Miss L and I were pedecommuting from London Bridge to Wapping this morning, and as we were striding along the South Bank, we were stopped by a middle-aged Japanese couple brandishing a camera. But before we could argue about which one of us would take their picture for them, the female half of the pairing had whipped us round with surprising strength for someone of her stature, and was beaming at the camera with an arm locked around each of us, while her husband snapped away and we wore rictus grins of baffled surprise. As we broke apart, still a little dazed, Miss L asked if they would like us to take a picture of them together, perhaps against the popular backdrop of Tower Bridge. Affirmative, seemed to be the response, but before we knew it, we were being grasped by the male half of the double act, and again making a tourist sandwich for the camera. Still, we nodded and beamed our way through the breakdown in communication, and carried on to work, speculating on why we were such irresistible elements of the composition.
In the office, Amy, who I sit next to, who is lovely, and about five foot ten, said it's because Miss L and I are tall, and the contrast between us and the Japanese couple makes for prime photo-album fodder. But I am not that tall. I am only five foot six, which is at best the taller end of normal, and not even tall enough to be a model, which is unfortunate, because at the moment that's the only thing holding me back.
So what was it? It's not like we're dressed as beefeaters, I thought to myself. At least, not intentionally. It's not like we're punks. And then, as I thought of my pale complexion, and my dark, dark, hair, and looked down at the thick black tights I was wearing, which had been gently derided earlier by Miss L for getting an outing in July, I had an unwelcome epiphany.
Perhaps, just perhaps, they thought I was a goth.
That reminded me of living in halls in my first year of university, and how a boy called Andy, who lived downstairs, would habitually call me Robert Smith. Robert Smith of wild hair and delinquent lipstick. Robert Smith of The Cure. Robert Smith of the male half of the species. Now I write it down, it seems like I should have been annoyed, or angry, or upset, or furiously remonstrative, but he did it in such an affable, matter-of-fact way that I just wasn't. Maybe once I might have countered weakly, 'I really don't look like Robert Smith.' And it was as if I had tried to claim that the sun didn't really rise every morning. 'You're so Robert Smith,' was the calm, apparently definitive reply.
I think there is a reason it didn't really bother me, and that is because when I was about 15, which is a vulnerable, fumbling, finding-your-way age, someone - an older person, a person I trusted - told me I reminded them of Su Pollard. I think you will agree that next to this, being compared to Robert Smith is virtually a compliment. And it is that from which I have never fully recovered.