On Being Invisible
I had always been good at avoiding attention. Starting around middle school, I avoided most social situations, whether due to my AS or BP or both. I was often the kid in class that no one remembered, or no one noticed was around. I did my thing and everyone else did theirs with little need for the two to intersect. For the most part, that was just fine with me. Occasionally, I’d find it irritating, but the benefits usually outweighed the problems.
Then one day in college I realized just how invisible I had made myself. Standing in a group of 5 people, talking about what everyone was doing that night, I said “Let’s all go to King’s for dinner. They have the most delicious chocolate mousse.” I got a nod, an ‘uh-huh’ or so, and people continued the conversation. About a minute later someone said the same thing that I had just said. Not just the same idea, the EXACT same thing. Same wording, same inflection. This time, however, people responded with “That’s a good idea”, “I went there last week”, etc.
People realized that I had said something, enough to acknowledge it. And they had heard what I said, enough to repeat it verbatim. They just weren’t connecting the two.
This was not a one time thing. I mentioned it at one point to a project partner and she told me I was being silly. Then she started noticing it happening.
This invisibility trick can come in handy, when you’re at a family reunion at your father’s second cousin’s house and you know no one. It can be just plain annoying, when you’re trying to participate in a social setting. But it can be a disaster at work. I am a young woman working in an industry full of older men. In a meeting, or other discussion at work, it is important that I give some input to prove that I belong there. I can also offer a different perspective on things, as I have more of a materials background then most. So when I say something, I need it to be heard, and I need people to know that I said it.
Some of this has to do with the fact that I can’t always modulate the volume of my voice properly. I am always whispering things that should be said conversationally, and saying things loudly when I should be whispering. But I think there is more to it. I have to work to overcome 27 years of isolation.
How does one become un-invisible?