The entryway was dimly lit. Having been to that restaurant several times before, always in the evening, I knew about the three descending stairs. It was lunchtime and the sun was bright. Instinctively, I took her elbow.
You might suppose that I was stunned. Quite so -- even though it was the middle 1970s.
The woman in question shall remain nameless. One of the administrative assistants in our company, she was also an activist. Nevertheless, her hair and face were coifed and creamed respectively, her heels and breasts mechanically augmented. To describe her as glamorous would have been immoderate, but she was not Kennel Rations either.
You might also suppose that, declining my support, she fell downstairs, but I am pleased to report no such calamity.
The rest of our luncheon party arrived, and soon a dozen members of the office staff were seated at a table, preparing to toast a departing colleague. You know the scene. The lady of the stairway was on my right. I was careful not to manhandle her chair.
"Why did you say that?" I asked idly.
She looked puzzled at first, as if the incident were already forgotten. "Why did you assume I needed your help?"
"Do you always answer questions with questions?"
"All my life I have been able to climb and descend stairs on my own. I do not need -- or want -- the assistance of any man."
I nodded. "That much I knew. But -- "
"All you men want to do," she interrupted, "is keep women dependent in some way."
"Not quite all," I commented.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I leaned closer. "Your mother never told you?"
"Now who's answering questions with questions!"
"All right then," I said. "Be advised, I become exceptionally stimulated whenever I am able to touch a woman -- " I leered villainously, cupping one palm in the air, " -- on her elbow."
"You're a pig!"
I raised both hands in surrender. "Please."
As we were leaving, I held the door for her. "Knee-jerk reaction," apologized I.
Later that day, I reassured myself by consulting a dictionary, then sent her a short memo.
"Thanks for setting me right on important matters during today's luncheon," I wrote. "Please observe, however, I am visibly lacking in certain qualifications (short legs, cloven hoofs, bristly hair, and a cartilaginous snout used for digging) and must insist, unhappily, on being called a man."