This blog came to mind a few weeks ago while I was teaching a group of students, it started with me thinking about the differences between boys and girls and how life will give them completely different experiences and ended up reminding me of the comedy tale I am about to tell you all and as it happened at Christmas, I thought why not tell you all on the first day of the advent calendar!
As I was teaching these students, who were ages ranging from 19-22, I was struck at how much more vocal and involved the girls were. They bossed the boys about, they wanted to take control wherever possible and if you were watching the class, you'd be right to think that the girls seemed to have a lot more to offer than the, almost docile boys. As I have a boy of my own, I actually thought, come on lads the girls are overtaking you here, for the sake of my own son, please show me that boys have some spirit and tenacity! But then I realised something, something that made me glad Phoenix is a boy but sad for all the girls. Boys don't have to try as hard as girls. Fact.
I sat there picturing these kids in a ten years time and I realised that most of the boys will have better jobs than the girls without trying even half as hard. The boys didn't seem as aggressively active as the girls because they don't have to be and they never will have to be.
I've come across so many angry women at the top in show biz but very few angry men and now I know why, girls are instinctively aggressive about their careers as that's the only way we know how to progress. If we were all as laid back and dare I say as lazy as the boys about our working lives we'd never have taken our pinnies off!
Now I'm not a feminist - I really don't want to be like men, I think women are wonderful, beautiful, sexy creatures and we should stay that way but for the first time as I sat there watching those students interact, I realised, without any doubt, that right from the get go men take it all.
Now for my tale, it's one of comedy and sexual harassment. It's a shocker but please see the funny side of it as it is most hilarious and rest assured apart from the money I lost, I was not hamred in the slightest!
Before I begin though, I want to highlight that in show biz (I don't know about any other careers as I haven't done them) both men and women get sexually harassed all the time and I don't think it's got any better in the 25 years I've been a working actress. In many ways it's worse for men, as when their male or female bosses act inappropriately they rarely speak up for fear that they will be laughed at, which is totally wrong. We only have to look at the recent football cases to see how vulnerable young boys and men are and that they can be so easily groomed when they are pursuing a dream, by hateful predators and we need to protect both our young girls and our boys from this.
I just need to be protected from my stupid self!
My story begins during the first Christmas tour of Cbeebies Live! (as shown in the video above). We were not only touring around the Arenas but we had also turned on a fair few Christmas Lights in major City's.
In one of the City's, after the show, I was asked to meet a gentlemen, let's call him, Mr. 'M'. He told me he was a philanthropist and that he had funded the turning on of he Christmas lights in that city. He thought I was simply wonderful and wished to book me to host a 'Dive Show' he had planned the following Easter (it was an early Easter that year). I gave him my agent's details and left feeling excited at the prospect of work.
True to his word he called my agent in the New Year and booked me for 3 weekends, paying me £2000 a day, so a total of 12k. He said he would need to see me a few times so I could help him write my part of the show and would be sending my agent the contract soon. My agent then called to say he scheduled our first meeting, which would be a dinner one night.
Now, you may be thinking already, dinner for a meeting? But let me assure you I have had to go out on many a dinner with prospective male employees and I've never got a job out of any of them, so naturally I went along.
It seemed fine, he was excited about the show and explained to me that he actually worked in the city but loved the arts, so often funded them. What a lovekly posh man he seemed to be.
Only once did the conversation take a weird turn and that was when he mentioned that his office were taking pictures of themselves naked in the shower or bath but chopping their heads off - for a, 'spot who the body belongs to' competition. He told me he had no one to take his picture, which seemed a it odd but I just managed to squirm away from the subject, after all I'm a girl, that's what we do.
He also asked me if I had good abdominal muscles as he was starting up a business called, 'Abs-olutely Fabulous' and he wanted a 'great set of abs' for his logo. Feeling slightly uncomfortable, I shrugged him off of that tact, saying that although I had OK abs for a girl, he would be far better off getting a male model for it, as a girls abs could rarely compare to a mans.
Meal and plans for the dive show over, until next time, he walked me to my car (which stupidly was in an underground NCP). It was here that I should have done a runner as what happened next was rather strange to say the least and things were only going to get stranger!
In an empty car park he said, 'Actually, show us your abs, I'll take a picture of them, don't worry I'll cut your head off the photo and you can see the picture I take, I can then send it to my business partner, as I'd really like to put the money for the ab job your way if I can.'
I looked at him, as I stood by my car, in yellowing underground parking lighting and I thought, 'Oh fuck it, he's not gonna let me get in my car if I don't'. I pulled up my top (not showing my bra) and tensed my abs as he rather sweatily took a picture. He then shakily gave me his phone to inspect it to see whether or not he had indeed 'chopped my head off' the picture.
I looked down and all seemed to be good. Phew, I thought. There was a picture of my abs and you couldn't really tell if they belonged to a man or a woman so no harm done.... OR so I thought.
