In the time of Tinder and #metoo, faith in the opposite sex can be restored in the most amusing circumstances
“Are you lost?”
The voice came from behind me as I walked up the main street of Leura in the Blue Mountains. I stopped and turned, taking him in. Tall. Blonde. Friendly-looking. A delicate fuzz across his upper lip. Not a day over 18.
“You just look like you might be lost,” he said.
I frowned and he gestured at the phone in my hand. To be fair, it was displaying Google Maps. I’d just walked to Leura from Katoomba, where I was staying for two weeks, and was heading for the town’s famous chocolate shop.
“Oh, no,” I replied. “All good. I know where I’m going. Thanks though.”
I began to turn away, thinking how nice it was for him to try and help me, when he spoke again.
“So, do you live around here?” He was smiling at me, kindly and confidently, one hand in the pocket of his jeans.
It was a sweltering summer day and, still sweaty from the hike, my sunnies kept slipping down my face. I pushed them up. “No,” I told him, unsure of the motivation behind the question. “I live in Victoria. I’m here for a writer’s retreat.”
“Oh, really? Wow. That’s awesome. What do you like to write about?”
“Um, well, you know. People. Travel. Some fiction.” I pushed my glasses up my face again.
“It’s great to have a creative passion,” he said, nodding. “I like painting, myself.”
“Oh yeah? That’s…that’s great.” It’s not he didn’t seem lovely and interesting, but I couldn’t help but wondering why we were still talking. What did this kid want from me? And where was the closest air-conditioning?
Then he leaned against a shop front, as if settling in for a long chat. “Do you have a favourite writer?”
“Ah, sure. I love Ray Bradbury.” At this point, I gave up on my glasses and just took them off and in that moment, two different facts dawned on both of us at the same time.
1. I realised he was cracking on to me
2. He realised I was not 18
I was blown away. Wasn’t someone of his generation meant to be sending unsolicited pictures of their crotch region to girls on social media by way of introduction instead of having a face-to-face conversation about creative passions? Okay, so, that’s pretty unfair. But still, this was a far cry from the kinds of approaches women have come to expect from some men these days. The cat call. The pinch on the bum. The unsolicited drink buying.
I could see him wracking his brain for the right way to word his next question. “So, um, are you doing English at school?”
I decided to be frank. “Actually, I’m 30.”
To his credit, he only let the horror he felt at the misjudgement he’d made flash across his features for half a second. Then, smooth as his teenage cheeks, he just kept talking. We talked about Ray Bradbury, who he’d never heard of. He told me about his HSC art project and how he was about to start at Sydney Uni. I told him what it had been like there seven years ago.
Finally, when enough time had passed that it wouldn’t be awkward, he held out his hand. “Anyway, I’m Tom.”
I shook it. “Miranda.”
“Well, it was really nice meeting you Miranda.”
Then as Tom walked off down main street Leura I thought, okay, he’s timing is off by about 15 years. But if this is any indication of the behaviour of the next generation of men, we’re going to be alright.