I learned quite early on there was a wrong way and a right way for a man to sit. As with most harsh lessons, it came from a bully. The dickhead of the week currently enjoying the school bus’s dazzling spotlight pointed out to everyone how I was sitting.
“You sit like a girl. Poof. Is it because you’ve got a small dick?”
I looked down at my knees and immediately felt even more prim and proper than usual. My default sitting position was with my legs crossed at the knee or bolt-up straight with my legs pushed together, usually a book balanced upon them so I could have free hands while I ate toast or a Pot Noodle or whatever I was pretending to be into at the time. I had assumed it was perfectly normal.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the people pointing out to me that I sat like a woman – like that’s a bad thing – weren’t the kind of people who would ever need to balance a book on their knees.
But of course I didn’t wear a skirt and wouldn’t have to endure boys trying to catch sight of my knickers or put their hand up there, so why would I close my legs? Bonjour patriarchy.
Obviously, I fell into line and did an admirable impression of having rickets just so I could fit in. But I never felt right.
As soon as I left my pea-brained hometown, I gave up sitting like I had a gross-weight of aubergines down my Y-fronts, but the manspreading phenomenon seems to be getting worse. We are almost at the stage where a man needs to have his thighs winched apart just to he can have the optimum angle for taking up more than one bus or Tube seat.
Forever reluctant to come into contact with a manspreader, I have come to dread boarding a bus and seeing no single seats available. I quickly scan my fellow passengers and make a beeline for a woman, knowing it’s unlikely I’ll have to perch on the edge of the seat while her legs point to opposite sides of the bus. As I do this, I can sometimes sense the woman cringe, no doubt mistaking me for a man who sits like a dick-scratching gorilla and worrying her entire journey will be spent pressed up against the bus window thanks to a pair of cantilever thighs.
I suspect the reason men do this is very simple: we think we should. Sitting with knees together and legs in tight is a sign of weakness or homosexuality – both social death, of course. So with this overbearing sense of self-consciousness, we have somehow decided that ‘legs akimbo’ is the norm.
We live in a confusing world, a world of Dapper Laughs and Julien Blanc, who I bet sit with their legs ten miles apart at all times. A man should slouch on a bus, like the world is his E-Z chair. He got to the seat first, and he’s sitting the way that makes him feel comfy – if you don’t like it, you should either stand or just perch in the room available to you, right? Wrong.
There isn’t enough time in my life – and probably the world – to run through these incredibly stupid rules we set for ourselves, that we should do something just because it’s what our peers tell us or that we should have these deranged ideas of masculinity and femininity. I can’t even go into the other reason why I try to sit next to women on the bus – that I’m frightened a man will sense my homosexuality and think I have selected his seat because I fancy him, that he will see the way I am sitting and think I am a great big gaylord.
Every bus is the school bus. Even now.
What you are doing when you spread your legs on the bus seat is asserting your dominance, taking your throne. Sadly, for you, your subjects don’t appreciate or respect you. So snap ‘em shut, bae. You’re making people feel uncomfortable, and unsafe. And nobody should aspire to that.
But we can change. You can change. People can help us change. Sitting down is a bit like listening – but rather than put your lips together an blow, you put your legs together and breathe in. Your cock and balls aren’t fascinating and nobody is going to hand you a bottle of poppers just because you sit with your knees knocking. (Don’t cross your legs though – according to my best friend’s formidable Russian mum, it gives you varicose veins.)
Women, and non-manspreading men, don’t stand while King Splay airs his nutsack to the entire train. Say “excuse me” and sit in the seat, and spread your very own legs as far as you can within the confines of the seat. Like invading ivy spreading too fast it needs a prune, and it needs it regularly.
As most things in life, the rules are simple: don’t be a dick, don’t let others think you’re a dick. You’re not the most important person on the bus. Your legs are not weapons and don’t impress anybody the wider apart they are.
Exert your power elsewhere, in areas you can change, but keep your thighs together, for all our sakes. Be a man – just don’t sit like one.