Changing Los Angeles: Invisible in Highland Park

Have you been rendered non-existent? Have you invisiblized someone?

From the musical Chicago (Kander & Ebb)

Mister Cellophane

Shoulda been my name

'Cause you can look right through me

Walk right by me

And never know I'm there...

A friend of mine with white hair was dining in Highland Park recently with a dark-haired friend. The waiter ignored my older friend, speaking only to her younger companion.

She was angry: “I am often invisible, erased, clearly not relevant, since my hair turned, and yet I think of myself as valuable and worthy of respect.” She complained to the waiter, pointing out it was she who would be paying for the dinner, and also supplying the tip, so perhaps the waiter might think about acknowledging her existence. Is it true some women, past the stage of being considered objects of desire, are less visible, marginalized, or fair game for insult?

Gary, the homeless vet who lives at Veterans Park at York and Figueroa, was sitting on the bus bench with his radio, singing his heart out to the oldies he favors. I know he does not drink, helps keep the park clean (I live here!), thinks the Bible clearly disputes evolution, (How could all this beauty and complexity be accidental?) and has been known loudly to discourage drug deals at the park. A man waiting for the bus was standing away from the bench. I explained a little about Gary. He nodded, but did not move to sit on the bench.

In some cultures, direct eye contact is considered rude or aggressive, but here it is a requirement of civil intercourse. People unable or unwilling to do it are considered suspect. But it is different in public. I have invisibilized people, out of a disinclination to engage, or fear, or embarrassment. I have also been una desaparecida.

Have you cast the cloak of invisibility over someone?

When do you wrap it around yourself?

Have you been made to disappear when you think you are there?

When is it OK to pretend another person does not exist?

I would love to hear.

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David O'Roscoe November 23, 2011 at 11:13 PM
Janet. A cool and thought provoking piece. I ignore people in an elevator, most people in a waiting room, fellow shoppers, don't even notice people I ignore on the street. I ignore most people in a restaurant, on the train, in a bus, almost everyone on a plane. As you say, all in public situations. I'm an old fart, and one way I noticed I became one is that young women would adjust clothing, or talk about things they never would have in front of me or to me that they wouldn't have when I was also young. Mainly, older people are ignored by younger people. I guess ignoring people around me is something I do when I don't have the social permission to engage them, or if I don't have the time or inclination, or if the casual recognition of them may lead to more conversation than I am willing to have. Thanks for this mental/sociological exercise!
Jay Cee November 26, 2011 at 04:43 PM
As I join the club of an older demographic, I do notice the cloak of invisibility. When I walk/bike in the 'hood I try to make eye contact with those I encounter. It's mostly a safety thing, if the driver and I "see" each other, even if they are on the phone, good chance they won't run me over. As a pedestrian, it's also a check if someone may be eyeing me as a mark. I usually follow up with a nod of the head, or a smile as acknowledgement. Haven't had an issue yet...(I don't worry about the younger generation noticing me, they're too busy texting each other...)
sandra m December 02, 2011 at 02:09 AM
When I was young and cute, I used to get a lot of attention from men. I counted on it to validate me, I admit. But, that's no longer the case, now that I'm nearly seventy. And, I'm okay not being an object of desire. I do want people to pay attention to what I'm saying, though. So, if young people are all online all the time, maybe online they don't know what I look like. They'll just notice that I've been around the block a few times and know a few things.


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