Rhodri Marsden: What do you say to a model who's standing around in bra and pants?

Life on Marsden
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The Independent Online

An improbable sequence of events ended with me loitering backstage at a lingerie show at Paris Fashion Week surrounded by models standing about in bra and pants. You'd be forgiven for thinking that this is the overture to a dubious fantasy tale that ends with said women begging: "But Rhodri! You cannot go! Some of us have yet to experience your barely-adequate half-Welsh sexual technique!" But no, this actually happened, and the story ends with me leaving the building without any lingerie models even noticing, let alone begging.

The sight of models standing about in bra and pants is, in theory, an appealing one for a heterosexual man aged 41 who's never seen models standing about in bra and pants before. In olden-ish times, gazing at pictures in catalogues of models standing about in bra and pants was a formative experience for young boys – although my own sexual awakening consisted of gazing at pictures of distributor caps in a Halfords catalogue. But this Parisian experience was strange and unsettling. I didn't know whether to look or not to look. Somehow I managed to do neither.

Other men weren't so troubled. A chirpy bloke turned to me with a big grin on his face and said, "Phwoaaargh, eh?" I laughed nervously. "I bet your glasses are steaming up now, eh?" he added, conspiratorially. I should have bet him £1,000, because they weren't, but I took them off and cleaned them anyway, partly to dutifully complete the joke, partly to avoid eye contact with models standing about in bra and pants. I mean, what do you say do a model standing about in bra and pants? "Good evening, madam, I like your bra"?

The show started. I stood at the side of the stage to watch my girlfriend, whose role it was to stand (fully clothed) on a platform and provide the music to which the models sashayed back and forth, in that curious way they do, like gazelles with a slight knee injury. As I took some souvenir pictures of this bizarre moment, I suddenly became aware of how I must look. A short-sighted man, with thick glasses, in a grubby macintosh and battered hat, taking photographs of women in their bra and pants. To avoid Paris Fashion Week turning into an episode of The Benny Hill Show, I sighed and put the camera away.