Long the pursuit of scientists and fantasy of dreamers, I own an item of mythological status. It is – awed silence, please – a cloak of invisibility. I believe it came into my possession when I first entered church as a proper grown up, descending from above as I walked through the doors, covering me from head to foot. What else would explain the difference? I could walk to church and definitely not be invisible. People would notice me. OK, guys would notice me. And I don’t just mean in a Hey-baby-how-you-doin’ kinda way (which every girl loves, obviously) but just notice. Humans seeing other humans.
Once inside, they did not. A lot were married. This meant they couldn’t speak to me. I think the cloak was involved. It couldn’t be that they already had a wife or girlfriend so all other females were unnecessary, even dangerous, could it? No, it must have been the cloak. Sometimes, they would sit next to me for an entire meeting or dinner and not speak to me – the cloak was probably turned up to 11 at this point.
And the single ones? If there were any, the cloak often worked its magic. Eye contact avoided, on other occasions obsessively maintained so there could be no southern drift and no misunderstanding.
Occasionally, whether married or single, there would be normal conversation. Occasionally.
Outside I was, well, normal. I dressed normally, interacted normally. I had known how to have conversations, dates, interests and a social life. I’m sure I had. And yet…“You know that moment,” said a friend, recounting a recent liaison, “when you meet someone and there’s that instant chemistry, that electric moment?” “Er… no.” And I really didn’t. I think I did though, before the cloak.
The times it fell away in church were alarming. Instead of the person I saw in the mirror, those approaching me apparently saw someone quite different. Hence this casual advance: “I believe marriage is a threefold chord intertwined with Christ and that’s what I’m looking for. Do you want to get coffee?” Or this: “My life is terrible. If things carry on like this I’ll want to kill myself. So, where do we get coffee round here?”
I just want normal. Is it too much to ask? To be treated just as me. Not a woman looking for a loose husband to whisk away. Not one ‘looking for a husband’ full stop. Not a predatory seductress or accessory. Not a counsellor or carer. Not a handy volunteer. Not a potential PA or organiser. No role. Just me. A person. A rounded, interesting, interested individual who doesn’t need to feel ashamed of it. And I bet those guys want similar freedom. Not to feel paranoid when they see me. Not to freeze into extreme politeness believing I or every woman will misinterpret and expect a proposal. Not to feel outnumbered, pressured, superficial, uncertain or passive. But for all of us to drop the cloaks and be our real selves. To see. And be seen.