I was on a train recently and two women were sitting across from me. They didn’t know each other prior to the journey and I had the pleasure of watching them become friends over the hour. At first, they discussed their families (coincidentally, both were going to visit sick partners in hospital). By the end of the conversation, they were discussing the impact that beauty had on the way they perceived the world and were perceived by it. Watching these two intelligent women debate was fascinating, as one favoured the stance that it was harder to go through the world if you were less attractive and the other, if you were more. I tried not to eavesdrop on their private conversation but when issues of race and gender came into it, I was hooked. Then, in the corner of my eye, I noticed a man to my right trying to catch my attention. I looked over. He grinned, gestured to the women, then held up his hands, opening and closing them as if they were crab claws.

He’d called the women chatterboxes.