So I'm out running in the skimpy running shorts a few weeks ago wondering how long I can continue to get away with it, now that I am in my forties for heaven's sake, and M is running behind me, trying to mend a stretched tendon by breaking it in gently (he is cross because this injury has been dogging him most of the year and it has already cost him two marathons, with the likelihood of a third now in distinct jeopardy as well), when a car full of boys goes past.
Now, I run in the skimpy shorts not because I think I look good in them but because when it is hot they are the most comfortable thing to run in. They are not a) a fashion statement or b) designed to embarrass my children (although I'm sure they do). Part of the reason I feel I can get away with it is because I stick to our lane which is quiet and inhabited by people I know. You don't get many non-home-owner vehicles using it. You also don't generally get cars packed full of teenage boys racing up it, bursting with and indeed expelling the kind of rampaging flood of hormones that women of a certain age who happen to be running in tight shorts would rather not be exposed to.
Predictably, they slowed down. Predictably, they wound down windows. Predictably, they hooted and jeered and whistled. Predictably, one of them leant out the window to say something which would no doubt have been of a more personal nature, had he not, by that time, seen my face.
The broad, confident grin drained to leave in its wake an appalled and embarrassed expression served up on a pallor that can be best described as used dish water. I felt sorry for him. I should imagine it's quite a nasty shock to realise the person you've been so vocally ogling from behind is not, in fact, the nubile young thing of your imagination, but is in fact closer to being your mother.
The car fell silent, the windows went meekly back up and the entire vehicle seemed to sag as it lurched off around the corner.
M caught up. Were they whistling at you?
Yup I said. Poor deluded boys.
He grinned and said something about good taste, which I took to be either a kindness on his part or proof that the glasses I have long suspected he needs are now overdue.
The thing is, I haven't worn the skimpy running shorts since. I'm not sure whether this is to save me or them from embarrassment.
I'm not bothered about getting older. I have a nice life, I'm married to a man I adore and I am happy, but there is something rather depressing about realising that the rest of the world requires you to dress/ think/ behave in a way it deems suitable to your years, instead of for your own comfort.
My ego was mopped up a week or two later when L and I were out helping M at a local running event. When it ended, L and I headed back to the car together, and as we got in a small flock of men suddenly appeared, evidently concerned that we'd be able to get out of the field without getting stuck. They were full of useful suggestions (the subtext of which was clearly: blonde woman in car = incapable of driving backwards), and I, being polite, thanked them and assured them we'd be fine. As we were reversing (proficiently), one of them (rather nice-looking if I do say so myself) called out: is that your number of the side of the car? The one for Sports Injuries?
It is (I said, smiling sweetly).
Oh good (he said) I'll know who to call then, and he gave me a lovely smile.
I was grinning quietly to myself when L said in a voice of utter disbelief: was he flirting with you?
Clearly, the answer is to wear the skimpy running shorts at running events.