Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Can you see me now?

She was always the invisible one in the family. Nobody noticed her until the day she... traded her suburban mom blond bob for a sassy pink pixie. Then they noticed. Oh boy did they notice.

“What the hell did you do? You look like an Easter Egg!” from her husband as he walked in the door from work.

“Oh my god, Mom…are you trying to make me die from embarrassment?” from her daughter as she got in the car after school.

And the eyebrow raise from her son as he came home from football practice. It was a record for communication so far this year.

The pink was temporary but she didn't feel like telling them that. Not right now. They could wait until dinner. It’s not like they would say much else to her now that they were home and locked back in to their own worlds. Even with the pink hair she would fade in to the background for them. They only remembered her if they needed something.

It might sound like self pity, a bad case of the “poor mes” but she was working with some pretty strong evidence to prove her point. Over the past year she had lost 40 pounds, gone back to school and started a part time job. And nobody had said a word. Nobody noticed that in the evenings instead of watching TV or reading the latest best seller she had been reading text books on nutrition. Nobody noticed that she was busy during the day and had stopped volunteering at the kid’s school. Nobody noticed when her wardrobe changed. Not when it first became so baggy she was swimming in her clothes to when she started buying new things. All with the money she earned at her new job. The one she went to on days she wasn't in class at the community college. That nobody noticed she was attending.

And this morning? Well this morning was the last straw in being invisible. This morning her husband had kissed the air 4 inches above her forehead goodbye instead of her. And he hadn't noticed that he missed. He missed her forehead. Connected with nothing. Air. And he kept on reading the email on his phone, mumbled a goodbye and walked out the door. She had looked over at the kids to see if she was crazy, surely they had seen it all as well, but no such luck. They weren't looking at her. She stuck her tongue out at them just to make sure and nope. Zero reaction. She might as well have not been there at all.

So when Susie suggested, for perhaps the 100th time in the past 5 years, that is was time for a new look she agreed. No more fighting against her natural curls, cut it short and let them hug her head like a curly little cap. The pink had been for work. It was February and time for the annual breast cancer research donations. When she had told Susie about it Susie had suggested doing a temporary color. She hadn't been sure about that but once it was in she had to admit she kind of liked it. It deepened her eye color. Making the blue look almost Liz Taylor violet. It also brought out the color in her cheeks like no blush had ever been able to do. Susie had agreed. “I swear, with the weight you've lost and the new hair you look 10 years younger than when I first met you!”

She had ridden that compliment all the way to work. Where she got others. “Fun!” “Cute!” “Love it!” That’s what she heard all day from co-workers and gym members as they checked in at the front desk. She knew she would have to soak them in because she wouldn't be hearing them at home. She actually didn’t expect to hear anything at home. But pink hair is hard to ignore.

She went upstairs to change clothes. When exactly did she become part of the furniture in their house? A ghost in her own family. Only noticed if something wasn't done. It had been gradual of that she was certain. When she and her husband had first started dating he noticed her. He had to, right? I mean they dated. And then had the kids. Then slowly things shifted. She had noticed that her husband wasn't really listening anymore. She would sometimes stop talking in the middle of a story just to see if he would say anything. And he didn't. Eventually that led to not really talking at all. Who wants to just make noise at someone? And maybe it was her fault, maybe she just didn't have anything interesting to say?

Then it started with the kids. When they were little they loved her. Loved to have her around. Talking to them. Answering the hundreds of questions they always had. And then they got so wrapped up in their own lives, their own friends, they had no time for her anymore. She actually thought that was normal until one day she noticed a mother and son sitting having coffee together. Talking. Laughing. The boy had to have been about the same age as her son, how come he was talking to his mother like she was a real human being? When the boy got up and went to use the restroom she actually asked the woman. “How do you do it? Convince him to spend time with you?” The woman had laughed like she must be joking, “He’s my son. It’s not like he has much of a choice.” She had laughed as well, like that was an obvious answer.

After she changed clothes she went back downstairs and got dinner on the table. Then she called everyone to come eat. They shuffled in silently. Her husband looked at her hair again and shook his head, her daughter glared at her, her son took in the hair and the odd choice in her outfit and raised one side of his mouth in a somewhat quizzical expression. Finally her daughter broke the ice, “What are you wearing?”

She looked down at the dress that was hanging off of her. “This? This is the dress I wore on Valentine’s Day last year. Notice anything different about it? Like maybe how it doesn't fit anymore?”

Her son shrugged his shoulders

Her daughter said, “Yeah? So?”

Her husband, well that was interesting. She actually saw a flicker there.

Then she stepped away from the table, unzipped the dress and let it fall to the ground.

“MOM!” her daughter shrieked.

“Whoa, Dude!” actual words from her son, it might be a miracle.

And as her husband looked at her, now standing there in her work uniform. Capri leggings and a Healthy Start! T-shirt she thought he might actually be seeing her for the first time in a long time.

"What are you wearing?” The tone from her daughter.

“This is my work uniform.”

“You work at Healthy Start? Since when?” Two whole questions from her son. Dying her hair and stripping at the table definitely got a reaction.

“For the past 6 months. I joined last year, the same time I went back to school. Not that you all remember that either. But anyway, I was such a success story for them they asked if I was interested in a job. I’m the new member liaison.”

"You've been working? Why didn't you tell me?”

She looked over at her husband and sighed. “I did. I told you when they offered me the job. You mumbled, ‘that’s nice dear’ and went on with your evening.”

Now he at least had the good sense to look chagrined.

She took a deep breath. She had been planning this all day, now she just needed to go through with it.

“Now that I have everyone’s attention, there are going to be some changes around this place. I've spent the last year playing sort of a game. Seeing what all I could do before you, any of you, would notice. I lost 40 pounds. I changed my entire wardrobe. I went back to school. I got a job. But it took dying my hair pink to even get a word out of any of you. And that’s not okay. Because what I realized today is that if this is a game, we are all losing. Because I don’t want to play anymore.”

“What do you mean?” She almost felt bad for the touch of fear in her husband’s voice. Almost. Until she remembered him air kissing the kitchen goodbye this morning.

“I mean what I said, we are changing things around here. I’m no longer to be treated like the maid, or the cook, or the chauffeur. When I ask how your day was I expect a full set of answers. If I don’t get them I might just start asking your friends.”

The look of horror on her daughter’s face should have made her feel guilty but it didn't, in fact it made her feel great. Finally she was getting through to them.

“And more than that I expect you to ask me questions about my day as well. I’m actually very interesting, you might be surprised.”

And then there was silence. wasn't what she had hoped for but it was what she had expected.

What she had been worried about. If she pushed would they push back? Or would they walk away?

And then from her son… “So why pink? I think you’d look better with blue.”

She smiled. It was a start…

 And Dana's version...Fragile

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