There are a great many of us who have experienced this, and it’s certainly not restricted to middle aged females, which has been my current season (I was going to write reason, but it is my season as well, like the season of the witch). We are many of us invisible, sometimes for certain times, sometimes to certain groups, sometimes to ourselves, sometimes always. Are we perhaps ephemeral, bare wisps of mist that travel silently among society? Or are we just too quiet about our existence? Should we clamor more for attention? But if we all clamor to be seen all at once, wouldn’t that be quite a cacophony? And who would be there to recognize us? I fear we’d still be invisible to those who don’t see us, we’d be as an annoying little mosquito flying around their heads, and they might swat at us and smack us silly.
Good advice has been given, such as “smile at people.” Since I am known for walking around with a glum look on my face this might help, but it only helps in that moment. As soon as I’ve passed from view there is no recollection of who I was, and this is with friends I’ve had for years.
Okay, that was a lie. My friends know who I am and remember me. To them, I am not invisible. Or so they tell me. And what kind of person would I be to doubt my friends? And besides, I am often quit cheerful when out in public. It’s because I love the public, and I love my life, and I love people. Not all at once, mind you, and not when they’re rude and obnoxious, but generally.
But I digress, as usual.
I was also an unseen child, much like a poltergeist who wanders through the house creating havoc. No one knows who is creating the problems, but they’re sure unhappy about it. Once my stepmother and father had a huge blowout, and it turned out to be about me, which was a mystery since I was unclear on what I’d done wrong this time. I suppose this would be the opposite of a poltergeist. My stepmother knew damn well who was to blame for her failing marriage, and it was her husband’s sneaky lying bitch of a daughter. I was 11, but it’s never too soon to learn to be a sneaky lying bitch.
Fortunately, I had older sisters, one from each of the parents, who would whisk me out of the house when things got bad. We’d drive off to go do girl things and return when the coast was clear.
I had brothers too, but they considered me a source of trouble and avoided me like the plague. That, and I was a girl. Still am, too.
Again, I’ve digressed. Please forgive me.
In my family, I wanted to be more invisible, and less invisible, all at the same time. I was mocked for being a prolific reader, and I was shunned for not being cute. I thought no one could see me at all, and then I thought they saw all too well what sort of loser I was.
I was confused a lot.
When I was in high school there were several occasions when my parents, still the same stepmother and father, who’d managed to reconcile despite my continuing presence, forgot me altogether, leaving me alone waiting for someone to come get me late at night (well, in the dark 9 or 10 seemed late) at a deserted school, and only after I called them and reminded them I wasn’t home did they come for me. “Oh, we thought you were here,” they said, “Oh, we forgot you were there,” they’d say.
To give them credit, they did have a profusion of children wandering around by then, seven altogether, though two had left home by then, so it’s no wonder they’d misplace one now and then. Something had to give, right?
I did some modeling in high school, and everyone expressed, if not shock, at least confusion. I had a face made for being kept hidden in the basement, but I had the form of a runway model. Of course it wasn’t anything glamorous, it was for Sears, not well known for fashion, but I had low expectations. I’d stand in the store and be a mannequin, which was okay as it allowed me to be both invisible and visible all at once, but then some punk kid would walk by and say, “How come that one has zits?” which would completely ruin the allusion that I was unreal. I did a few shows at Sears, and a few country club shows, the kind of mother-daughter event those places like to have. My family was not country club material, obviously. The mother-daughter teams needed a couple of fill-ins, “real” models who wouldn’t mind parading in front of a room of people in bikinis, who could quick change into another outfit, do the runway, pop back for another change and do it again, all as filler for the mother-daughter teams who were agonizingly slow. This was perfect. I was both visible, as the too-tall girl on the runway in the bikini who had to swerve to avoid the chandelier (and what kind of people put a runway under a chandelier?), and invisible, as the fill-in Sears model who was just part of the help.
There are many ways to be invisible, and many ways to feel visible. Though if you feel visible, you’re most likely not noticing it because it seems normal. And if you are visible, you don’t realize that many of us feel invisible – it’s not something we like to advertise because it implies there’s something wrong with us. Of course there’s not, we’re just different. Everyone’s different, which is what makes this all so much fun. If we were all alike there’d be a big crowd at my favorite coffee place and I’d never be able to get a seat, and that just won’t do, will it?
Right now I have to run out and be visible for a short while. Then I’ll revert back to my normal chameleon wrapping. But maybe you could tell me when you feel most invisible. I’m not in this all alone after all.