Since I moved to London, I’ve had so much attention coming my way from black men it’s surreal! I mentioned this in the staff room at work the first time it happened, and… Well, let’s just say that there are some people who I’m not so sure I can think of as colleagues anymore. They are still laughing and teasing me the blasted buggers.
Before I moved to this country, I was no sex bomb. People like me make heads turn, you see, but it’s not because people want to fuck us. No, I take that back. A lot of them do want to fuck us, but they would never admit it in public. The only direct attention I ever got from strangers in Sweden was decidedly unpleasant, so I learned to disengage and avoid meeting people’s eyes when I was out and about.
Where I grew up, in the northern half of the country, there were three black people. (It has changed a lot since then.) Two of them were adopted kids I went to school with. There were two schools, by the way and one black kid in each school. They were as Swedish as anyone else in our school, and the only thing that set them apart was the fact they had a warmer skin tone than the rest of us, who looked rather skim-milky in comparison. Especially during the winter months.
When I moved to the city, one of my neighbours was black. He had moved to Sweden because his dad, who was some kind of big business number cruncher, got a job in my hometown. The weirdest thing I remember about this lad is that he was American and used the sun bed more often than I did. Let’s just say a man working on his tan was not a common sight in my neck of the woods.
Later on, I moved to Gothenburg, in the south, to study at the university. I got a flat in a predominantly black refugee neighbourhood where being a woman was bad enough. Being a white woman was about as low as you could go. I experienced things there that would totally ruin the tone I’m going for in this blog, so we’re not going to discuss the madness that was Swedish immigration politics here. I’ll just say this: all the horrors aside, the blame lies on the government, not poor and desperate people who have every reason to be angry inside a flawed system.
On my first day in London, the sum total of my experience with black men was below zero, which put them in the exact same spot as any other unknown man in my book. Stranger danger. No talk, no touch, no eye contact. Weirdly, that approach didn’t work half as well here as it had back home home. In fact, within my first month of being a Londoner, I was beginning to suspect that men as a group, and especially black men, had singled me out to be the fat spoonie chick of the month. The one everybody had a free pass to make fun of.
So, back to the event that led to my becoming the laughing stock of the workplace. Picture a morning on the eastbound District Line. It’s just after rush hour, and we’ve gone past Mile End, so there’s only a handful people left in the carriage. A black man is sitting diagonally across from me and he’s proper ogling. As in devouring me with his eyes. And smiling. He says something, but I can’t hear what and I don’t ask. I pretend he isn’t there. And let me make this very clear: Not because he is black, but because he is a man I do not know and that gives me reason to be afraid.
After Upton Park, he gets up and stands in front of me. He has a piece of paper in his hand and is clearly trying to give it to me. Instinctively, I lean away from him and tell him “No thanks.” He insists, and now things get really weird.
“Take it,” he says.
I look at him as if he’s trying to hand me an Australian spider. I have no idea what game he’s playing, but there’s always a game. Always. That’s what my experience tells me.
“Just take it,” he says again, waving the paper in my face. Not literally, but that’s what it feels like.
“What is it?” I ask, trying to bargain for time until we stop at East Ham and I can try to get out.
“My phone number,” Stranger Man says, grinning.
“Your phone number?” I ask incredulously. “Why would I need your phone number?” And suddenly something shifts between us. Now it’s Stranger Man’s turn to look bewildered.
“Well, you could text or call me,” he says with a bit of an awkward shrug. “I could take you out. Or be your friend. You look like you need a friend.” He doesn’t look or sound half as cocksure as he did before. We stop at East Ham, and he drops the note in my lap before alighting the train.
As we roll out towards Barking, my destination for the day, he smiles and waves at me. Anyone would think he’d just seen a mate off. Anyone but me, that is. I’m sitting there feeling deeply uncomfortable, yet again made aware of how utterly and annoyingly vulnerable I am. Like a sitting duck, just waiting for the fox. My disability is never as glaringly obvious to me as when I’m in public, unable to get away from danger, and knowing full well no one will come to my rescue.
I’m bone cold as I make my way to the workplace, where I head straight for the kettle. Filling my paddling pool sized mug with an extra strong freeze-dried-coffee-and-milk concoction, I drop the offending paper on the table, and regale my colleagues with a dramatic account of my latest weird tube encounter. They all laugh. Not because of my stellar acting skills, mind you. Oh, no. They are laughing at the silly Swede who doesn’t understand that the poor man on the tube was simply trying to hook up with her.
Well, I never…
Today, I feel so sorry for Stranger Man, and I almost wish I’d kept his number so I could call and apologise. Almost. The way he approached a single disabled woman in a space where she (I) had no protection, or way out, was not on. Not by any stretch of the imagination.
At the end of the day, he was just trying to be a good egg. He didn’t hurt me. He didn’t say anything cruel. He made no improper advances. His “crime” was the fact that he was an unknown man in a small space where I was trapped and scared out of my wits. And that’s not the feeling you want to have when you’re going to work in the morning.
Now that I have accepted the fact that unknown men may see me out in the wild and appreciate the sight, I notice them everywhere. Unknown men, and especially black men for some reason, who treat me as if they’re not quite sure whether they’d rather date me or devour me.
This is a new experience that I’m not entirely sure how to deal with, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the attention. At least when it comes my way in places where I don’t feel trapped.
Love & Lust
London, 1 Nov. 2005
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Linn Lindström is a Swedish sex kitten whose curiosity once led her to attend a swingers’ party in London. Soon after, she found herself in charge of a number of chat forums, discussion groups and websites dedicated to the promotion of a safe playground for sociable sex larpers.
A diva of delight, Linn can exude a sex appeal that is off the charts. Like Freya, the goddess of love and beauty, she loves to indulge in physical sensations and anything that involves more than two senses. She is a typical Libra and may come across as cool, calm, or even aloof, but once relaxed she is incredibly playful, passionate and romantic. Though she’d never admit the latter!
Linn loves storytelling, music, Life, crafting and chocolate, and she is particularly partial to mental fireworks. She needs a lover who can make her think less and feel more, but only the brave need apply.
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