My friend Fishie says that he knows when the women of his set want him to leave the room because they start talking about natural family planning.
I laughed very much when I heard that because that strikes me as very Canadian. Nice Canadian Catholic girls don't usually say, "Hey, you. Man. Scram, we want to talk about girl stuff." No. That would be too rude. So usually we hunch over and just start talking about icky, scary female stuff and that generally does the trick: the Canadian boy flees from the room.
This also seems to work in Scotland on Scottish men. But it does not work on all men. Some men do not seem to know that when ladies talk about anything that has to do with the cervix, for example, ("What cancer does your friend have?" "Well, I'm afraid it is cervical cancer." "Dear, dear.") they must scram.
And that leads me to think about one irony of female life, which is that although most of us want to be thought well of by men, and to marry one of them and get along with his menfolk and men friends, we do not want them around all the time.
We do not want them around all the time because sometimes we need to talk to women about stuff we are not comfortable with men overhearing. And sometimes we discover we need to talk about this stuff at parties, because at parties alcohol flows and frees us up to talk about it at all. So the only thing to do is create a sort of female conversational cave in which to have the personal conversation, and woe betide the man who ambles in like a sleepy bear.
We also do not want men around all the time because sometimes we would like to be by ourselves. And protecting this privacy can be difficult because women are used to giving subtle clues to other women about what they want, and women are usually skillful at reading them. Thus, when approached by strange men, women automatically throw out polite, subtle "leave me alone" cues, which men are not as good at reading.
Thus, we have to plan ahead and think about everything and even train ourselves to say "Scram" in a way that is blunt enough to permeate male understanding but not so "masculine" that the man gets angry, defensive and scary. This can be very stressful indeed, and it is so easy to make mistakes.
For example, I arranged to meet B.A.'s friend in a pub the other night, completely forgetting that to be a woman alone in an urban Scottish pub is like wearing a sign saying "Come over, lonely stranger, and bore me to tears. Ask me if I'm Polish, and then tell me the story about those Swedish girls you met."
I was so nervous, as I stood at the bar (another mistake), that I actually started to perspire. And the friend--male--did not go into the pub to see if I were there, but waited outside, on the corner, as if standing on corners outside pubs after dark is something a solitary woman might like to do. But how can he be blamed for that? Most men have no idea what it is like to be a woman.
Men have to be told. And it is amazing what stupid things they can do, unless they are told, like (fact, this happened to me) run up to you on a dark street at night to give their old pal you a scare.
And that brings me to my question. How DO we tell them? WHAT is the exact middle ground between being TOO subtle and being threatening? HOW do we say "go away" or "never do that" without being misunderstood?