Monday, 4 April 2011

For Sale: Invisibility Cloak

Someone I know who believes in reincarnation once told me that each new incarnation is some sort of long experiment for our being to try to learn about and correct some specific deficiency that prevents it from reaching perfection. The whole incarnation is geared up to test that deficiency and allow the being to challenge and overcome it.

Although it sounds far-fetched, moments of indulgent introspection sometimes make the proposition rather seductive. If I were to say what challenge it is that I have to tackle in this lifetime, what cross I have to bear (to use a rhetoric more relevant to my upbringing), the obvious choice would be communication.

Facets of it imbue most aspects of my life, from my professional life (Internet, branding, graphic design, marketing) to my interests (photography, singing, reading, blogging), via my personal life ("spinsterhood" and chronic deficit of social skills) or my life away from my mother tongue.

It is the overarching narrative in my life. In some respects, I think I can say that I am rather good at it. In others, I fail miserably, although, as the years go by, as compromises and adjustments happen, the paper-cuts of failure become more shallow and more occasional.

And then there is this serious case of the Mr Cellophane complex.

As Amos Hart, one of the characters from the musical Chicago, sings:
A human being's made of more than air
With all that bulk, you're bound to see him there
Unless that human bein' next to you
Is unimpressive, undistinguished
You know who...

Cellophane, Mister Cellophane
Shoulda been my name
Mister Cellophane
'Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I'm there...
Often, when I am out about town, people do seem to try to walk right through me. When I am in a group, my attempts at contributing to the conversation remain unnoticed, just as my general goodbyes to such a group, which, coming from someone else would be picked up and acknowledged, also usually remain unheeded.

I am now used to this and can live with it but what prompted these long and tortuous musings are two recent examples of the Mr Cellophane complex which are more difficult to come to term with.

First there was the online equivalent of what I have just described. A couple of days ago, I left a comment on blog post. It was the second comment left there, which makes it more difficult to ignore than if it was lost in the middle of many others. Since then a variety of people have also been prolifically commenting both on the blog post and on each other's comments. No one has picked up on mine (though I know that some have clicked on the link to this blog).

The other “incident” has to do with my new neighbours. A small group of us met roughly at the same time in August and September last year, when we were still all new in the building and were trying to find out feet. Social events were organised and it was all rather promising.

Recently however I have become aware of the fact that several little social groups have formed and that people have been socialising.

This is of course fine but I can't help wondering why I haven't been included in this and what it is that I did or didn't do during the initial meetings that induced my ostracisation. What signals do I send out that somehow tell people to keep away?

This leaves me perplexed because there doesn’t seem to be any rational facts to use towards an explanation.

I know that people will probably not avoid me because I look at them (I am always very much aware of my surroundings in the street and I look at people a lot) and that as a result they think I will move aside first to let them by (try it: If you don’t look at them, THEY will move).

As for the group thing, it may have something to do with what AC Grayling is talking about in a (great) interview I read today in the Guardian:
[…] I don't sort of exist. The rest of the world does, and I'm really interested in it. If there's a group of people sitting round, and I think about it afterwards, I always fail to remember that I was there, if you see what I mean.
Perhaps this is all to do with the fact I tried to make myself invisible at school.
Perhaps this is why, like a powerless Harry Potter, I donned some kind of invisibility cloak to avoid being noticed and picked on, even cutting myself off from peers who clearly weren't going to welcome me, seeking refuge reading in the darkened and rarefied atmosphere of my bedroom.

It worked but perhaps I managed it all too well; to the point that it's become second nature and that I can't control it any more. It also means that I missed out on all those years of formative experiences when one learns to become a social being.

I am now very much a spectator in life and a spectator rarely has a say in the action while the actors are not encouraged to break the fourth wall.

The conclusion of this long sorry tale is that I am not completely sure what is going on here. I am not even completely sure that anything is going on at all, other than in my fevered mind.

All I know is that I am tired of it and that I am ready to shed that invisibility cloak so if anyone out there wants to buy it, get in touch.

Be warned though, you may be getting more than you bargained for.

Thanks to @mudlarklives for encouraging me with this post and for reminding me of Mr Cellophane.


  1. I really do admire your writing - it truly is a gift, and one that I don't have. In some ways, I too, have lived in cellophane, and the only way I have found to get past it is to overtly jump to the other side. Call your new neighbours and tell them YOU are going to host a gathering. Step way out and have an introductory party game where everyone has to guess the occupation of each other. I have seen this done, and even the most meek are pulled into the spotlight and are welcomed by the rest. My 2 cents mon ami.

  2. There's a lot to be said for being a spectator, but not when it's all the time.

    If you do find a buyer for your invisibility cloak, could you ask them if they'd like to buy mine too?


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