a rather nice compliment a couple of weeks back. Then he apologised,
"I don't suppose I should have said that."
I smiled and thanked him and said I didn't mind. I didn't mind either because it was quite obvious that he meant what he had originally said.
Since then we have had the Jamie Briggs affair and some sportsman doing something else considered inappropriate. (I haven't bothered to follow it. I am not interested enough to want to know.) Then someone else has been criticised for something else.
Now there is inappropriate behaviour which goes too far. It can cause great embarrassment and distress. It shouldn't happen.
But it seems to me that there is also behaviour which is intended to give pleasure. There is behaviour which is intended to say, "I like something about you" and the circumstances should then dictate whether it goes any further.
Each Christmas I make some gingerbread biscuits for the people who work in the greengrocer. It's a way of thanking a thoroughly nice group of people who are helpful and friendly and occasionally give me a bunch of flowers that still have plenty of life in them but they can't sell.
A couple of days after giving one of the girls the biscuits so that they could be shared around one of the boys who works there came up behind me, very briefly put a hand on my shoulder and said, "Thanks for the biscuits Cat."
Another customer looked rather shocked and, fortunately when he had gone, said to me, "I wouldn't let him touch me like that!"
"I feel perfectly comfortable with it," I told her.
And I did. He always gives me a wave if he's driving one of their vehicles out of the shopping centre. He always says, "Hello Cat" if I pass him in the shopping centre itself. He's young enough to be my son - if I had any.
Her reaction bothered me. The reaction of the man who gave me the compliment saddened me.
I have observed similar reactions elsewhere. Giving someone a compliment is now fraught with danger. Touching someone you don't know very well is not at all acceptable. It doesn't matter how good your intentions are you don't do it - or so it would seem. We see danger at every turn.
The Senior Cat will tell people the story of the day he went to see the man who was then his GP, a man now sadly retired early. My mother had not been gone that long and my youngest sister was causing a great deal of worry. The Senior Cat had just admitted he was not sleeping well because of both these things. The GP reached out and, briefly, touched his hand. He didn't say anything, just touched the Senior Cat's hand. The Senior Cat has never forgotten that.
It's important to touch people sometimes. I am going off to do some work on reorganising a small library today. Three people are coming to help me. One of them is giving me a ride to the venue. We won't touch one another. She isn't that sort of person. She never gives compliments to anyone. It just isn't in her nature to do that. I may give her one in the future - but I doubt it.
Of the other two. I have hugged one person on a special occasion and she has hugged me in the same way. We can exchange compliments.
The last person is different. I know I'll be greeted with a hug even though it is hot. She will have something nice to say too.
People are different. If a stranger wants to do nothing more than say something nice then it saddens me to think that they no longer feel free to do it.
And how on earth are people going to build relationships if "flirting" is unacceptable? Of course there are limits. "Stop" has to mean "stop" but does it have to mean "don't dare even start"? Are we in danger of losing something important in relationships with other people?
When I was a mere kitten someone said something unexpected and rather nice to me. I felt embarrassed and I didn't respond. My paternal grandmother told me, "Cat, that was a compliment. You must learn to accept compliments graciously. It is the mark of a lady to be able to do that."
She was right.