The title question isn’t just to grab your attention – I genuinely need an answer here, people.
You see, I’ve recently encountered a number of different situations, mostly in public, which have left me confused and unsure as to where I should draw “the line”. (There’s no such thing as a straight line in my world, by the way. My sort of lines are crooked, wavy, or swirly. And I’m yet to master the art of stopping myself from crossing them, hence why I’m desperately after your advice.)
A number of mornings ago a tall, dark-suited man stepped onto my train three stops after mine. I gave him the subtle once over (as I often tend to do when someone tall, dark and handsome steps into my vision) and noticed a bright flash of red somewhere around his crotch. Intrigued, I paid some attention and realised that the man’s fly was open, revealing his hot red jocks to the public world. I became conscious that my eyes had perhaps spent too much time focussed on the region, but in my head I was facing a massive dilemma. Did I, as a fellow member of the public, possess some sort of duty of care to tell this man that there was just one threadbare layer between his willy and the world?
I nervously imaged the man’s day – walking around his office space, his co-workers giggling behind his back – and was filled with a strange sort of anxiety. It was now or never: Did I intervene and save him from humiliation, or would the humiliation in telling him I could see the distinct shape of his penis do more harm than good? What would be the right decision to make, with the greater good of the people in mind? Honestly, if that had been me, I would like to have been told. But I wonder whether a stranger would have been the preferable person to do it. Thoughts?
Here’s another situation, though this one doesn’t involve a penis (as far as I’m aware): This very morning, I was pushed uncomfortably close to an impeccably dressed woman, all in black, on the jam-packed train into the city. (It always amazes me, as much as it discomforts me, how impossibly close strangers are willing to get during peak-hour on public transport. On numerous occasions I have come scarily close to kissing people on the lips, and not very many of them have been the kind of people I’d like to kiss on the lips.) Anyway. The woman looked absolutely stunning, and I imagined she was the envy of her workplace: The Woman In The Black Coat. After realising I had developed some sort of girl-crush, I noticed a single long blonde hair on the back of her coat, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. That one gleaming hair – impossible to ignore – threatened to ruin the woman’s image, and probably her flawless reputation too. I considered reaching out and plucking the hair from her coat, but the croaky little voice in my head made me re-consider. If all the other commuters on the train had seen me do such a thing – which of course they would – would they consider me helpful or creepy? What do you think? Because in all honesty, If I had a hair on my coat, I would be forever grateful to discover it had been removed by a stranger, considering hair (when unattached to the head) is absolutely foul.
One more situation – the last, and again on a train. Last week or thereabouts, I noticed the old man to my right and across the aisle, had fallen dead asleep. (Perhaps I shouldn’t use dead in this context as he seemed to be about the age.) Anxiety arose in me once again, as I internally debated as to whether I should wake him to prevent him from missing his stop. If I’d been sitting next to him, I might have accidently-on-purpose bumped and woken him, but that wasn’t an option. I would have had to go out of my way, stepping over schoolboys and their schoolbags – always dangerously strewn across train aisles, threatening to brake your ankles – tap him politely on the shoulder, and potentially give him a heart attack in doing so. I decided against it, and I wonder whether that poor man is still
dead fast asleep, heading south towards Antarctica. What would you have done? Further, what would you have expected a stranger to have done, had you been the old man?
Help me, please. I figure there are going to be many situations in which I will be required to know when and where to draw the line, and I’d like to master it before I find myself in a seriously uncomfortable, penis-involved situation.