Having lived among humans for many years, I can confidently state that I prefer the society of women. Not because I fancy them, of course, although the ones who don’t shave their legs might confuse a randy gorilla on a dark night. What’s interesting about the human female is her susceptibility to language: a well-chosen phrase can have a profound effect on her mood. Female gorillas are splendid creatures in many ways, but they are utterly lacking in this kind of subtlety. To get in their good books, you’ve just got to feed them, groom them and protect them. Telling a female gorilla what beautiful dark eyes she has – or complimenting her on her new hairstyle – won’t inspire anything more than an impatient sucking of the teeth.
This is where the human male often comes unstuck. His natural instinct is to give a woman what a female gorilla wants and leave it at that. The problem is that most women need to be in the right frame of mind before they are ready to play the part of Mrs Gorilla. And getting them into a suitable mental state requires patience, attentiveness and the ability to express an apt sentiment at the correct moment. It follows that men who have these skills are highly prized – and often adored – by the gentler sex. The most famous historical example is probably Casanova, but unfortunately we have no record of what the great Chevalier actually said to his paramours. The man whose technique I admire the most is Butch Cassidy, as played by the smooth-talking Paul Newman.
Back in my circus days, I once saw a slender young woman sobbing alone outside the big tent. She had been watching the show with her boyfriend, but had refused to leave with him after they had quarrelled. Taking pity on the chit, I offered to take her for a ride on the bicycle I had used in my act. This idea made her chuckle, and a few minutes later we were wheeling around the circus tent, she perched on the handlebars like Etta, me peddling away like Butch. She giggled with pleasure as the breeze blew through her tousled hair, and shrieked with excitement as we banked around the tighter bends. No one was singing Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, but the mood of the occasion was very much in keeping with the original soundtrack.
She was flushed with delight when we had finished our little jaunt, all traces of her earlier tears having vanished entirely. I then escorted her to the bus stop. On our way there she asked me an unusual question:
“If I were a gorilla, would you want me to be your mate?”
I could have said that she’d be welcome to join my harem, but I sensed this wouldn’t quite capture the spirit of the moment. A dose of the old Butch Cassidy charm was clearly in order.
“When we were riding together on my bicycle you were my mate,” I replied. “That’s as good as being married in the Congo.”
I am pleased to say that this remark went down well. In fact, she took a leaf out of Etta’s book by giving me a hug. As far as hugs go, I’d have to say it was nowhere near as tight or as warm as the embraces I have since received from female gorillas. Yet I savoured the very softness of it, which made me feel like a giant fur coat wrapping itself around a helpless faun.
Just then, a young man drove up to us on a motorbike. He got off his machine and removed his helmet, to reveal a rather bovine countenance. He was a big, strapping fellow – and he also happened to be the boyfriend of the young woman who had just been cuddling me.
“What d’yer think you’re doing?” he snarled in what I later learned was a “Brummie” accent.
I responded to this remark with the same light-hearted quip that Butch Cassidy had used to defuse a similar situation.
“Stealing your woman,” I said nonchalantly.
Unfortunately, he did not reply “Take her, take her” in the manner of the Sundance Kid. Apparently they don’t watch westerns in Birmingham. Instead he emitted a war cry, which sounded rather like “Gerrafuggoff!”, and charged like a bull. His girlfriend tried to obstruct him, beseeching him to be reasonable, but he shook her off and launched himself straight at my midriff. I got down on all fours before he arrived and lifted him off the ground as he stumbled over my shoulder. I then did my best to subdue him as he struggled in my grasp, while his girlfriend swore lustily at the pair of us.
“For God's sake, man, I was joking!” I bellowed. “You can’t be jealous of a gorilla!”
These remarks seemed to calm him, so I let him down. His girlfriend then rushed into his arms and caressed him passionately, obviously greatly moved by his reckless courage on her behalf. After she had explained that I had only been helping her when she was alone, he offered me a sheepish apology and thanked me for looking after “me wench”. The couple made their goodbyes and screeched off together on the motorbike. I went back to my trailer and pondered over these events while relaxing in my armchair.
“Well, Bananas,” I sighed to myself wistfully, “you do all the hard work in comforting the girl and she still rides off with her biker boyfriend!” I shook my head and clicked my tongue – and then laughed myself silly.
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