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Men and the 'yech factor'

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When I got back from New York and caught up on the news of the email kerfuffle involving Tory MP Bob Dechert, I confess my thoughts turned to TTBI.

It's unlikely you know what that means, but a few of my friends do: It is a new acronym -- the long form is Touch, Taste and Be Inside -- I've adopted to de-disgust the story. Last month, a good friend told me that an acquaintance of his had a bit of a crush on me. Since the last time this happened was perhaps in Grade 6, I was unaccountably chuffed.

"Are you trying to set me up with this guy?" I asked, ever the delicate flower.

"Maybe," my pal said, and a week or so later, sure enough there was a note in my inbox from said acquaintance.

It was a charming enough introduction which ended with an invite to dinner. I accepted. After we arranged the details, my new acquaintance abruptly announced that he had a disclosure to make: He was, alas and alack, already involved with someone else.

But (presumably, this was meant to be the happy news for me) that relationship was winding down, and he would still like to have dinner, but had decided he must be honest.

No worries, I said, in essence. "Let's have dinner and see if we'll be friends, and then, if you're right about your relationship ending and it does some day (not that I'm wishing this), well, you never know."

He replied with further disclosure: "I will not deny that I will want to sleep with you. What a quaint phrase. I'm sure you know what I mean."

That put me off, but my usual default is self-deprecating humour, so I said simply, "Been sufficiently long that I only think I know what you mean."

It was at this point -- a handful of emails between two complete strangers who had never met -- that he felt compelled to say that what he meant "by 'sleeping with you' is that I want to TTBI you."

The yech factor was instantaneous and, frankly, overpowering, but at first I contented myself with a warning that this wasn't the sort of conversation I wanted to have on email, least of all on company email, his and my own, least of all with someone I actually don't know, which, as you may recall, is the case here.

He suggested I was paranoid and added, "If I want to be personally indelicate and say that I would like to TTBI you, I have only a concern about your reaction. And that I don't have."

(That latter was a clever touch. Had there been something in what I said that made him think I would enjoy his anvil approach? I checked. There was not. Besides, I figure, he wasn't being indelicate with his person, but with mine.) In any case, I passed on the dinner plans, at which point he allowed that he'd been "lacking in discretion and tact... I conducted myself badly... but that isn't who I am."

Good night, Dick, whoever you are.

Now, Mr. Dechert's indiscretions were, of course, mild and goofy by comparison.

It isn't the content of the notes he has admitted sending Shi Rong, the chief Toronto correspondent for China's Xinhua News Agency, which is troubling.

"You are so beautiful," the parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird wrote in one. "I really like that picture of you by the water with your cheeks puffed. That look is so cute."

Rather, it's that Dechert seems to have been unaware that at the Communist-Party run agency, it's apparently common wisdom that reporters sometimes do double-duty as spies for the Chinese intelligence apparatus.

But what the 53-year-old does have in common with my TTBI suitor (aside from the fact that both are lawyers, which, boys and girls, may be a whole new reason not to go to law school) and a great whack of other prominent or powerful men in middle age or beyond, is they appear to expect their advances, however graphically described, will be welcome and that they have no compunction about putting them in writing on the most public medium there is.

How grows such a sense of entitlement, the sure conviction that the usual rules don't apply to you? The web is hardly a cutting-edge technology about which oldsters can claim unfamiliarity; email in one form or another has been around even longer.

The best explanation is that this is but a new manifestation of an age-old issue, as it were, and so I defer to what a woman friend of mine famously said years ago -- that just once, even only for a day, she'd like to have a penis, just to understand what that sort of power feels like.

Christie Blatchford is the national

columnist for Postmedia News.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 15, 2011 A11

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About Christie Blatchford

Christie Blatchford is the national columnist for Postmedia News.

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