fans try to talk to me.
I was walking through Kings Mall in Hammersmith (or as we Shepherd’s Bush residents, with our massive Westfield shopping centre call it, ‘king small’). An attractive woman passed me and I may have been guilty of giving her a second glance. A security guard sidled up to me and indicated that I should take out my earphones. I wondered if there was a zero tolerance policy to mild lechery in this shopping centre. No wonder there were so few people shopping here. We all like to check each other out, right? At least that would explain why all the women in the place were so fastidiously ignoring me in spite of my sexual magnetism. They wanted to (they’re only human) but they knew they’d end up in prison.
The man had a smile on his face. ‘You can join our game,’ he whispered, slightly salaciously. ‘Me and the other guards, when we see a woman we like, we say: “Claimed.”’ All right, I’d been guilty of briefly judging a woman by her appearance but this was a bit over the top. It wasn’t as if I’d stood still with my tongue hanging out and my eyes telescoping out of my head like a cartoon. But not wanting to upset a man with a uniform and the possible power to lock me in a small room until my mum arrived to pick me up, I half-laughed at the joke I didn’t understand. Even though I wanted to say: ‘Women aren’t objects for you to claim, mate! You’ve let down the honourable profession of security guards,’ I couldn’t because I thought he’d seen me treating a woman like an object and would call me out on my hypocrisy.
‘Don’t give me any spoilers,’ he added. What? Was he worried I’d tell him about other attractive women before he could gawp at them himself? ‘Have you seen the latest season?’ he asked. I suddenly remembered what I was wearing and realised he must be referring to something from the TV show he had assumed I liked. Because I was wearing the hoodie. And only a lunatic would do that if they hadn’t even seen one second of the series.
Maybe being claimed means something perfectly innocuous (I doubt it), or maybe simply liking The Walking Dead means you are the kind of person that a stranger can assume is up for sexist banter. All that was important was that this man hadn’t seen my momentary lapse of manners after all, so I could, if I wished, take the moral high ground.
But admitting that I was wearing a hoodie based on a show I didn’t watch was more embarrassing than letting him think I was a fellow chauvinist. So I told him there were some unbelievable twists coming up and went on my way.