The Invisible Woman

I hate being short. When my younger sister, Susan, shot past me in childhood, the unjustness of it hit hard. Now I’ve become invisible, and the self pity party is back in full swing.

It seems the automatic sensors on towel dispensers and toilets can’t see me. I stand waiting, my wet hands raised in the air like a prepped surgeon. Nothing happens. I wave. Nothing. Tap it. Same lack of response.

Unlike the paper dispenser, the toilet needs to see that one has left the building. But flattening myself against the cubicle wall doesn’t work. I don’t want to leave without flushing. Doing a funny dance in front of the sensor doesn’t work either. It gets complicated when the bathroom is busy and there is a line-up. ‘I think that woman is tap dancing,’ I heard a woman say during a recent visit to Calgary.

‘I can’t get the toilet to flush,’ I replied defensively.

‘Stand to one side,’ she suggested. Like, duh, I didn’t just try that. Sometimes I’ll leave the stall and wait, one hand on the door so that no one goes in. I begin to feel like the grade ten version of myself. The one who was too short to make the volley ball team.

But it’s not really about size. It’s about being part of something. Being visible. I want the toilet to know that I’m done, like it does for other people. That I’m exiting the room. ‘There you go!’ I want the toilet to say. ‘Good job!’ Accompanied by a flushing sound.

My joyful response to the rare flushing toilet or automatic towel is usually a little over the top. ‘It worked!’ I’ll say to the other bathroom occupants, expecting a high five or, at the very least, a congratulatory smile.

‘Uh huh,’ they’ll reply. I forgive them, knowing that they occupy a different universe than me, perhaps breath a more rarified air They don’t really understand the difficulties of trying to measure up. Of hoping to be tall enough, or good enough  to make ‘Team Human.’ When the toilet finally does notices me, it’s like an invite to the club. ‘Welcome,’ it says, and the flushing away is like the secret handshake of acceptance.    

Published by Judith Pettersen

Judith Pettersen is an author living in Canada. She blogs about her life in the north and the ups and downs of being a writer.

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