I have a strange and rather emotionally tense relationship with Blackpool Central Library.
Before I begin, I need to make a few things clear. It is a wonderful library. It boasts beautiful stained glass windows. It is clean, organised and well run by friendly and efficient staff. There are also many worthwhile and thriving social groups that meet here that are important and richly beneficial to the community, which is typical of British libraries, central and local.
There are also a lot of books.
The vision of libraries for most people is a place where the quiet and shy will be in their element. It is a place where there is peace and quiet, for the studious and those hungry for knowledge and those in love with books. It is also a place, this place in particular, where young men will continually attempt to pick up women and where middle aged men frequently go to peruse a newspaper and socialise with others of like mindedness and similar circumstance.
I have taken my natural paranoia into consideration, and weighing up all the facts carefully and doing controlled experiments to prove it, no, not really, but I’ve been there enough times to weigh up the social ambience. I’ve done enough social experiments of my own now and the pick up thing was not a one off, as I thought, hoped, imagined. I only know because I returned and the same kind of things happened. Lone young men will begin by hovering and pretending to pick a book. They will go away for a few seconds then return, and hover round again, and again. This will happen several times until it becomes unbearable. At first, it was a novelty. It was quite exciting, at first, as a mature married women, to be given that attention, but it has become an irritation. If I’d have wanted to flirt, or I was sociable, or the Mae West type, or I wanted to commit adultery, or I wanted to cop off, I’d have gone to a nightclub. Look, I came here to read all right? It just shows you how naive I am. It is interesting though, I mean it’s an interesting place and I do love conspiracies.
They will be wearing sports wear or be the complete opposite, really scruffy and badly dressed or completely uniquely dressed, kind of like Mystery. They will make the mistake of pretending to pick a book from the girl-y self help section or the cooking section and then when you don’t look up or act like you’re alive or take your nose out the book, they will rattle the metal bookshelves, so they nearly come down on you. I’ve tried ignoring it but the steel bookshelves vibrating noisily by my ear got too much.
Anyway, by that time, I’d already devised a cunning plan. I had premeditated. If I started to feel uncomfortable in the event of abnormal hovering, I decided I would get up and move around. They can’t get you while you’re transient. And that’s the word that kept going through my head ‘transient’. Keep yourself moving, it really puts people on the back foot when you keep moving. Anyway, I suddenly stood up very suddenly and walked away. I completely threw him. A triumph! I went down the aisle and several bookshelves later, I find myself in the ‘SEX’ section (there is none really, but it sounds good, I think, well it is kind of like a sex section. I will tell you more later)
I pick up a book, any book, and start to read. As I read, I stand with my legs apart. Girls, if you ever feel intimidated or afraid, or harassed or upset, or vulnerable, stand with your legs apart. It gives you instant grounding and it says, ‘I’m standing with my legs apart, okay? Wanna make something of it?’
The man who had been hovering was totally thrown, as I said, and it was wonderful, very liberating. I had devised a plan and it had worked. He followed me down to where I was, and I have done the puffed up cat thing many a time in the past, walking home from a nightclub, in my youth, at 3. a.m. It also helps to have your house keys in your hand, with the biggest, sharpest key, held point down, between forefinger and index finger. Instant opportunity to gouge out the eyes, or crotch, or the nearest softest flesh of any imagined or possible attacker. Just remember the puffed up cat, if you find yourself walking home late, although I hope you don’t, as there’s no substitute for a taxi and a plan. When there are no taxis and no plan and no money and it’s late and you are alone, (God Forbid, but yeah, it happens, it happened to me plenty of times) just think, puffed up cat and keep the sharp point of your front door key between your index and forefinger. Oh, I forgot, you have mace and mobile phones as well, these days, don’t you?
Anyway, I discover that the book I am reading, with legs apart, puffed up cat stance, is the one and only, ‘Vagina‘ by Naomi Wolf. So, there I am, reading a book called Vagina, in puffed up cat stance, when he comes down to look for me. Perfect.
There is really nothing more that acts like a natural shield than puffed up cat and Naomi Wolf’s ‘Vagina’. One, on its own, may have been inadequate, but the two together…invincible. There was something about reading a book called ‘Vagina’ that created a wall. I felt suddenly protected. Secure. Safe.
He goes away, the young stranger. The magic of the Vagina and puffed up cat, a volatile combination has magicked him away. He has gone. Or so I think, more on that later.
I start to read, in acting mode, but then I actually begin to read. Oh, this is good, I think, really good, suddenly I’m not acting any more. I could never get a book like this out, I think…I could never look the librarian in the face when I handed it over, but wait a minute, that’s in the old days. Nowadays, we have machines, the equivalent of the brown paper wrapping for the soft porn mag of the rain-coated old man.
Hey, wait a minute. I’m not a rain-coated old man and vagina is not a dirty word. So WTF?
So, I’m thinking, this would be a no go normally, I would never get this book out. I would have to process my ‘Vagina’ book through a middle aged lady librarian (I know, stereotyping, but it’s true) And she would be thinking, ‘Oh, you just got a book out called ‘Vagina’ Well really! What kind of a woman are you?’ or ‘Ooh, fancy!’ while looking you up and down, but thanks to the non judgemental machines that allow you to scan your books, non humanly, a few hours later, I’m at home reading it. I laugh, I cry. I learn. Ahem. This is a good book. Recommended reading for EVERY woman…and every man.
Thank you Blackpool Library for being so…weird…scrap that…unique. Well, here’s the thing, when my husband met up with me in the library, I discovered said P.U.A hovering around another woman a bit later on. He was just up to his old tricks again, I guess.
But Naomi Wolf…now I was herded towards her, inadvertently…I was chased towards her Vagina, and it worked. It was a silver lining….every cloud has one.
Blackpool Library…we may still have one more chapter.