Does A Guy Putting His Arm Around You Connote Ownership?

Of everyone I wanted to meet at TIFF this year, Helen Mirren took the cake. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet her because I wasn’t anywhere she was at (and I was told to leave her hotel– just kidding), but I did learn that in an interview with the Daily Mail this week, she’s not into seeing dudes walk around with their arms around women.

“It annoys me when I see men with an arm slung around their girlfriend’s shoulders,” she said. “It’s like ownership. Of course, when you’re young, you want the guy to take your hand and look after you. But when I see a girl being leaned on, I want to say, ‘Tell him to get his damned arm off your shoulder.'”

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And at first I read this and was like, “Ugh — Helen, come on.” But the more I think about it, the more I realize that every time a guy’s walked around with his arm’s slung around my shoulders, I’ve never felt anything but uncomfortable. Not emotionally or mentally, but physically. Like, great: now I’ve got to try and maneuver around with a shit-ton of extra weight hanging off me. And in retrospect, the guys who walked around with me like that were always kind of the worst.

Now granted, I could be generalizing or stereotyping or drinking the Helen Mirren Kool-Aid because I like the majority of what she has to say. But listen: at 70, she’s seen some shit. She’s been through some shit. And when that shit continues to apply to this younger generation, hers is some much-needed perspective. At least I think so — especially her thoughts on growing older.

“Ageing is an adventure,” she added. “It’s a frightening adventure because health becomes an issue. Growing old is not for pussies — you’ve got to have courage. But then, you’ve got to have courage in life anyway.”

Which, again, preach. At 30 myself, I know some things. Some things. I know enough that I could swoop down to my younger self and say, “Toughen up, kid — life’s hard” and mean it. But I want to hear older people share their stories and life advice and perspectives — even if we may disagree with them.

“At 70 years old,” she said, preparing to deliver my new favourite Helen Mirren quote. “If I could give my younger self one piece of advice, it would be to use the words, ‘Fuck off’ much more frequently.”

Which is kind of what I’ve wanted to say to any guy who puts his entire weight on me as a form of affection. Because what I’m saying is this: if a dude really knew me — or at the very least, wanted to impress me — he’d give me my space and treat me like a person. And unless you’re one of those cuddly people I don’t really hang with, you don’t tend to lean on people when they’re walking to Starbucks.

Not that all my “fuck off” feelings are reserved for that situation or anything.

Tags: Anne T. Donahue, film date, Helen Mirren

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