#7 A thorn in my side

A phrase used often to describe someone who is constantly annoying you.

As you read this fictional story based in the 1970’s consider how Pete’s behaviour was often normalised & viewed by others as an annoyance rather than what it actually was. 

Here’s some questions to guide your critical thinking. 

Do you think this story is common? 

What impact would these early experiences have on the girls sense of self, as they aged?

Why was Pete not challenged by the adults around him? 

Gill & Tracey 

Gill & Tracey met a comprehensive school when they were 11. They were in the same form & became best friends quickly. They lived on the same estate & started walking to & from school together, often stopping off at the local newsagent for sweets or their favourite magazines. 

They got to know the owner, Pete, well chatting as they used the shop to shelter from the rain or delay the start of the school day. When they reached their 13th birthdays, he offered them both a paper round.

Pete didn’t want them delivering in the dark mornings (not pretty girls like them) so he suggested they do the Manchester Evening News deliveries after school. Their parents were pleased they were earning, plus he was a boss who considered their safety over profit.

They felt very grown up earning their own money. Admittedly, they would spend most of their wages in the shop, & they would joke about it with Pete.

He didn’t treat them like kids, they liked him. 

Pete was impressed with their work ethic & would let them take magazines for free as long as they returned them neatly the next day, so he could still sell them. 

A year later Gill was offered a Saturday job serving in the shop & Tracey the same but on a Sunday. 

It meant they couldn’t spend their weekends together, but it was nice being promoted. Pete paid them well & would let them have freebies. Stationary, sweets, fizzy drinks & occasionally he would suggest they tried reading a magazine from the ‘top shelf’.

They found this funny & grown up. 

Pete would tease Tracey that she was very advanced & asked her about what she thought about when she looked at the ‘dirty mags’. He frequently asked if she had a boyfriend. 

He enjoyed watching her blush. 

Gill noticed that he would frequently squeeze passed her when they were both behind the counter, which meant holding her around the hips. It made her feel strange, so she would stay still until he passed, which felt like forever. 

Customers noticed, but instead of challenging Pete they would joke about  ‘Pervy Pete’ & his glamorous assistants. Everyone laughed along, remarking it was just a bit of harmless fun. 

Pete in his 50’s.

Gill & Tracey aged 14.

Pete paid both girls above the usual hourly rate, often adding in the freebies. They felt feeling uncomfortable was the price they had to pay for his generosity. 

This continued for years. 

It was decades later, when they had their own children aged 14 that they chatted over a glass of wine. Gill & Tracey began to  realise what had been happening. Both women had grown up believing this behaviour was to be expected from all men from a young age. 

Gill was sexually assaulted in her late teens by a family friend & again in her 20’s by a colleagues, she didn’t feel able to tell anyone. She thought they would say it was a ‘fuss about nothing’. 

Tracey had been cat called in the street numerous times, she thought she encouraged it as Pete had always suggested she was advanced & flirtatious. She later married but this was deeply unhappy with an unfaithful husband who constantly criticised her & eventually left her for a younger woman. Tracey blamed herself for not being enough. 

Both women had remained friends but never shared their early experiences with Pete until now.  
Shame & self blame silencing them. 


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