© 2013 Allida

070:365 Invisibility

Last night I decided that the results of my drawing project are usually better in the morning, and accordingly, since I woke up extra early, here’s an early drawing.

Stealth Cat
Since it’s a Gracie drawing, I’m not sure how much needs to be said. To keep the story clear, I accentuated certain colors and simplified some shapes, trying to keep the dynamic and framing of the original photograph.

The other problem if it can be called such, is that my phone doesn’t do well with red and blue, so the colors look a little more extreme in the photograph than in person. I almost like the photograph better, and even the drawing makes Gracie much more orange than he is in reality, so that he blends in better with the chair.

Sometimes, looking at Gracie sitting on his orange chair, trying to blend in, I think to myself, if only I could so deeply enter that feline state of suspension of disbelief, I might do better in life.

What I mean is, although I love being a six foot tall red-head who stands out in almost any crowd, many times I wish that believing that I blend in could make it so. When I was in school for costume design, the other students taking the same majors and minors were almost all other women, and almost all the same height. Although I wear the same or larger dress size as many of my women friends over the years, they think I’m much thinner than they are by virtue of my height. They are surprised when I don’t fit into their clothes because I’m too big.

Living in Spain, where it was obvious within minutes that not only did I look different, but that because I looked different, I was clearly from a different culture sounds at first like it would be more difficult than trying to fit in here, where everybody from all over the world can become an American.But in Spain, once they think you aren’t Spanish, and you happen to look like a guiri,* you can break all kinds of social norms without losing social status since they assign those quirks to your foreignness.

For Spaniards themselves, I should note, I don’t think it is that simple because they have an old culture with many invisible roots that put pressure on certain kinds of conformity.

Here, though, because we consider ourselves a “melting pot,” certain kinds of social norms that I could break in Spain get me ostracized.  This is partly because I’m a local, and I’m supposed to know when to wear what, and I’m not supposed to let myself seem smarter than other people, and being tall and thin automatically means that I must think I’m better than you, which I don’t feel at all.   Mostly I just feel awkward, even now that I’m not an uncoordinated adolescent who can’t shoot hoops.

But it is also because of the very thing that makes us a melting pot.  One of the reasons that people can “become” American is that we have homogenized our culture to the greatest (or least) common denominator.  What I mean is, you go to any part of the country right now, and you can find a Target, An Applebee’s, a McDonald’s, a Starbucks.  You can buy Kraft processed foods, Nestlé products, and often you can even use your “rewards” card from your home grocery store because we have created a consumer culture that makes it so that any Day’s Inn you go to anywhere in the country has the same comforter and prints hanging in the rooms.

This consumer culture is supported by our television, and increasingly by the former last haven of uniqueness, the internet.

Even “Geek” culture has been homogenized into belonging to a consumer class through the syndication of video games, different castes of operating systems, and the places people trek to, be they Burning Man, SXSW, or Silicon Beach.  None of this is entirely bad, it’s just that our “classless” society isn’t really, and even “Americans” don’t really belong as wholly to any of our social groups as we are cornered into believing.

These cultural flags we wear by consuming products that allow other people to place us by reading our clothing, tastes, etc… are being daily codified in our “social media” presence.

Not to sound like an old fogey or a holier-than-thou internet veteran, but I remember when internet communities were actually communities that we (the few participants) used to organize outings, share our personal lives, or try out new ideas.  But with the pervasiveness of “social” and “interactive” media, we have lost the freedom to be ourselves on the internet, instead being forced into branded monoculturization in order to maintain professional and personal distance from the strangers who surveil us.

Well, from Gracie’s dream of invisibility to my own, this has been a long rant this morning, and I have places to be, so that’s it for “mow.”

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