What I can fault them for, however, is the question they asked their token girl member - clearly intended to solicit some sort of hilarious response á la "are you a virgin?" - a question asked to me when I was in year 6. I said yes, and this struck my would-be tormentors dumb, as they assumed I would have said no to this unknown quantity (they assumed, incorrectly, that it meant someone who wasn't married, so they were both struck dumb and plain dumb). The question they asked her happened to be the classic:
Maria, do you like mammary glands?
Maria, a pleasant-looking blonde-haired slip of a thing, didn't actually hear this question the first three times, partially because the Victoria Line was making so much noise, but mostly because the boy asking her the question was sniggering to his mates. Now, I don't exactly think that any of them knew what a mammary gland actually was, exactly. It's hardly the technical term for "boobage", but I think we should assume that, insofar as this group was concerned, "mammary glands" = boobs.
Maria didn't know what to say. To be frank, I wouldn't have known what to say either. I mean, where's the joke? It's hardly a question to which either response to the affirmative or negative would be worthy of ridicule. Maria, for her part, could have said yes or no and she would have been right. Yes, she could like mammary glands, because they provided milk to sustain her through those troubled first years of her life. Or no, she could not like them, because (unless Maria is a lesbian, or bisexual or curious) she does not find them physically attractive. Considering the fact that she appeared to be about 12, 14 at the oldest, I doubt she would have even considered that.
Which leads me to wonder: what exactly did the boys want her to say? Evidently it would have been something devastatingly funny - the grins on their previously inane faces gave that away. I was waiting for the response and suddenly it would have all become clear. We'd all have a jolly good laugh and then throw Maria our Kola Kubes and some football cards for co-operating with us in a jolly good wheeze.
What Maria did, say, however, was not what the rest of the group was expecting.
"What's a mammary gland?" she said, curiously.
The boys' faces all resembled something akin to a photograph of a goldfish mid-gasp. Clearly, they had not been ready for a reply consisting of more than one word. To respond to a question in the form of a question, though? Well, that's just too much, isn't it? I mean, game over, man. Game over. Maria had won, and what's more, she had probably won without even knowing that she was being challenged.
And with that, their stop arrived, and Maria rose from her seat opposite me, and sashayed her way off the train, the rest of the group in her wake.