“Hike up your skirt a little more. And show your world to me. In a boy’s dream.”
How was it that I became the subject of a boy’s dream, exactly? It was the summer of 1997 and this song, was still fresh. Those lines always resonated with me, especially the first two, as I’m sure they did many a boy. It was evocative, even erotic… as long as everything was good and consensual. But I never really thought about that last line until later that summer, when the meaning of it all shifted a bit for me.
Fresh out of university, I was working a temp job, a long-term temp job, a hopelessly tedious temp job. Just to get me working until I found something better – which eventually turned out to be more school. I’d been there about three months when a new group of temps started their training. It was nice to see fresh faces, not yet fully aware of the slap-me-in-the-face-with-a-frying-pan tedium they were about to experience four days a week. I had to spend some time in their training room doing something, I don’t know what, something most assuredly boring, when a bright-faced, brown-eyed girl with brown hair curling down onto her shoulders spoke to me. About what, I don’t remember that first day, but even small talk with someone new was enough to make me not want to slap myself in the face with a frying pan. As the week went on, we chatted more, along with the tall, lanky young man sitting next to her. They were Kristin and Rob. They had just met that week, too, and already had the rapport of, say, a Will and Grace. That was their dynamic. Somehow, at some point fairly early on, Kristin got flirtatious. And I was okay with that.
Eventually that first week, the three of us, perhaps along with one or two other coworkers, decided to go out to some little bar that Friday night, where a solid cover band played Van Halen and other classic and 90s rock staples. It was fun. Kristin and I danced.
We had bonded over a mutual love of the blues, so I asked her out to see Colin James at the Harbourfront Jazz Festival. We went and it felt like maybe something was happening. In fact, I fondly thought of her when I heard this song at the time.
But then the three of us decided to go out together again and everything changed. At least when it came to this song and what it reminds me of. Rob invited us to check out a club he enjoyed in Toronto’s Gay Village. I always considered myself an open-minded sort, and sympathetic to the community, so I thought why not, I’ll hang out with my new friends, get closer to Kristen, and experience something new. And that I did. I couldn’t say it was the gay equivalent to any straight club I’d been to. There was more skin on display there, more overt sexuality. But I was fine with that. I was amused by it. It was a bunch of boys enjoying themselves. There was joy and freedom in the air. And maybe a little lust for good measure.
Rob introduced us to a couple of his friends. One of them was a DeVito-esque sort named Alex. He was certainly DeVito-esque in body type, but much smarmier in the face. It was like he was always smiling but there was somehow malice behind his smile, and arrogance. He was an odd dude.
While Kristin and Rob did who knows what to abandon me with him, Alex and I wound up at the bar together, sitting more or less sideways on our stools, facing each other, and chatting one-sidedly (his side, of course).
It was fairly early on that his finger landed delicately on my knee. I thought for a second maybe he was just touchy-feely. No biggie. He’d soon take his finger back into his personal space, I was sure. His voice had a disturbingly whiny and flirtatious tone… and that smile. I looked down at his finger and it inched a little further up and inside my thigh. I didn’t say anything because that’s just how I was, and he wasn’t that close to anything “interesting” yet, but he was making me uncomfortable. I twitched my leg slightly, to maybe send a subtle message. As he talked, he continued to slide his finger a little higher up my thigh, as though he was trying to “hike up my pants a little more” so he could see… or feel… my world. No thanks. Not even if I played for that team. Finally, I turned my leg away a little. He couldn’t mistake it for a twitch this time.
“Is that making you uncomfortable?” he asked, knowing it was. It was for me a brief glimpse into how it must feel to be a girl being hit on by some smarmy dude. “Yeah, a little,” I responded, awkwardly. “Okay, I’ll stop,” he responded serenely, as though he’d known he’d have to stop eventually and had already made peace with it. I’m grateful it was that easy.
Even with that one uncomfortable scene, my experience of the club wasn’t soured. It was a unique, colourful and illuminating experience.
But what of Kristin and Rob? Rob was great. He was a super-sweet and supportive guy with an admirably graceful gait; I was always surprised he was friends with Alex. We hung out during lunches after Kristin left the job, bonding over Radiohead and our mutual disdain for our work. Speaking of Kristin, I think she grew tired of me being slow to make a move, all the while I became less and less sure I wanted to make one. Then, at a party at Rob’s place (yes, Alex was there, it was awkward; as was his lesbian friend Michelle, giver of the best hug I’ve ever experienced – I’d met her once before and she hugged me like a cherished confidante) I spotted her hanging around with, and later making out with, a friend of Rob’s. So that was that. Kristin was soon fired, no idea why, and we never spoke again.
But now, when I hear this song, I’m the boy in Alex’s dream. Who wants my world shown to him.