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My Invisible Friend

November 20, 2011

My Invisible FriendEver since I was little, I’ve had invisible friends. When I was very young, they were mostly imaginary little girls (like me). Sometimes, though, I’d talk to invisible animals (cats mostly; a rabbit once; a pony or two; a magical carousel house – in hindsight, I’m surprised I don’t remember having an invisible donkey friend). Invisible friends were always great to have around because not only could no one else see them, but they listened to your secret hopes and dreams, shared your fears, understood why you did ‘bad things’ and never criticized or condemned you.  Quite simply – they loved you no matter what.  They were the absolute bestest kind of friends you could possibly have! 

NOTE: Invisible friends are different from the stuffed animals or dolls that children never leave home without – those are more like ‘security blankets’ that give a child ‘someone’ (or something) to talk to during long car trips, visits to the grocery store, or interminably boring sits in the doctor’s waiting room.  They can be seen – and spoken to – by others.  My BearsMy favourite stuffed animals were Teddy – a jointed Merry Thoughts teddy bear that my father bought as a gift for my sister when I was born, but that somehow I claimed; Doc –  another, slightly larger, bear who (according to some myth my sister and I made up) could cure you of the hiccups; and Cuddles – a small Steiff bear (who originally had a squeaker in his belly) that my mother bought half price at a very expensive children’s clothing store in downtown Oakville when I was about eight. Interestingly enough, these much-loved toys are now considered rare and valuable collectibles (although perhaps not so much in the shape they’re in).  I still have them – along with several other toys from my childhood – but I don’t carry them with me anymore, and I only occasionally talk to them!

DiaryDuring my pre-teen and early teen years, I wrote my innermost thoughts in my diary (I bought them for 10 cents at the ‘five and dime store’; they were small with tiny brass locks on them that ensured no one else could read what you’d written).  The diary became my ‘invisible friend’ – I could write whatever was on my mind, or pour out my heart, and only the pages of the diary ‘heard’ me.  I have absolutely no idea what happened to those diaries (I had at least three over several years); I suppose I must have thrown them out when I ‘grew up’ and got married.

For the next thirty years, I was too busy to think about invisible friends. I had jobs, kids, shopping, housework, and assorted other responsibilities which left little time for flights of fancy or wishful thinking – it was difficult enough to just get through each day with some semblance of my sanity intact.  But there were times – mostly when I wasn’t really paying attention – when I’d find myself mumbling away, half out loud, to no one at all. (I found I could get away with this in the privacy of my own home by ‘suggesting’ to myself that I was talking to the cat, or in public if I had a child in the grocery cart or the stroller, or strapped into the back seat of the car; if I was in public by myself, people would sidle away from me or look at me as if I’d just escaped from the loony bin!)   

Sharing Juice with Hender and BenderMy oldest son had two invisible friends when he was little – he called them Hender and Bender.  I honestly can’t tell you if Hender and Bender were ‘human’ or some type of animal (or vegetable or mineral); I’m not sure he knew himself.  I can tell you that Hender and Bender joined us for innumerable snacks, lunches, and trips to just about everywhere.  My son always knew exactly where they were and the rest of us had to be careful not to sit on them, or otherwise invade their ‘space’.  My son (now 30) claims he doesn’t remember Hender and Bender.  He was probably only about three or four when they became a part of our family, and they were only around for eight or so months, so I suppose he was too young for them to have been permanently imprinted in his memory. I have no idea where they went, or why they left, and I don’t recall him ever having (or at least – ever mentioning) any more invisible friends.

Son #2 never openly discussed having an invisible friend, but I would often find him talking away to no one at all when he was playing.  I think probably all children do that at one time or another. I wonder when (and why) we stop?

Recently, I’ve noticed more and more people ‘of a certain age’ talking to themselves, and often quite loudly (at least, loud enough that I can understand some of what they’re saying, and occasionally at a level where I actually turn to answer them – thinking they’re speaking to me).  I would think (to myself, of course), ‘How sad …’   Then, just the other day, I was walking around the grocery store ‘thinking’ to myself (things like ‘I have to remember to pick up sugar’, ‘Where have they put the damn crackers?’ ‘Did I get milk yesterday or was that last week?’ ) when another shopper (a man) turned to me in the cereal aisle and said ‘Are you asking my opinion?’.  Immediately I thought, ‘Oh, no, I’m one of them!’  I was horrified at first, then humbled. ‘Just another sign of my age’, I told myself, chagrined.  But then, on the way home, another option occurred to me:  ‘Maybe,’ I considered, ‘I wasn’t talking to myself at all – maybe I was talking to my invisible friend.’

