It Would Appear I Am Invisible

I am enjoying one last vacation day at home after six days in sunny Florida. It’s mostly cleaning, running errands, vacuuming, doing laundry, and patting the dog and telling her I love her while she looks at me forlornly for no apparent reason. I’m about to start editing my trip photos which I plan to share here, but in the meantime, I have something on my mind.

In the 42 years on the planet I have learned that whether I am “skinny” or average in my weight, dressed up or wandering around in sweatpants, wearing make-up and my hair down, or wearing nothing with a ponytail, men do not notice me.

Let me be clear about two things – 1) I do not want to be whistled at or catcalled, or even hit-on on a regular basis, and 2) I am talking about men who are strangers to me. Not male friends who tell me they like my sweater or my dad who thinks I’m the bees knees.

I just mean that men don’t approach me “in the wild”. (I like to tell the story about that  one time I went with Harlow to a farmer’s market while wearing a skirt, and I got my first and only “holler” when a man across the street yelled at me “Nice dog!”)

But that’s pretty much it. I got attention one other time when I took Harlow out but since she doesn’t do well in crowds she’s a useless wing-woman for me.

While in Florida Sunday night, Shannon, her husband Spence, Libby and I were having a delicious dinner at The Cooper in Palm Beach Gardens. The food was delightful and the company even better. At one point, a man in I would guess his upper 70s approached the table. He was about to be clever and cheeky, that was clear from his approach. He stood between Shannon and Spence and noted that Spence must be a very smart man considering the beautiful company he kept (or something to that nature). Shannon noted that she was married to Spence, and the man left his spot between Shannon and her husband, walked around the table, bypassed me, went to Libby and announced that he would marry her since Shannon was already taken. Libby told him that she too was married, and so after a bit more light banter, he man tossed his business card on the table and left.

Apparently, I am not even worthy of a fake proposal from an old man.

Now, I thought I was pleasantly smiling during his visit but anyone who knows me knows I have very little actual control over my own facial expressions, so who knows. I may have had a snarky look on my face, I admit, because I knew this man wasn’t here to do anything but be clever to impress himself and I was more interested in continuing my conversation with the people at the table who I actually cared about. Still, I have to admit it stung a bit to be passed over, even by a complete stranger who I didn’t care about.

Tuesday morning, Libby and I were driving to Tarpon Springs. Tarpon Springs is on the west coast of Florida and we were going to explore its weird, touristy downtown for a few hours before she dropped me at the Orlando Airport to head home (booo! hissss!). We stopped at a Panera to get some coffee and (for me) a croissant. I noticed the cashier as I put in my order because he had a quiet, appealing way about him, had tattoos on one of his arms, and nice eyes. I think they were blue.

As he handed me the empty to-go cup for my coffee, he quietly said something to me.

“I’m sorry?” I said, unable to hear him. “I covered your coffee” he repeated, but I didn’t follow, still. He repeated himself, saying “I only charged you for the croissant”

My immediate reaction was that he’d forgotten to charge me for the coffee and just let it be rather than doubling back to re-do the charge in the register. Then I thought Maybe it’s a Tuesday thing? He just chooses a person at random and gives them a free coffee?

And then I realized, a man just paid for my coffee. A stranger. A man I do not know, “paid” for my coffee. Since I literally have no memory of this ever happening in my life, I murmured an insufficient “thank you” to him, and took my croissant, still confused, before turning to fill my coffee cup from the carafe.

In a tone that implied what is this witchcraft? I whispered to Libby, “He just covered the cost of my coffee!”

I stood there trying to remember my preferred milk-to-coffee ratio as Libby told me what a nice that was of him to do and by the way “he’s totally looking at your back right now.”

To be clear, I like myself. I don’t think I’m hideous looking and I don’t think my worth comes from my appearance. I feel I am a good person and a good friend and that’s what is most important to me.

It was nice of him. It was very nice. What strikes me is how sad it is that being noticed by a man is so foreign to me that I default to it must be a mistake.  Someone did something nice and I coulnd’t even deliver a proper “Thank you so much! That’s so nice of you!” because it’s such a rarity that I don’t even reckognize it for what it is.


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