I went on a date with a guy recently. Crazy, I know.
He took me to Antigua, the colonial old town. We walked on the Spanish-stoned streets under a glorious full moon, the air redolent with the smell of hearth fire. He held my hand and pointed out the volcano erupting in the distance and whispered the history of this quaint and beautiful city not yet overrun by corporations. We walked through the ruins of the monastery turned luxury hotel and then found an open bar where we danced for hours like two backpacking tourists on holiday with nowhere to be in the morning on a Thursday night. And when he leaned in to kiss me….well, that’s a story for another time.
I enjoyed my date. Yes, the scenery was magnificent, the non-US setting was exotic, and the man himself kind, intelligent and handsome. But what I enjoyed most of all was being seen. He saw me. Me. The woman. The person worthy of attention and respect. And maybe it was only for a few hours but it made me feel real in some way, like the Velveteen Rabbit finally loved enough to come to life.
In my everyday life, I feel mostly invisible. Unheard. Unseen. My knowledge and perspective are always regarded as suspect or untrustworthy. Some man always knows better. Just this week a guy asked me a question over email that only I could answer since it had to do with my job. I answered his question. Another man responded to both of us and cc’ed other men: “take this with a grain of salt; we’re going to change this,” he said. In yet another conversation with a group of men, I mention the social contract. A man scoffs loudly and repeats “the social contract, ha” as if there is no Rousseau, or Locke, or Hobbes. As if I’ve just made up this term all on my own. Once again I am talking in front of a group of men — talking about a schedule that I have created… “And 40 days continuous time for this unit” I say. A man interrupts my sentence. “Contiguous,” he says. “You mean contiguous time.” I meant continuous as in uninterrupted time and not uninterrupted boundaries but it is pointless to debate men who cannot see you. I smile with no teeth and say “Ah, contiguous” and continue on with my sentence.
You exist in your life like this. Continuously disregarded and ignored. And you forget. Forget what it’s like to have your intelligence recognized or your beauty affirmed. You forget that there are people who will look you in the eye when you speak and listen to you without scoffing or sighing or rolling their eyes. People who treasure the uniqueness and worthiness inherent in your being. So many of us long to be seen. I mean, if no one sees you, do you even exist? Those few hours were a respite. A moment in time where someone saw me and cherished what he saw.
It is a necessary thing to be seen. To have our humanity and loveliness appreciated –celebrated even. I don’t know that many of us get that. I suspect that a lot of us suffer from invisibility. We exist, it seems, solely to be discounted or ignored. And that makes us so very lonely, doesn’t it? Like Beyonce in Lemonade, we ask:
Why can’t you see me? Why can’t you see me? Why can’t you see me? Everyone else can.
Or maybe, no one else can.