"Are you so and so?"
A strange man accosted me at Charing cross this morning. He needed some details from me and said he'd visited home yday and found it locked.
After 24 years of living in a small town and with a husband in active Govt.service, I can't be too surprised if someone knows me and I don't know them.
But its not a pleasant surprise any more.
It gets me wondering who am I? Stripped of so-and-so-'s wife, so-and-so's daughter, would I get any recognition?
I don't work any more so I've lost that identity which acts a good front that people can relate to. And slot me easily.
When I travel, I do find the loss of identity and instant recognition rather disconcerting. Then I can draw comfort from the people I am travelling with; the group feeling which protects one from strangers.
If I take me alone as a person, then its the clothes I wear, the educated tone of my voice that defines how people behave with me, those I know and don't know. People are reacting to the visual image.
Even this can be misleading as I discovered yday. At a family function, a young woman and I were getting on famously. You must come home she said often during our conversation. During lunch, she asked casually, and what about your kids? I said they were quite grown up. She was taken aback visibly, and said "Oh, I didnt realise you were... you don't look that old." And after that, I could see a stepping back. She couldn't see herself relating to a person a decade or more older. The new image of me came in between.
Without money to spend that commands respect in shops, would the shopkeeper give me any ?
Without all these image-making externals, without comforts given by other people, can I survive on my own?
Without all these trappings, if I had to live in a strange place who would I be?
Stepping out of the supermarket I was accosted by a cheerful beggar woman. When I refused to give her alms she engaged me in a discussion of the cost of soap and rising costs. Disarmed by her cheerfulness, I did give her a coin.
But she made me think, 'but for..there go I.." Could I handle life if I were her with such equanimity?
Do these thoughts trouble other women, other people? Or am i just complicating the life given to me?