One of the more enduring tropes in what passes for comedy these days is the Invisible Girlfriend, whose very existence is arguable; however loudly he may proclaim her wonderfulness, no one else ever so much as sees her, and at some point everyone begins to doubt his sanity.

As a trope, this is obviously open to manipulation. In 2005, I took a shot at subverting it with a flash-fiction story called "Love unseen," in which everyone can see the young lady except the smitten one. An excessively long excerpt:

The dress wafted its way to one of the chairs and assumed exactly the position it would were it being worn by a woman with her legs crossed. "You're the first person who hasn't seen me," she — I'd decided that there was a "she" involved somewhere — said.

"Is that good?"

"I hope so."

"Might I ask what it means?"

She paused for a moment: the dress leaned backward slightly. "When I was in college, I was having a bad case of the Nobody Wants Me blues."

"I know what that's like," I interjected.

"And, well, I went to one of those soothsayer types. Fortune-telling. That sort of thing. And she said that there would be someone for me, but that he would not be able to see me."

"That could have just meant some blind guy," I said, and regretted it instantly.

"That's what I said. But no, she said, he would come to me, and he would not be able to see me, and that's how I would know it was him."

I'd like to think that they lived happily ever after, if only because he's not likely to be asked if this dress makes her look fat.

I was not, of course, the first to deal with this trope. In 2003, Alexander Baack brought forth Untitled: A Love Story, a motion picture in which a neurotic nebbish (Baack himself) meets an actual invisible woman {Heather Aldridge) in a restaurant, and it turns out that she's the normal half of the couple; he has the usual neuroses of a guy in New York City, but everyone thinks she's just flat wonderful, and no one even notices that she can't be seen. (This isn't quite the situation with my story, since in Untitled, she's quite matter-of-fact about her invisibility.)

And after that, I let the concept hang for a while, until Spike Jonze threw it back in my face with Her, in which the obligatory nebbish (Joaquin Phoenix) falls for the disembodied voice (Scarlett Johansson) of his computer's operating system. In some regards, this makes more sense than either of those other stories, since in this version of the not-so-distant future, the personal computer is truly personal: almost everything you do is done with the assistance of a digital entity. Where it gets scary, of course, is the fact that this generation of operating system learns quickly.

Of course, I wonder how I might fare with a truly incorporeal True Love. Jonze provides a sex scene, so to speak, but there's something vaguely dissatisfying about it; for those of us for whom the spirit was willing back when the flesh wasn't so weak, this perhaps provides a measure of reassurance. And inevitably they must go their separate ways, which is something I habitually plan for from Day One but which doesn't make things any easier. Still, I suspect that if I'm ever to get another check-mark on my dance card, it will be virtual in nature. During my three-month absence from the office, they installed Windows 10 on my work box; for now, I'm just trying not to piss off Cortana.

The Vent

  18 December 2016

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 Copyright © 2016 by Charles G. Hill