Holding hands and mean old ladies

Daily Prompt: Flames

A funny little thing happened to me yesterday.

I was out with a friend on a Friday night. It’s slowly becoming a thing that we always do once the weekend starts: find a place to go to enjoy the sights of this enormous city that is London. The view is drastically different than what we see during the day.

At night, the lights turn on and as we stood on the viewing balcony at Tate Modern, the vastness of this city hits us. Was Kuala Lumpur ever like this? Here, there were lights as far as I could see, and above us the sky looked like time stood still at a never-ending dusk. I remembered thinking to myself- “How pretty.”

Every person crossing the Millennium Bridge in the distance, has their own troubles and joys. Each monument, like St. Paul’s Cathedral across the river, has its own tale to tell. I wondered how different this city would have looked like a hundred years ago, a thousand years ago. Were the worries of the people of those times different, or the same? Wouldn’t a mother still worry for the safety of her child, a beggar still worry about tomorrow, a merchant still count their riches, regardless of which age they were born in?

That train of thought was quickly discarded in favour of amusing my friend as we looked at the galleries within Tate Modern’s halls. We were two girls looking for a night thrill. For some time, we pretended to be art critics, discussing the emotions that each painting brought out in us, awed at the more interactive exhibits and laughed when the figures truly didn’t make sense to us. A more artistic soul would probably appreciate Tate Modern’s art, perhaps. I wished I did. But maybe art ages like fine wine, too. And that’s why people flock to see the paintings that held little value to me.

We continued our trip across the Thames.

It was cold, and we held hands. My fingers intertwined with hers.

“Pink Panther!” a woman called out.

I looked back, but didn’t stop walking. True, I was wearing a bright pink fluffy hat/scarf/hand warmers that I had picked up a few years ago from Disney SEA and thought it would be a great idea to wear it that night. The woman was old, bent, and she seemed to have trouble walking but that was none of my business.

As cold as it sounds, I have learned not to be too sympathetic to random strangers in London. It has only ever brought me trouble.

We turned away and continued our walk.

“Or are you a gay panther?” she continued, followed by a mean cackle.

Her words baffled me. I blinked at my friend and she blinked back. How in the world did this woman come to that conclusion? We were two Malaysian girls, simply holding hands as we walked across the street. Hardly anything could be assumed from that besides that we are obviously friends.

Except that we were in London.

The thought had slipped my mind. That affection, in the western world, is quickly assumed to be of the romantic sort. Something done by a couple. And oftentimes, not welcome when it is done by two people of the same gender. It made me ponder on how starved for affection their youth must be, if every touch is frowned upon, every hug is assumed to have a hidden meaning. It puzzles me further, because as far as I am aware, western culture also involves men and women kissing goodbye. If a kiss can be seen as platonic, then why not holding hands?

I’ve been to many countries and it seems like I bump into mean, old ladies everywhere. Russia, Japan, Malaysia, you name it.

Middle aged people with a skewed view of the world.

How funny it is, that it is the youth who are more tolerant and more accepting of different cultures and different perspectives. But the people who raised them have such small hearts, and fan the flames of hate.

When our milkshakes and chicken wings arrived at our table in a cozy restaurant called Tinseltown, I had put the baffling event firmly behind me. So what if I meet a mean lady or two, I’ve given up holding a grudge against people I can’t change and things that can’t be moved. The Earth will keep moving, and the Sun will rise, the day will pass and one day, she will, too. And then, that’s one less hateful person in the world.




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