As a reformed Anglophile, it can be difficult to look back on past transgressions. I claimed to have an affinity for ‘British check shirts”, whatever that means, and have several clothiers bookmarked under the presumption they were the haughtiest of shirtmakers but I think they are actually the British equivalent of Kenneth Cole or whatever you might find languishing in a plastic box in the basement of a TJ Maxx. Thomas Pink, Charles Tyrwhitt, Turnbull & Asser; I’m not sure why I was so enamored of these brands at the time (probably just one of my first exposures to Old Navy alternatives) but I basically think of them as clothes less for James Bond and more for the banker wanker. An American allegory would be Brooks Brothers: I want to believe I’m participating in some old-money prep school cosplay but in reality I just feel like a middle-aged bank manager.
We were at The Patriot in Tribeca, one of the last surviving dives in the most expensive zip code in the country. Suddenly I find myself talking to a wee British girl and her two wee Irish friends. I would describe it as an easy connection, there was no calibration needed, no sizing each other up, just the conversation was on auto-pilot. I met her friends with that newfound sense of ease and all was grand.
While talking, my exploits has grabbed the attention of my friends at a table over. Not wanting to betray their reputation as class acts, they begin to yell things over my way. This gets the attention of the British girl who excitedly asks me “Are those your friends? What are they saying?”
I couldn’t hear what they were saying but the tone was clear. So in summation of all my American charm, I simply explained: “Oh, I think they’re just calling you a slag or something”.
Now in my defens(c)e, I had only heard the word “Slag” through The Ali G Show, he says it all the time. Someone is a “slag“, they “slag someone off”, “bunch of slags” etc. From what I could extrapolate it was along the lines of “tart” or “floozy”. Surely not a compliment but a light ribbing at the most. Almost charmingly arcane. The phonetics just bring to mind the mildest of negative imagery: slug, slither, slather. The word slut feels miles away from this arena.
Now, on the prosecution side, I was in Galway once and a young uni student was taking my sister and I around to some pubs. He pointed at a bunch of girls, generally approving of their appearance and seeing if I agreed. Now in my drunken state, I rebuke: “I dunno, they look like a bunch of slags.” I expected this to be met with a hearty chuckle, some light misogyny to break the ice, to move this conversation from polite to uncharted. He gave me a look of confusion and hurt, as if I have just brought up a national tragedy too soon, “Aww nah mate, don’t say that, those are nice girls!”. He was genuinely offended and the mood was soured. You’d think I would never make this mistake again.
“What the fuck did you just say to me?”
“No, I was-“
“What the fuck did you just say to me?”
“I’m sorry it was”
“Jonathan, get the fuck out of my face.”
“Listen, I didn’t know”
“Jonathan, you need to get the fuck out of here right now before I slap you.”
“Get the fuck out of here!”
Okay! And I walk stunned back to my table, and slowly get my seat. I try and sit there and grin and pretend like I have women yelling at me at bars all the time, but honestly was taken aback at how I had just gotten things so wrong with…whatever her name is. I explain my side of events and since no one else really knows or cares what a slag may be, they feign a slight disapproval and chalk it up to my lifetime habit of “always steppin’ in it”.
A few hours have passed and the adrenaline of the fistfight my body was preparing for has worn off (more on that later). I step up to get another drink and m’lady’s two Irish friends are calling me over. Finally, cooler heads prevail, time to start the PR campaign and perhaps I’ll end up snogging her yet (that means oral right?). I enter the conversation with the grace of a beloved politician, genuinely appreciative of the chance to set myself on the right side of history. I was midway through touting my appreciation of ALL women, when the wee lass interjected: “Are you GAY?”
A quick drunken scan of the last 30 seconds didn’t ring any bells of overt homosexual trappings, so I proceeded under the notion that she assumes there must be a catch since I’m disarming them so effectively with my discreet charm. “No, unfortunately, I-“, the other taig piles on, “Yeah, are you GAY?!”, said so excitedly it might be the first time she’s ever said the word. Something in my newly acquired gay-dar was sensing something more sinister was afoot, and my gay-dar was right: I caught the original British tart pointing me out to a bouncer, yelling and screaming something inaudible.
“You can’t talk to women like that in my place, dude”, the bouncer now perched on my shoulder. “Big misunderstanding.” I said firmly and promptly. He nodded and moved on. Some other things were explained but I could tell the words weren’t traveling successfully the half-foot from my mouth to his ear. I gave the gaggle of birds one last look-over while they’re yelling at each other as to what their next move should be. I sat down with my table, anxiously waiting for a bucket of Nickelodeon slime to be poured over my head while the bar rejoices, when the bucket should be poured over the head of my friend, since technically he is the one who called her a slug or whatever they say.
But my bucket never came. Upon retrieving my coat I saw the bouncer on the way out. I leaned in, “Just so you know, I would never do that in your place.” He jumped up “Man, that bitch was crazy! She said she wanted to throw a drink in your face. I told her, I don’t know how it works in England, but that is assault, and if you do that, he can slap you!” My face dropped upon the sudden but casual mention of domestic violence, but I tipped my hat, and smiled as I walked away, just glad I’m allowed back to The Patriot to make the same American mistake again. What a country.