You may have noticed that the title of this essay is "My Anonymous Life." I wanted to entitle it "My So Called Life" after the TV show that I found so meaningful and relevant, but I decided that I did not want to be cited for plagiarism, so I rethought the title. Yes, "my anonymous life" works well because, in essence, it describes my life. I live my life invisibly and to my surprise I find that I actually prefer it that way.
I am not the kind of person who turns heads. Rather, I often enter a venue completely unnoticed. For me, that is a good thing. I prefer to fly completely under the radar, allowing myself every opportunity to observe the comings and goings of others without being detected. Sometimes I play mind games, pretending I'm an international spy: "Aha! I spent the entire evening at the party, gathering data, and no one even noticed that I was there!" A major coup, I think, to come and go anonymously. At other times, I might imagine that others see me as completely evil or demented and keep their distance accordingly. Yes, they are intimated by the unknown and unspoken; who wouldn't be? I can, after all, spend an entire evening in complete silence, adding to the mystery of myself.
Besides my quiet stealth, I have one of those faces that tends to be generic and kind of universal. You have no idea how many people have asked whether or not they know me from...well, somewhere. But no, I didn't work here or there or go to the same Ivy League school; I'm just chameleon-like, blending into the particular surroudings in which I find myself.
Perhaps others would be disturbed by the lack of attention, but in many ways I thrive on it. With it comes a certain freedom to just be. I can come and go at will and there is nothing anyone can really do about it. For example, in my volunteer position, I used to ask permission if I needed to leave early. But now I just get up and walk out. What can they do? Imagine the conversation: "Where is that woman who usually sits here? Where did she go?" "Who?" "You know, the woman who usually answers this phone...you know, what's her name?" "Um...I don't know; what IS her name?" Well, what can they do after all? They don't even know my name, lest my phone number, so they can't exactly call me and ask me not to come in. It's great! But it wouldn't be possible except for my anonymity.
Some days I think I might like to be noticed, maybe even well-known in my own right. But I don't think I could handle the stress of fame,with its endless expectations and speculation. It would be difficult to always be recognized, perhaps admired, and chased by the paparazzi. How could I throw my hair in a ponytail and venture out in my tie-died shirt and denim jeans without finding my picture in the tabloids under the headline "Stars Without Make-up" or "Blackwell Names Worst Dressed?" No, celebrity is not for me. But anonymity? Well, for a people watcher who enjoys conjuring fantasies to match the faces that I discover, it can't be beat. Watching people, unnoticed, is what I do. And it is wonderful that my invisibility offers them the freedom to be themselves. Celebrity may open doors and bring a certain connected-ness and power. But anonymity brings a freedom to be that is priceless.