How To Be Invisible.

Invisibility: dream of half-mad scientists, unrealistic criminals and nerdy ten year old boys… and perhaps also you? Who wouldn’t want the ability to skulk around undetected, learning what your world is like when you’re not in it? To be the greatest spy the world has ever known (though technology has rendered most applications of personal invisibility obsolete)? To perpetrate elaborate hoaxes on those foolish enough to believe in the “supernatural”? To run around outside all day in the summer and never fear a sunburn? To be undeniably, irrefutably, 100% see-through?

The advantages of voluntary invisibility are self-evident, but the process of becoming invisible is fraught with challenges. Only the truly dedicated should undertake the task, and even they should realize that their chances of success are wafer-thin (assuming the wafer is very thin).

To start, you should determine if you are “invisibility material.” The following quiz will help:

  1. Are you physically average or nondescript?
  2. Do you have a trench coat? A wide-brimmed hat? A lot of Ace bandages? A fake nose? Goggles? (Swim goggles are acceptable.)
  3. Have you ever addressed a person audibly, while standing right in front of them, and received no response, no response at all… as if you were invisible? (You were probably not really invisible.)

If you answered “yes” to the above questions, things look promising for your future invisibility. But wait: now answer these questions.

  1. Are you gregarious? Sociable? Do you “like people”?
  2. Do people notice when you are not around?
  3. Do you have “friends” who are interested in your personal life?
  4. Has anyone ever told you “I miss you” or “I can’t wait to see you again”?

If you answered “yes” to any of the second set of questions, you are probably not “invisibility material,” even if you have goggles of the non-swimming variety.

At this point you may be wondering why these factors would matter. Invisibility is a physical property, bounded and defined by science. What role could the very human elements listed above play in making light pass through or around a person? Your wondering indicates either a promising social ineptitude that will aid you in your quest for see-through-ism, or a gross ignorance of the workings of the very science you invoke, or possibly both. Whatever the case, prepare to have your dreams at least partially deflated.

Physical invisibility is fundamentally flawed.

So flawed that it’s not probably worth pursuing. Others have explored the reasons why in greater detail than this instructional essay cares to, but the main drawback is your eyes need light to see, therefore any theoretical invisibility suit or field or lotion would have to leave your eyes unaffected and unencumbered, which means you’d be a pair of floating eyes, which means people would know exactly where to poke you, and could make reasonably accurate guesses about where to kick and punch you.

If you insist on using some form of physical impediment to light as the source of your invisibility, The Hairy Skeleton suggests (but does not endorse) Dr. Fulsom’s Old-Timey Invisibility Balm. The lotion renders you completely transparent, moisturizes without leaving you feeling greasy, and it can be applied (with difficulty) to the lenses of the eyes. Be warned that the sensation is not pleasant. Also, be aware that the balm does not work on clothing, so you will have to be naked while invisible, making the balm impractical for application in winter or higher latitudes, and that the balm smells very strongly of strawberries, so while you may be invisible, you will be detectable by nose. People may be suspicious of the vaguely person-shaped region of fruit-scent that occasionally emits small noises and seems very interested in everything they’re doing.

That said, don’t lose hope. You can still be invisible, or a kind of invisible, but it will be an invisibility rooted in mental, rather than visual perception. There are precedents to this regimen, most famously the Burroughs Method (invented by noted writer and junkie William S. Burroughs), wherein the practicer sees everyone around him/herself before they see her/him, enacting the “primacy of perception” principle and creating a shroud of unnoticeability, not to mention a neat little alliteration. The following battery of techniques can be used in conjunction with the Burroughs Method but works equally well on its own. Applied properly, the regimen guarantees that:

  1. You will probably not be seen.
  2. If you are seen, it won’t matter.

Start with physical average-ness. Conform as closely as possible to the statistical mean for height, weight and build. When in doubt, put on a few pounds and hunch over a little. Try to have colorless hair, that sort of brownish-blondish or blondish-brownish that looks like a different non-color in every type of light. Eye color isn’t too important, since you won’t be making much eye contact; just try not to be too striking.

As far as clothing goes, you have some freedom, and you should consider what kind of people you’re most likely to be around. Polo shirts and khakis are usually a good bet, as they are popular, unflattering, and say little if anything about the person who wears them. However, it is important to remember your context. In the financial district, wear a suit. If you live in a hip urban neighborhood, shop at the thrift store. (And good luck: scrutiny and insecurity go hand in hand. With their keen eyes, shaky self-concept and obsessive knowledge of fabrics and apparel semiotics, a young hipster is almost impossible to hide from. You will be judged and found wanting.) Consider moving to a city in a cold climate, where shapeless high-collared winter coats and knit caps will whittle away your distinguishing features most of the year. Like a sniper’s ghillie suit, your wardrobe must be assembled by hand, piece by piece, with the singular intent of not triggering interest.

Be poor, and if possible, dirty. These qualities have worked wonders for making the underclasses invisible, especially in urban areas. Some cities are more hospitable than others and pose a real threat by way of charity and humanitarianism; reference materials can help you identify these nice metropolitan areas so they can be avoided.

Financial stability is no obstacle to invisibility, however. Some of the most unnoticeable people are doing quite well. The trick is to make sure you display whatever success you have in a mundane way, a way that is universally recognized as a signifier of achieved goals but contains no element of personal expression. Electronic gadgets are good for this, but any item that is significant or desirable simply because it is expensive will work, if it costs enough.

Avoid making contact with other people.  Speak as little as possible, and never to the same person twice unless absolutely necessary. You will have to be vigilant and keep track of all the people you talk to, in order to prevent repetition. Buy a notebook for recording your interactions in terse, possibly coded language. Speaking of purchases, the corner store is not your friend. The guy who owns it is always there and eventually he will recognize you. The local big-box retailer has automated checkout lanes and is open 24 hours. Patronize it. Allow friendships to wither and intimacy to fade. Don’t try to rush the process, as that will only draw attention to the decay. An emotional reaction, positive or negative, depends on some level of connection, and connection is a form of knowing. For the prospective invisible person, any level of familiarity should be avoided at all costs. To be invisible is to be unknown.

Good luck disappearing!
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