The day I became invisible


I have a morning routine and a big part of that routine is my takeaway coffee. I’ve found that when you work from home, and that work involves sitting in a small room by yourself tapping on the computer doubting every word, a morning routine provides a spot of comfort. A morning routine creates a clear line between me leaving the house as a mother with three kids bound for school missing at least one school hat, a school note and a gold coin for a fundraiser, and returning home as a worker ready to sit down and, fingers crossed, be productive at a computer.

There are a few small activities that help build my line in the home/work sand. The house needs to be in some kind of order – beds made, kitchen clean – before I leave for school drop off. And on my return I need to pick up a takeaway coffee. It makes me feel like I’m part of the adult world. When my morning routine all comes together, just like a Year Four recorder ensemble of Michael Row Your Boat Ashore, I return from school drop off and go straight to my desk, take a sip of my coffee and begin writing. I know, I sound like a lot of fun to live with but I’ve always found mind games give me something to hang on to.

And that brings me back to my coffee. I have a dilemma. First world? Absolutely. I moved house at the beginning of the year and discovered a wonderful coffee place close by. The coffee is spectacular. I’ve been going for months and months most mornings after school drop off like a little lemming – and they haven’t got a clue who I am. I could have flown in from Iceland that morning. This is starting to get humiliating because not only do they never remember my unchanging order, the barista never, ever, says a word to me. I don’t want to have a huge deep and meaningful conversation with strangers, and I’m sure the same goes for people running a business, but my old coffee shop used to ask me how I was going and sometimes even, what I was up to.

At the new place, I wait like a good little girl out of everyone’s way for my coffee and when it’s called I take it promptly and say, ‘thanks very much’. I am at pains to look him in the eye when I do this because, at first, I thought maybe I’m coming across as cold. And nothing. Sometimes his face does that funny little shut mouth, twist of the lips, thing that is neither a smile nor a look of disdain. That’s it. Whether he’s busy with orders or not, the blankness is the same.

Often I leave wondering if I actually exist. Then I think, of course you do, you just tripped over the gutter because your feet are so big. My next explanation is that I am becoming invisible and that makes me sad. How will I ever play charades again?

Nearing home I wonder is this blankness because as ‘you age you fade’? I bloody hope not. Look at the late, great, magnificent Margaret Olley. Take in her body of work, her fearlessness, her kindness, her complexity. Coffee in hand, at my desk, staring out the window, I’m aware that by accepting, maybe even expecting, a human being to look right through me I’ve become an accomplice in making myself invisible. And I’m not. I’m loved and love. I’m healthy and lucky. There’s family, friends, interesting strangers, travel, work, the fact I’m gifted at taking photographs that mimimise double chins. There’s 40-year-old me.

I’m not invisible. Maybe my perceived invisibility at the coffee shop has nothing to do with me (shock, horror). Maybe I’m being blanked in the morning because some baristas are just painfully shy.

Jacqueline Lunn has worked as a journalist on The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and The Daily Telegraph. She wrote a weekly column in The Sydney Morning Herald for four years and now sits at home in a small room writing her second novel. Visit Jacqueline’s Blog here and buy her first novel, Under the Influence, here.

Have you ever felt invisible? How did you deal with it?