I have never felt more like I was hanging out as 'one of the girls', with Malory Towers style camaraderie, than when I attended a one-off Burlesque class at my university.
You'd think that trying to be sensuous and seductive in public, let alone in a room full of women, might be embarrassing. After all, if anyone is supposed to cast harsh judgement on a woman's attractiveness it is another woman. Those catty cows and vicious vixens line up to cast judgement on each other. But in reality our class led to the temporary formation of a rather silly sisterhood as we all strutted about the student union basement in our heels, half laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, half earnestly enjoying being as over-the-top 'sexy' as we wanted.
It was one of the most comfortable dance classes I had ever been in, even though I knew that while I was pouting and posing I looked less like Dita von Teese and more Bridget Jones struggling to put on her knickers. For once our imperfections and failures to conform to beauty norms did not matter as we used burlesque tricks to show off our best features and were assured that wobbly bottoms were a sign that we had flesh and blood bodies rather than that we were fat.
There was, however, one aspect of the class that made me uncomfortable and that was the teacher's insistence that we could use the seductive attitude acquired along with our burlesque personalities as a way of getting our cars fixed faster at Kwik-Fit.
I have no problem with Kwik-Fit or, indeed, with cars. But I knew she was talking about feminine wiles. And I have a problem with feminine wiles, largely because I don't have any. Something must have gone wrong here. All women are supposed to have them, as demonstrated by the fact that the noun 'wiles' is almost inseparable from the adjective 'feminine'. But I seem to be singularly lacking in this skill. I have NEVER been able to get a strange man to do something for me thrusting out my chest, batting my eyelashes or bending over provocatively.
And yet I know this is how women are supposed to act because I constantly hear jokes about tugging down tops to get out of library fines, flag down taxis and get quick service at bars. I, by contrast, continue to wait in line and pay my dues, almost as though I was a man or, like, old. I am no Scarlett O'Hara. I know this because no one has ever asked for my hand in marriage on first acquaintance or sent me a bunch of flowers picked by one of the slaves on his plantation.
It makes me feel slightly put out. I would happily accept this specialist treatment if only I knew how. But there seems to be no way for me to learn. Are we born with these wiles or do we take a class? I just don't know how I missed out. I clean my teeth and buy suitably low-cut tops and look up YouTube videos on Jedi mind control but nothing seems to work.
I don't know why. Maybe, just maybe, men simply aren't as dumb as I think.