It was when I then looked up that I got the shock of my life! Mr 'M', who was a man in his late 50's, tall, pale and blubbery, now had his top completely off. He was really sweaty by this point and shaking. I passed his phone back to him, trying to keep the surprise, and it's rude to say but laughter, from the expression on my face but as I tried to hand it back to him, he looked down at me, in a pathetic sort of a way and said, 'Take a picture of my abs now.'
Trying not to look repulsed, I took a picture, threw his phone at him and said, 'Oooooo thank you for a lovely evening, see you soon.' I then jumped in my car and legged it.
Now you'd think after this, I would have thought, he's a fucking weirdo, call your agent and cancel, but as my good friend Matt always tells me, I will follow the pieces of candy to my peril!
So, naturally when my agent called me to schedule in another, dinner meeting, with Mr 'M' I just said OK.
I thought this time I'll be ready for him ..... so I went on the train!
Half way through the meal he spoke about getting someone to take a picture of him in the bath for work but again I breezed over this. In fact, I thought I was doing rather well at managing this meal with him, it was only at the end of the evening I right royally fucked it up!
He asked me what time my train was. '10.20pm', I replied. 'Good' he said, 'I have some Easter Eggs for you in my hotel room, it's only 9.45pm now and my hotel is near Charring Cross station. I'll pay up and we can go and get them for you.'
What, what whaaaaaaat?
'It's fine', I told him desperately. 'You can give me them at Easter, at the show.' Of course this was not what he wanted and he knew I had time to go to his wretched hotel, so of course he insisted.
I just didn't know how I could get out of it without being rude (and I think that's called being groomed). Hahaha I can hear you all thinking, what is wrong with this girl, putting politeness above what was sure to be her own death - but I did.
Following him like a sulky teenager, this pervert led me to a seedy hotel at the side of Charring Cross Station, not even a posh hotel, a seedy one! I followed him upstairs to his room, thinking, I could totally get raped by this whale or be murdered but I reckoned I could take him, He's posh and I'm from a council house background, I'll just bottle the bastard, I thought.
He opened the door and said, 'There are your eggs' and to my absolutely joy, I saw at the far side of the room, Easter Eggs!
I sped over to them, thinking, I'll get my chocolate and then get the hell out of here and far away from this creep. I picked them up, I turned around and to my absolute horror, that over six foot moron, was stood there with his trousers down and a little swollen in his baby blue y-fronts department.
I have to tell you, I laughed (psychologists would probably agree that this could have got me killed) and I said, 'Oooopsie your trousers have come down'. I then tried to hot foot it past him and out of that place.
As I reached him, he swept me up off my feet (easter eggs and all) in to his arms. He didn't bet on my dance training though, so I easily scissor kicked round and out of his arms. Angry now and ready to smash his face in, I strode by him but he managed to grab my arm and stop me once more.
I turned to face this monster and said, 'Let go of me now or I will scream this fucking hotel down.'
To my surprise though, he wasn't looking at me. He was taking the top off a bottle of water and pouring it in to a glass with his free hand. He then picked up his glass and like a scared little child said, 'Please, before you leave throw this glass of water over me'.
I looked at his pitiful face and said, 'Then I can go?' He nodded, so I chucked that glass full on his face, shook him off of me and scooted out of that hotel room like Scooby and Shaggy fleeing from a ghost AND I still had my Easter Eggs.
When I finally got to Charring Cross I didn't know whether to laugh or cry but laughter seemed the more obvious choice. I phoned my best, mate Joanna an told her all about it and we laughed and laughed at this water fetish weirdy and thanked our lucky stars that I was still alive.
Of course the next day I got a call from my agent saying, she didn't know why, but the Dive Show job had been cancelled and even though I'd signed a contract, there was nothing I could do about it. Twelve grand down and with a disgruntled agent, I still never told her or anyone but my friend Joanna about it for ages.
I should have reported him I guess but I was un-harmed both physically and psychologically.
Even though I said at the start of this, that men get it easier in the work place, this sort of thing happens to men all the time, again, you only have to look at those poor footballers who have finally come out and said that they were abused. It's easy to abuse children and young people who are in pursuit of a dream like becoming a footballer or an actor, because they just want to please anyone that they think will help them.
In some ways men are more vulnerable when it comes to this sort of thing because they really don't think they can speak out and that even if they do, no one will listen to them or they will laugh at them because they are men. I know for a fact that in show business certainly, it happens to men just as much as it happens to us girls. Yes, men do have it easier in general but actually a lot more is expected of them too.
So whether your baby is a little boy or a little girl there are pros and cons to either sex and it's up to us to empower them both equally, while allowing them to nurture their natural differences.
Little boys could easily been seen to be made of snips and snails and puppies dogs tails and little girls may be made of sugar and spice and all things nice - but oh my they are both so cute and only we can make the difference to who they become in the future by respecting who they are now and protecting them from the vampires of this world.