They say that women of a certain age become invisible. It’s true, but what if you have felt invisible ALL your life? Throughout your ‘beautiful youth’. I write this not to elicit cries of protest from my friends or to be told how amazing , beautiful, wonderful I am. I don’t want that.. really!!! I know I have a loyal fan base of friends and family and I love them all dearly for that. For liking and believing in me and even listening to me sometimes when I know I am ‘going on’. I am just explaining how it feels to feel invisible. I was taught to be invisible. To ask for nothing, to demand no attention, to not have an opinion or even an identity independent of my mother’s. My mother taught me not to draw attention to myself, that I was not important ( when my father died and I was crying my mother said in her angry voice, ” Why are you crying? You were ONLY his daughter!!. I was his wife!!” I always put myself last in the queue but I am learning to change.
Growing up in the 70s, I looked different from most of my English peers. Then, I was VISIBLE for the wrong reasons. I understand that people are not comfortable with difference. It’s the human condition. Now, times have changed and girls with my olive complexion are plentiful. Then, I was quite rare. I couldn’t be placed. I was always asked where I came from and this seemed more important to people than anything else about me. I looked different things to different people…one minute Spanish the next a “Paki” Wherever I went in my teenage years I was mistaken for a local. Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Egypt. I remember a man in Egypt exclaiming very loudly, ” THIS WOMAN IS NOT ENGLISH SHE IS EGYPTIAN!!” I did not go to many exotic countries then, but rest assured the same would happen later in life when I did. I used to think how can I look like all of these nationalities at the same time? All I knew was that I never had attention for just being me. Admirers?? They certainly weren’t plentiful, unless they were too shy, like me, to say. I know it must be hard to believe but the questions made me want to hide and I became plain like an Amish, never drawing attention to myself. Invisible.
I am NOT writing this for sympathy. I lived my life and I know the truth. That was how it was then and how it is now I am middle-aged. I have been so invisible that people have been known to quote me, back to me, and give credit to someone else and I have been too modest or polite to contradict. I sometimes hear myself trying to be heard in a group of visible people. The louder I speak the less I feel heard. No one likes a loud mouth, who speaks over others, in a vain attempt to be SEEN.
The “mixed” people of South Africa were invisible during the Apartheid era and their history is still invisible to the rest of the world today. They were neither black nor white and were therefore overlooked. It was hard for those who belonged to no camp. Their identity was not tangible. A black person can not look white and a white person can not look black, but a mixed person can look many different ways and, within the same family, diversity can exist. As it did in mine. Families became divided.
My mother was the first to make me feel invisible with her put downs. The government of her country had made her invisible and had thereby diminished her to such a degree that she was a damaging and damaged person. Her pride and her ego became enlarged to counteract the shame she felt. The shame the SA government told her she should feel for not being pure Afrikaana. Is there really any such thing as pure in SA anyway??? NO!!
It seems this blog is invisible too, but I am not unhappy because I write it for me and for those I love and those I want to know me and know the truth. Only those who will try to understand and see me. Gradually I am becoming more vocal and wear more bright colours to be seen. I want to be heard and I want to be seen. No longer the shrinking violet of my youth. My advice to the young is don’t shy away from having the light shone on you, don’t hide your youthful beauty away, insist on being given a fair opportunity to speak, if you have something which you want or need to say. Be visible and every time you meet someone who is hanging back in the shadows, lead them gently into the light.