Invisibility

Come, my son, let us go look for a place where I may hide . . . . --Cervantes (Don Quixote, 1605:565)

Keeping reflections to a minimum is necessary but not sufficient for invisibility. Light must also pass unimpeded through the body. . . . --Sonke Johnsen (2000:88)

Not seen. Nonverbally, the condition of being difficult or impossible to see, as in the use of camouflage, concealment, flatness, thinness, hiding, or transparency.

Usage: Animals from jellyfish to humans have devised ingenious ways to be stealthy and to avoid detection.

Jellyfish. In the featureless ocean depths which make up ca. 99 percent of Earth's living space, jellyfish have no place to hide, and thus rely upon transparency to become "invisible." Their clear, gelatinous bodies (the interior as well as the exterior surfaces) allow from 20 to 90 percent of light to pass through, thus enabling these simple creatures to sneak up on prey while avoiding detection by sighted enemies (Johnsen 2000:88).

Human beings. 1. In the corporate world, humans may become functionally invisible by keeping a low profile (e.g., by remaining silent), and by covering their bodily exteriors with the uniform of the day (see, e.g., BUSINESS SUIT, ISOPRAXISM). 2. In private life, human beings spend a great deal of time in seclusion behind closed doors (e.g., in bathrooms and bedrooms) and other partitions designed to shield their bodies from prying eyes. Scientists have determined that too much visual monitoring can be harmful to human health.

Hunter's camouflage. According to Konrad Spindler (1994:147), the 5,000-year-old grass cloak of the

Copper Age Iceman would have provided "excellent camouflage" for a hunter.

Sighting distance. "At some distance, depending on the animal's original contrast and how the water affects the light, the contrast drops below what the observer can see. This distance is known as the sighting distance, and beyond it the animal is invisible (and safe)" (Johnsen 2000:87).

Spy Museum. So cryptic is Keith Melton's Florida-based Spy Museum--which houses some 7,000 espionage artifacts (including concealed cameras and listening devices, dead drops, and an Enigma decoder)--that its exact location is kept secret. "'Dead drops are a way of separating the spy and the handler, by time but not space,' he [Melton] explains" (Schlesinger 2001:53).

Underground. "Throughout history, tunnels hidden below the earth were far from public gaze and thought" (Langrall 1994:4).

Copyright © 1998 - 2001 (David B. Givens/Center for Nonverbal Studies) Detail of photo (copyright by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution)

legwear

LEG WEAR

Although skirt hemlines are no longer much of a concern, form and structure between your waist and your feet is always a critical issue. --Véronique Vienne (1997:149)

Fashion statement. 1. Clothing worn a. to cover, and b. to modify the color, thickness, length, shape, and texture of the legs (see, e.g., BLUE JEANS). 2. Ornaments (e.g., anklets and cuffs) worn a. to attract notice, and b. to accent the leg's masculine or feminine traits.

Usage: What we place upon our legs accents their thickness or taper. Trousers widen the legs, e.g., while dresses bare the turn of an ankle. Skirts reveal, while pants conceal, vulnerable landscapes of skin.

Media. While fleeing from gorillas, giant lizards, and Martians, e.g., leading men (in pants and boots) must help leading women (in skirts and heels) as the latter twist their ankles, stumble, and fall to the ground.

Skirts, women. Though the earliest skirts may have been made of thong-tied animal hides, the oldest-known skirts were more provocative and revealing than leather. Evidence for the ancient string skirt consists of detailed carvings on Upper Paleolithic Venus figurines from Lespugue, France, estimated to be ca. 23,000 to 25,000 years old (Troeng 1993). The string skirt (not unlike the filamentous grass skirts of old Hawaii) revealed the legs and ankles, and when a woman walked, made sexually suggestive movements of its own as well (Barber 1991, 1994).

Skirts, men. Japanese men wear kimonos, Samoan men wear sarongs, and bedouin men wear flowing robes. Men from Amazonia, Bali, Egypt, Fiji, Ghana, Greece, Hawaii, India, Kenya, Korea, Samoa, Scotland, and Tibet also wear skirts.

Stance. Leg wear suggests how solidly--or how lightly--we trod upon the earth. In tandem with heavy shoes, e.g., masculine cuffs define a solid connection with terra firma, as if a man "had both feet on the ground." In thinner shoes and higher heels, feminine bare legs seem to lift a woman above the earthly plain. (N.B.: From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the corporate world, a woman must balance her femininity against the stability of her stance.)

Trousers I. The oldest-known pants were discovered on a glacier between Austria and Italy. The crotchless leggings, made from animal hide whipstitched with sinew, were worn fur side out with a leather loincloth. They belonged to a late-Neolithic wanderer known as the "Ice Man," who died ca. 5,300 years ago. The deerskin pants covering his thighs and calves did not cling, but had a loose fit to enable bending at the knees. Though he may have died in a fall, an artist's rendering of his leather cuffs and shoes suggests that, unlike the Venus figurine, the Ice Man's leg wear provided a stable platform upon which to stand (Spindler 1994).

Trousers II. As consumer products, pants show an Indo-European design of equestrian origin: "To judge from their first distribution, trousers were invented about 1000 B.C. in response to the chafing of tender parts incurred in the new art of horesback riding. The man's chemise was then shortened (shirt means 'cut short') to allow the straddling position" (Barber 1994:142).

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