I have an invisibility cloak. I don’t want it, I didn’t choose it for myself and I don’t know where to return it. Nevertheless, I have one. It kicked in long before the mask mandate, which seems to somewhat flatten our expressions. I first noticed it nearly 20 years ago when a pretty young girl and her friend were seated at a table in a restaurant where me and my equally ageing friend had been waiting for some time, long before they came in.
“What?” I asked her, “Are we invisible?”
It turns out that, yes, in the spectacular afterglow of youth and female beauty, we are invisible. We have our cloak on. It’s similar to Peter Pan’s ‘shadow’ except that he has to keep sewing his on and ours are apparently nearly impossible to shake off.
Sadly, or maybe not sadly, this wasn’t new to me. Getting old and therefore not eligible for the accepted cultural fuckability index was new, but luckily we only have to get old once per incarnation and it does have its perks, (which deserve to be enumerated some other time) but feeling ‘not being seen’ and ‘not being heard’ were things that I’ve carried since childhood. I wasn’t the star in the family dance I grew up with, that ‘honor’ fell to my older sister and I don’t envy her the surplus of parental regard. My parents were brand new to parenting and I’m not sure they really had much of a knack for it, they maybe should’ve workshopped some of their unbridled rage and over-the-top mean dialogue before launching full tilt into the family thing. Perhaps as a result, I have always felt somewhat unreal.
No wonder I fell in love with the theater, an entire cosmogony of unreality and dreams. I became an actress, among other reasons, because being someone else, someone with identifiable desires and motivations and who was given actual lines to say about them was honestly very, very easy for me, far easier than trying to be myself out in the world, whatever either of those things are.
When the curtain came down people went backstage sometimes to tell me that they had enjoyed the show and enjoyed what I did. Only it wasn’t me doing it, it was some brilliant playwright and occasionally a gifted director who did it, I was just playing at being someone somewhere else. And I knew it.
I’m not surprised, really, when my preferences aren’t taken into account, even by those close to me, even when I’ve repeatedly expressed them. I can barely get a glass of water from a waiter in a restaurant and that was true even when I was still young and fetching.
Sometimes I think that all the Sages are right and that this is all an illusion, smoke and mirrors, a painted sheet as a stage set behind a campfire and that all that is real is this tiny, exact moment no matter where you are or who is watching. Being watched is not, as it turns out, what makes you real, releases the spell, lowers the cloak. Being real just is, invisible or not.