Something strange happened to me last week. I became invisible.

Well, I say, “strange”, and “became”, but I suppose that what was strange was I’m actually more used to being overly visible, and this  was the first time I was conscious of being INvisible .

Let me explain: I was involved in organising a Chinese New Year party for an adoptive families group. There were some 260 participants, most of whom were white adoptive parents. These people know me, even if we’re not great pals. They’ve seen me before and they know my name. But usually, I’m the only one of Chinese origin (apart from their kids).

But this time, I was one of 30 volunteers. And I was dressed the part. And it took me a while to realise that although I was smiling and saying hello, people were just kind of smiling lukewarmly back, not engaging, on their guard. This wasn’t just the usual trench born of reserve and timidity, but a big thick plexiglass wall that separated “them” from “us”.

And I wondered, if I feel that vibe, what are their children feeling? 

4 thoughts on “Invisible

  1. I know what you are talking about because it happens at our culture school. I do try to cross the subtle and not-so subtle lines by which various members of various communities divide ourselves (white, mixed, born in the US, born in India) but often feel awkward and/or obnoxious. Sometimes I know I am being paranoid and other times I know I am viewed with skepticism. Conversations are stilted and difficult. Common ground exists but it is so hard to find. God do I know that tight smile from the inside. That would be one of those liberal white masks I mentioned a few comments ago.

    It would be so easy to just stop going, and then what message would that send to my kids?

    And of course the kids pick up on it. The last time we were there I kept thinking I wouldn’t be there without my kids, which is like a big fat duhhhh, but we white people just do not know how to cross cultural lines and the learning curve is daunting.

    I frequently kick myself in the ass and try to see the world from my kids’ perspective, a world where they have to deal with people like me every day.

  2. I’m embarrassed by my last comment because it shows how inept I can be at this stuff and I SO want to be cool. Sinoangle and Resistance (and Harlow too) I want to thank you for these last two posts, they came at a time when my conscience needed a tweaking.

    I realized my attitude toward culture school has sunk into the toilet lately and I actually ADMIRE the rationalization that culture school somehow undermines your relationship with your child because it sounds so much better than not wanting to struggle through my own racism and social ineptness (which can be very hard to sort fron one another).

    So anyway, I did something today that I often encourage my daughter to do “flushed my attitude” and went with an open face (as maskless as I can make it) and had a MUCH BETTER TIME OF IT making occasional comfortable connections. So did my daughter, who soaks up my feelings for better and for worse like a sponge.

    I don’t meant to use your blog as my personal confessional. Will take further neurotic meanderings back to my own.

  3. I think that perhaps you weren’t precisely invisible here. Maybe the treatment would be best characterized as you being the carrier of cooties?

    Because sometimes they won’t even meet your eyes.

  4. “Because sometimes they won’t even meet your eyes.”

    I certainly was aware that people weren’t really looking at me. Weren’t REALLY looking at me. Weren’t really looking at ME.

    Not exactly invisible, but invisible as an individual human being, as myself in fact.

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