Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

'I feel like I'm invisible in public - and privately, I'm furious at being ignored'


Columnist Lucy Mangan on why she just wants to stand in queues, do the shopping and order a drink at the bar without feeling invisible.

"When I was a toddler, my mum used to tread on me all the time because I was so small and quiet she never noticed I was there. Over 30 years later, it is still going on. I have no presence. No bar presence – I’m going to start taking my own drinks to pubs; if I’m invisible, I may as well use it to save money.

No presence in shops – I stand at tills with my arms full of potential purchases while assistants make calls, draw up elaborate plans for the weekend together, give themselves pedicures and then go off for lunch, which is a level of contempt that breaches even the generous allowances set by the 1997 UK Screw You Act which I understand exempts all British retail employees from basic civilities in the exercise of modern capitalism.

And I have no presence anywhere else. I got elbowed in the face in the nursery school queue the other day by another mother and she just stared straight through me obviously wondering what had impeded the progress of her arm through space.

I understand why I have no physical presence. I’m five feet two, too lazy and fond of comfort to wear heels habitually, and possessed of no naturally eye-catching features like glowing skin, massive boobs or long, shiny hair (or, to be fair, six fingers on each hand, a parasitic twin or a vestigial tail, though I would gladly sport any of those in exchange for a response to a plea for a vodka and tonic in time to rejoin my friends before closing time).

That’s fine. But other people as short and averagely haired and tailless as myself manage it. They have attitudinal presence. There is something about them that simply says – without saying anything – “I’m here. I’m a person, as much if not more than anyone else! Extend to me the requisite amount of courtesy and attention and no-one will get hurt.” It is driving me mad. How do they do it? What can I do to remedy my lack? 


If I need to be either taller or louder – well, these seem equally impossible to me and to anyone else built like me, internally or externally. It’s not quite assertiveness training we need. We only want people to pay us an ordinary amount of attention. Literally just recognising us as bodies in the world would do for most of the time.

Is it extrovert training? Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe we just need little gavels to bang on counters. But I definitely need something. Because although I am publicly invisible, privately I am incandescent with inexpressible – of course – fury at being ignored. And I’m worried it is building up inside me to an unmanageable degree and will eventually find its own way to be expressed, without my control, and I’ll end up thumping someone to death in the street screaming, “Stop f***ing elbowing me in the f***ing face! Everyone! Stop elbowing me in the f***ing face!”

There must be a better way. My mother eventually resorted to tying an ornamental cowbell her friend had brought back from a holiday in Norway around my neck when I was a toddler so that at least would make some sound when I was in her vicinity. So. Ornamental cowbell. Or gavel. Or fake parasitic twin. I’m determined to get that drink and unfractured face yet." 


Lucy Mangan

“Annoying little sisters, I salute you”

Lucy Mangan

“Dear God, let it rain”


Lucy Mangan: "What's wrong with a bit of trash?"


“Tinder, you’re breaking our hearts”


“Women take more than enough sh*t”


Lucy Mangan: "Sex for chores? We're better than that"



“If you need me, I’ll be in the woods”

Lucy Mangan on the joy of being alone

by Lucy Mangan
01 Mar 2017

“Brace yourself – it’s time we had the baby chat”

Lucy Mangan on why it’s fine to not want children

by Lucy Mangan
01 Mar 2017

“You can take your heels and...”

Lucy Mangan on the high heels debate

by Lucy Mangan
01 Mar 2017

“All hail the big cosmetic surgery U-turn”

Lucy Mangan on a welcome change in the fashion and beauty industry

by Lucy Mangan
03 Feb 2017

“Without divorce, marriage is doomed”

Lucy Mangan on why the world needs divorce

by Lucy Mangan
01 Feb 2017

Lucy Mangan on the art of saving money

“In debt? Allow me to confiscate your cards”

by Lucy Mangan
15 Jan 2017

Lucy Mangan guides us into the New Year

“So here it is! 2017: a user’s manual”

by Lucy Mangan
01 Jan 2017

Lucy Mangan doles out her annual awards

“And the award for the worst year ever goes to...”

by Lucy Mangan
09 Dec 2016

Lucy Mangan on the hope in the abuse headlines

“The silence that protects people who do terrible things is breaking down”

by Lucy Mangan
05 Dec 2016

“Happiness is getting acquainted with Mother Nature”

Lucy Mangan steps outside

by The Stylist web team
04 Dec 2016