Talking on a cellphoneI see people in the grocery store (and just about everywhere else) all the time with their ears pressed up against their cell phones, carrying on all kinds of conversations, and I’ve often wondered ‘Who are they talking to?’ (and/or ‘Who do they really need to be talking to while they’re doing their grocery shopping?’). And I‘ve come to the conclusion that most of them probably aren’t really talking to anyone – they’re carrying on ‘pretend’ conversations with their own invisible friends – they’re just simply using the cell phone as a prop so they don’t foolish. It’s brilliant!

Wireless HeadsetNow, I know I’d have a hard time walking around pushing a shopping cart with one hand and holding onto a cell phone with the other while trying to figure out which aisles I’ve been down (or not) – but I think I’ve come up with an even more ingenious solution!  I’m going to get myself one of those wireless headsets (the ‘hands free’ devices that are supposed to make it safe for you to talk on your cell phone while driving or performing brain surgery) and tuck it behind my ear when I go shopping (I might even give it a name – ‘Boris’ comes to mind). That way, when I’m wandering around the store looking for wax paper or taco shells and muttering to myself, people will think I’m really talking to someone on the other end (I could even affect a sexy Pottsylvanian accent – ‘Boris, dahlink, are we out of eggs?’).  Problem solved!  No one will think I’m a batty old woman who’s talking to herself – instead, they’ll think I’m some sort hip, urbane spy who just happens to be on … the other side of 55.

Spies on the other side of 55

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10 Comments
  1. December 1, 2011 9:33 am

    Laughing! I’ve caught myself talking out loud at the store too,and doing it before I realized I was talking out loud. But, I grew up an only child so I had to pretty much entertain myself until I was school age, so I’m kind of used to the lone conversations. My stuffed animals, pet dog and cat were the audiences to my one sided conversations. I don’t remember having an invisible friend but my sons laugh at my stories of how I played checkers and other games alone. I didn’t even always win! Maybe I did have an invisible friend.

    So true about the cell phone observations! I love the idea of the headset. ~Leslie

    • December 1, 2011 9:44 am

      I think I’ve probably always talked to myself (I tell my husband it’s the only way I get the answers I want to questions I’m asking – and I always know that the conversation will be taking place at a level of intelligence I can deal with!) I used to sort of go ‘tch tch’ when I’d catch my mother mumbling out loud to herself; now that I do it, I feel kind of guilty for that!

      Margo

  2. November 23, 2011 9:58 pm

    🙂 . I have to admit your suspicions are spot on!

    I originally started doing this at fast food places or at other food places where the menu is on the wall. I would ‘talk to my friend’ on my cell phone and discuss choices and possibilities so that i wouldn’t look like a weirdo who cant make up his mind.

    In time i found i tended to do it whenever i was standing around in public and bored.

    • November 24, 2011 9:00 am

      What other people don’t know can’t hurt them (or us!)

      Margo

  3. November 21, 2011 8:18 am

    The next best thing to talking to an invisible friend is hearing those cell phone conversations and turning around to ask “Are you talking to me?” Of course they aren’t; they are on their cell phone engaged with someone else. Silly me that I still instinctively want to respond. This was very funny.

    • November 21, 2011 9:39 pm

      Sometimes I’m tempted to say “You talkin’ to me?” just to let them know that they’re ‘private’ conversation is being heard by others because they are YELLING INTO THE PHONE. I never use my cell phone in public (it’s for emergencies only) and when I must make a call on it (usually because I’m late or I’m lost) my husband complains he can barely hear me because I’m whispering. There’s little enough privacy in today’s world – why would anyone want to share their phone conversations with strangers? YUCK!

      Margo

  4. November 20, 2011 12:16 pm

    Brilliant!

  5. November 20, 2011 12:14 pm

    I see people walking around with that ‘blue tooth’ thingy in their ears and initially think they’re talking to themselves. Then I realize that they’re really on the phone…mainly because they’re talking so darn LOUD! At least people talking to themselves have enough consideration not to intentionally share their conversations with everyone within 50 feet.
    P.S. I also had an invisible friend when I was little…she looked surprisingly like Tinkerbell…and could fly!

    • November 20, 2011 2:16 pm

      I think stores should have signal blockers so people can’t talk on their cell phones, etc. while they’re shopping (certainly theatres and such should). I really don’t enjoying hearing about other people’s deepest, darkest secrets while I’m buying toilet paper and cheese.

      Margo

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