‘Mate, are you kidding? I love an opportunity to talk about these puppies.’
‘Thought you might.’
‘And yeah, y’know. I s’pose I’ve caught a couple of folk having a sneaky look.’
‘Not, like, random people on the street or owt – at least not that I’ve noticed, anyway – just those who know about them.’
‘But do you mind?’
‘Hell no. I mean, I’ve not exactly been quiet about all this, have I? I can hardly begrudge anyone a bit of a gawp.’
Matt nodded, keeping his eyes firmly above shoulder level – which brought me to another conclusion. ‘And besides, it’s not like they’re amazing tits that’d get stared at in bars or stuff. To anyone else, they’re just the same as my old’uns.’
‘Just with a bit less gravity,’ he added.
‘Exactly,’ I concurred. ‘Anyway, I’m saving the Jordan-job til these need replacing. I’m going to treat myself to massive waps for my 40th.’
‘Sounds more like a birthday treat for P, if you ask me.’
Now, as much as I’m sure my husband wouldn’t exactly stage a protest at the thought of a larger-chested wife, I doubt whether he (let alone I) would welcome the attention that a double-D’d me would encourage. Not that a fuller cleavage would somehow turn me into Victoria’s Secret catalogue material, you understand. (Hell, I doubt I’d even be Stannah Stairlift catalogue material.) What I mean is that I suspect P would rather I remain for his eyes only.
That said, there have been a few examples to the contrary just recently. I’m not sure whether it’s been through truth or through wanting to boost my confidence (oh who am I kidding, of course it’s the latter) but P has been doing a fair bit of the hey-he-just-looked-at-you stuff of late. The most recent was when we were stuck in traffic on Putney Bridge on our way home from work last week.
‘That bloke stared at you just then.’
‘Which bloke?’ I said, looking up from the tweet I was posting from my phone. (There could be a parade of can-can girls dancing their way south of the river every night and I’d miss them because of Twitter.)
‘That bloke. Crossing the road.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Course I’m sure. Had a proper good look, he did.’
‘So I stared back at him.’
‘It annoys me, that,’ huffed P.
‘What, blokes staring?’
‘No. You never noticing,’ he said.
P’s right; I don’t notice. Firstly because I tend to get blinded by any light that doesn’t come from my iPhone. Secondly because, well, why would I? But chiefly because, if we’re being honest, there’s nothing to notice in the first place and P is a big fibber. A lovely, considerate fibber, mind you, but a fibber nonetheless.
Or, at least, I thought he was until a few days later, when – unless I imagined it (which is a distinct possibility) – I think I got flirted with. Twice. Actually I know the second occasion was a flirt. Unless, of course, the man who waved at me from the opposite underground escalator was just a lunatic. Or had a lazy eye and was waving at someone else. Or was someone I’ve forgotten I know, in which case he probably turned his wave into a wanker gesture upon being met with my squirm/look away two-step.
The first occasion I’m less sure about. It was in Eat, where my lunchtime queue for a falafel wrap and a bag of grapes (surely the least sexy meal known to man) turned into an ‘are you eating that lunch on your own?/hopefully see you again tomorrow’ couplet. While the demi-flirt took place, my mind was elsewhere – most likely totting up ProPoints – and so it wasn’t until walking out onto Golden Square that I did the double-take. My first instinct (okay, second – after ‘that must be what they’re trained to say’) was to run back in, skip the cappuccino-line and squeal ‘Nononono! Sorry! My fault! I’m married, see?’ while pointing furiously at my ring-finger like Beyonce on fast-forward.
Just as my reaction to any compliment is ‘but it was only six quid’/‘nah, I just disguise it well’/‘oh but you should see this hole under the armpit’, my response to being flirted with is to immediately correct the flirter with a ‘have you got something in your eye?’ or a ‘have you met my friend?’ or an ‘I’m so sorry, I should’ve been holding aloft a copy of my wedding certificate instead of the Metro’. Because, as we all know, 93% of all underground flirting situations result in an immediate, public hump on the District Line.
I should make it clear at this point that I’ve definitely done more flirting than I’ve had done back to me. The fact that I’m writing about two episodes of flirting should not lead you to conclude that this is a regular occurrence, but rather that I’m stoked to finally have an incident I can easily bring to mind. Because, if we’re levelling with each other here, the truth is that – in all situations but these two – I tend to be more flirter than flirtee. Not in a Mercedes from Hollyoaks sense or a Charlotte from Sex & The City sense or even a Barbara Windsor in Carry On sense – but more, I think, in a Rita Sullivan from Coronation Street sense. I’m a friendly flirter, see; the kind that, yes, tends to blush in the presence of a handsome chap, but who’s more than happy where she is, thank you very much – not that it makes her averse to the odd wink.
Besides, friendly flirting (but not, I hasten to add, responsive flirting) is in my genes, as P often reminds me. ‘You and your Mum are as bad as each other,’ he says. ‘You only need to look at how you each behave in front of your surgeons.’ If ever evidence were needed to prove P’s point, Mum’s identikit responses to her own Smiley Surgeon – every bit as girlish and giggly and eyelash-fluttering as mine – are surely it.
There’s no denying it: in me and Mum – and Nan before us – the flirt gene is every bit as unshakable as the Other Gene we’ve subsequently discovered. (Upon meeting P, both Mum and Nan’s – entirely separate – reactions were to grin, raise their eyebrows and say ‘Oooh, he’s handsome, isn’t he?’) Hence, when I was a teenager, Nan and Grandad’s house would be the perfect testing ground for new boyfriends – if Nan kept on her pinny and failed to turn down the volume on Neighbours, it was doomed. If she blushed and offered them a biscuit, you knew it was a goer. (But what really sealed the deal was if Grandad gave up his favourite armchair – a thing he only ever did for P. I expect Dad opened up a wedding savings account that very day.)
Given that I’m more often than not on the giving (rather than receiving) side of flirting, then, it’s odd that my husband becomes annoyed not about me flashing toothy grins at doctors/builders/bar staff/traffic wardens, but about my failure to notice when someone does the same to me. Not that he’ll have much to get annoyed about any more, mind. Because, frankly, had it not been for P’s comment in the car (and Matt’s comment in the bar) I seriously doubt whether flirting would have been on my radar enough to have noticed that week’s subsequent incidences. Add to that my new rack and the swagger that comes with it, and I’m a lost cause. So if you catch me winking in your direction this spring, don’t just blame it on the genes, but on the two men responsible for reawakening them: the one who put a ring on it, and the one who made me boobylicious. They’ve created a monster.