…a few weeks ago something odd happened. I had to interview a man at his home in the middle of the woods in upstate New York. No photographer would be present, and after a quick glance online I couldn’t find evidence of a wife. His profile, moreover, indicated he was 6ft 7in. And for the first time in my working life, I wondered.
Wondered if he’d make a pass? Wondered if he was a serial killer?
Reader, the answer is ‘All of the above’.
In this context it also made little sense: the man I was meeting was neutralised by a degree of celebrity. As a friend said, “George Clooney is not going to kill you.”
Merely one thing on the long list of things George Clooney won’t do to her, I syuuspect….
But these are strange times. Like every female reporter I know, I have been thinking a lot about Kim Wall, the Swedish journalist allegedly murdered by a man she went to interview on board his submarine in Denmark – a job no woman I know would have turned down, at least not on the grounds of personal safety. A few years ago it would have been easy to dismiss this story as a horrifying but freakish event. That is not how it reads to me now.
And yet neither does it seem sensible to entirely alter how I navigate the world. “You have to call him and ask him to meet you at a cafe,” said a friend, when I mentioned my unease on the morning of the interview.
“I don’t think I can,” I said.
“It’s a bit … rude.”
“That’s ridiculous. Where’s the wife?”
“I don’t know if there is a wife. But he’s nearly 80.”
“That doesn’t mean anything.”
Of course not! All men are monsters, remember? Even when too incapacitated by age to wolf-whistle.
Another friend insisted that statistically I was more likely to be killed by a falling air-conditioner unit on the way to the interview, but this didn’t fix things either.
Well, they do say you can’t fix stupid. I guess you can’t fix hysteria either.
Before I left for the train, my children’s babysitter dug in her bag and handed me her Mace, which I felt compelled to accept with the words: “Oh my God, that’s hilarious.” Soberly, she replied: “People are terrible.” In fact, he wasn’t. He was very nice. But considering the alternative didn’t feel like a piece of self-victimisation. It felt like a necessary and overdue widening of the lens.
Well, of course it did. It’s not you, it’s everyone else. Stands to reason!
Emma Brockes is a Guardian columnist
Yes, we pretty much guessed this.