Monday, June 28, 2010

Crab Man, Tango Man, Sauna Man

I encountered all three of these in the last week or so in three separate habitats, and, as a consequence, am feeling rather disenchanted with Homo Supposedly Sapiens.

Crab Man and his female consort occupied the fare next to mine and E's on the beach in Vanuatu. So he was the one who responded to our cries for help when we discovered a big black crab clomping across our floor, bound for God-knows where. Crab Man approached the creature rather less confidently than I'd expected and dithered a while with sheets of newspaper, clearly reluctant to pick the thing up in his bare hands.

Meanwhile, we hovered - girlishly - on the little veranda. He exited the fare with the crab more or less contained in a clumsy newspaper parcel. As he came by, he thrust the parcel at my face, roaring with laughter when I reeled back. He released the crab into the wild, we were obliged to thank him, and off he went in triumph.

Tango Man was my first partner at Saturday night's ball. He said he'd been dancing four years so I warned him I was much newer, that I hadn't danced for 10 days and, as this was my first of the evening, I would be a little rusty. I always am - it takes a while for my fear of doing the wrong thing to melt away and for me to relax into it. Thirty seconds after we began, he abruptly stepped back and threw up his arms. "Stop leading me," he ordered. I apologised, feeling, after this little display on a crowded dancefloor, like a leper. We began again. And again he stepped back and threw up his arms. By now I was rigid, unaware of the music or him; aware only of my fear of getting it wrong. Somehow I stumbled through to the end of the song. We paused; a milonga started up.

"You're not ready for that," he announced gracelessly and turned on his heel.

I had two options at that point: retire to the Ladies and weep or find a kinder partner and try to recover a little self-esteem and confidence. I opted for the latter. T wheeled me round with patience and good humour, as he always does, and put the blame for the previous fiasco squarely on Tango Man. "A good strong leader should have coped," he said.

E and I encountered Sauna Man at the pool yesterday. One half of of the facility was clearly marked out of order, so she and I, a young woman and a sweatily overweight gasping young man were installed in the adjoining section, the two being separated by a lattice partition. Young Sweaty Man had already treated his female audience to a mini-lecture on various sauna-related topics, but since no response was expected, he got none. We just lay on our towels, heating up.

A skinny middle-aged man suddenly plunged through the door of the adjoining room and - contrary to clear signage, towel-less - threw himself down on one of the benches. Within a minute a young attendant was at the door to tell him he wasn't meant to be in there: it was a health and safety issue. Young Sweaty Man had already informed us it was a minor matter to do with the door and had bemoaned how long it was taking the council to fix it.

Sauna Man said he only wanted one sweat and then he'd come out. Attendant explained again that that side was closed, and asked him very nicely to come outside so they could talk. He argued. Finally, with a little show of exasperation, he did as asked. A minute later he was in our side, clambering over E without apology and planting himself - still towel-less - on the top bench.

"It would be a woman", he announced. "They're bloody fearless."

"You're not that scary, don't flatter yourself."

This was me. Unwise, I know, but I was riled by his air of entitlement and his smart-ass tone. I aimed for jocular but may have fallen a bit short.

"Hah, they can't help themselves," he added. Not to me, presumably, unless he failed to recognise my gender.
Sure enough, his real audience - Young Sweaty Man - responded with a guffaw.

Thus encouraged, Sauna Man came out with, "She only got away with it because she was good-looking."

And with an even heartier guffaw, the other agreed.

I flung myself from the bench with a cry of "Oh, for fuck's sake', grabbed my towel and left. E followed seconds later.

What prompted the bad behaviour in each case was a moment of perceived vulnerability that threatened the protagonist's notion of their own manliness.

Crab Man wasn't a whole lot keener on tackling our intruder than we were, so shoving it in my face allowed him to feel in control, invulerable, again.

Tango Man wasn't as good a dancer as he liked to believe so needed to treat me badly rather than risk losing face.

And Sauna Man, having been publicly bested by a woman, recovered face in the only way he knew how - by bonding fast with the other man present against all women. The backslapping was infuriating, and rendered the other three occupants of that confined space invisible and inconsequential.

Anyone got a better explanation?


  1. I imagine I'm not the target audience for a blog on clothes, chaps and dancing, nevertheless I do feel compelled to comment.

    The bad behaviour is all due to our y chromosome. It is scientifically acknowledged to be small, sickly and inferior to your sturdy and reliable double x arrangement. It bestows upon us men a misplaced sense of smug superiority - which is true only in a pure strength sense - but I think that it then metastises (for want of a better word) into other realms. It is most unfortunate. I can't tell you how embarassing it is to see my brethren strutting about here and there like peacocks, chests all puffed up and acting like they're god's gift.

    I hazard a bet that hermaphrodites, with the double x arrangement and the y, can keep that pesky y subjugated. Presuming of course hermaphrodites have 3 chromosomes.

  2. Thanks Anonymous - I've never come across this anatomy-is-destiny explanation before. Except, isn't it disproved by the existence of the likes of you (and there are such men - I know some) who don't succumb to the genetic programming?

  3. Thank you Plain Jane. I don't have explanations for you, but I can say that men like these are a nuisance to men who try to behave well. Unfortunately we men each have a little Jack Nicholson in us. I promise to try to be unlike these men.


    PS You might be less pleased to know why there is a consistent 20% of female tango dancers who think that the way for a male lead to learn from his mistakes is not to try again, correcting the error which he has already recognised, but to be interrupted in mid dance by a mumsy mini-lecture. Genetic programming ...?

  4. Bless you, Simon. How much more effective it would be if men themselves made a stand against these low life forms who spoil it for the rest.

    As to the 20% - ouch. But I don't doubt it. In fact, I wonder if you're being charitable and if the percentage isn't higher. "No telling off on the dance floor" is a rule for everyone, surely. I heard of one case where a follower broke off the dance and informed the leader that he shouldn't even be there! Considering how badly we need more leaders, this kind of approach is unhelpful to everyone.

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  6. Sooner or later a bloke will stuff up, whether from genetic predisposition or gross carelessness or some unhappy melange in-between, and confirm the generalisation. When I travelled abroad in my youth the two most obnoxious people I encountered were coincidentally NZers, one of each gender and one of each of our bicultural ethnicities; but most of us, male as well as female, aim to be pleasant and polite people most of the time. The exceptions make more interesting reading.