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The Age of the Invisible Women

Updated on November 15, 2014

colored pencil image

some women stay in the shadows.
some women stay in the shadows.

The Age of Invisibility

by Annette Gagliardi

I have reached that age . . . the age of invisibility. I am not looking for sighs of sympathy, or nods of pity. That is not my aim. So before you jump to an erroneous conclusion, hear me out.

After I turned fifty, I realized that I had become that mythical ‘woman of a certain age”. I was no longer seen as a sex object, an object of power, or a threat by others. At times, I was not seen at all. I know there are many movie stars who will protest that they are still very sexy into their fifties and sixties. I don’t disagree with them. I never tried to be, nor wanted to be a pin-up girl, even though I do believe I am attractive (And my husband still thinks of me as quite a catch). But, now that I am ‘a woman of a certain age’, I no longer get those interested looks from men, no more cat calls or whistles of appreciation. Even though I am still attractive, I have become invisible as a sex object.

I am no longer competition for other women. I am safe. My neighbor said she knew she had become invisible as a woman last year when her neighbor continually came over to putz around her yard. He said he needed to get to away from all the women at his house. “What am I, chopped liver?” she wondered.

Last summer a house in our neighborhood fell down. It was being remodeled and as the workmen removed various supports, the roof simply fell over. Many of the neighbors walked up to look. My husband and I joined the group to chat and speculate with friends and neighbors who had gathered to look. The local TV cameraman came out and set up his camera. He aimed it right at the group of us. Then next day several people exclaimed that they had seen my husband and my neighbors on the news on TV. They hadn’t seen me. I was standing right next to my husband, but amazingly, the camera didn’t record my presence.

Another person I know told me this story. She had been working at her company for twenty years but was looked over time and again by her company, who continually hired young men. She felt that she had become invisible and had to do something drastic to be seen by her employer as a valuable asset. She cut her hair fairly short and started wearing business pantsuits. She asked people to call her by her last name only. Then she resubmitted her resume, leaving off personal information that applied to gender and age. When her boss called her in for the interview, they had a frank discussion about her value as an employee. She got the promotion.

Recently, my daughter was in a high school astronomy class. She needed to view specific constellations on certain nights during the school year. I gathered blankets so we could sit on something, and drove her about 60 miles out of town around midnight. I held the flashlight so she could see her text and read instructions. On the way home, we stopped for donuts and hot chocolate. Later, when she got her grade, we were talking about the assignment. She said that she was satisfied with her grade, but she didn’t want to do the next assignment all by herself. Hmmm.

Being invisible does have it's advantages. As a woman of that certain age, I am not bothered as I travel around town. I am a benign entity, posing no threat to anyone. I blend into the scenery. One time I was sitting on the bus and two teenagers came aboard. They decided my seat was the one, and they actually sat down – one on top of me!—before they realized that the seat was already taken. Yes, they did apologize. What struck me was their absolute amazement that I was sitting there because they really had not seen me.

In self defense literature, we are schooled to notice people who may be a threat and look them in the eye so they know we have seen them. Not many young people look me in the eye. I am not a threat. I am invisible.

Try this experiment. When you take your next walk, notice whom you notice. You look for the people who might be a potential threat, or a possible partner. You notice purple hair, fantastic costumes, babies, and people who look like new immigrants – just off the boat, or tourists who seem to be lost or disoriented.

Think about the people you see. Could you describe the middle-aged woman standing at the bus stop? Did you see her there? Was it a passing glance or did she not even register? She did not seem a threat to you, so your eye slid over her. She did not seem to be competition either. Therefore she was not registered in you memory.

My friend from church who is in her early 60’s related this story to me. She said she knows that she is invisible. A burglar crawled into her living room through the window right next to the chair that she was sitting in. He didn’t see her sitting there. When she got up, he didn’t see her. But when she grabbed her broom, hit him with it, and chased him out of her house, he finally did see her -- and he ran. “They may think I am invisible or weak, but they got another think coming. “ she declared

I’m with her. You may not see me right away, but I’m still here. I really don’t mind being thought of as benign, non-threatening, and safe. But if you think I am powerless, Honey, you’ve got another think coming.

age of invisibility poll

At what age do you feel you might become invisible to others?

See results

In Defense Of Fifty

by A. Gagliardi

Well, here I am at Birthday’s door--

With happy wishes by the score.

While younger women look and feel

thinner, trimmer, with more zeal.

I’m happy to be where I’m at

with the weight of years under my hat.

No pimpled dates lurk at my door.

No smelly diapers on the floor.

So fifty, for an age is fine;

much better than for IQ or waistline.

Yes, fifty years IS simply great.

But, I of course, am thirty-eight.


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    • savvydating profile image

      Yves 4 years ago

      Your hub is hilarious. As a 55 year old woman, I know what you mean. Nevertheless, I am continually surprised when I go unnoticed, only because in my minds eye, I remain stunningly beautiful. However, as Amanda Severn stated, middle age is a good camouflage. Maybe you and I should consider becoming a CIA agents. Lol!

      But seriously, if things get too out of hand, I pull out the high heels and the eyeliner, and I'm good to go.

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 5 years ago

      Hi metoo,

      Yes. That has happened to me. But on the other hand, my husband gets irritated with me, because when we both start talking at the same time, I am interrupting him. :) oh well. (Check out my hub on retired husband's rules.)

    • profile image

      metoo 5 years ago

      I know exactly what you expressed in your story. Ever start a sentence only to have another person begin theirs as if you were not even speaking? I find that to be the worst reminder that our humanity ends at age 49.

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 6 years ago

      We either see the humor or get quite insane. I vote for humor.

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 6 years ago

      Yes. visually or orally,turning up the volume is a good strategy.

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 6 years ago

      Yes. it is an urban legend, but also quite true.

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 6 years ago

      I KNOW! it is amazing that once that certain (french word here) is gone, you really do become invisible. I'm glad you liked the article. I hope your read more.

    • profile image 6 years ago

      Wow! I wondered if this really existed. I just turned 47 and have noticed recently that everywhere I go, people I have known for years walk past me as if I am a complete stranger. Thank you for giving a name to a very real phenomena.

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 7 years ago

      Amanda, thanks for your comment. I agree, that just being middle-aged is enough. That is exactly what I am talking about.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      No strategies. Just being a middle-aged woman is enough to guarantee a borderline existence level on most people's radar. However, once I turn up the volume people generally do notice me.

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 7 years ago

      Amanda, I like the way you think. When you don't want to be noticed - camouflage. You you have any strategies?

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      I don't think of it as invisibility, so much as camoflage. I've learned to be still and observe. I like to be noticed when I'm ready to be noticed, and at last, after a lifetime of being all too visible, I get to choose my moment!

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 7 years ago

      Hi KFlippin, Yes. I think you have to be mature in order to step back from yourself and look at how others see (or don't see) you.

    • KFlippin profile image

      KFlippin 7 years ago from Amazon

      I enjoyed this! and can only just begin to relate to the anecdotes you share, and I imagine mostly women are able to see the humor and the reality of what you're trying to convey .......

    • agaglia profile image

      agaglia 8 years ago

      Hi Fenzero,

      No, I won't hit you with anything. I welcome all viewpoints. Perhaps it is true that some of the passion for life has gone. But, if you believe that, I invite you to read some of my other poetry - for instance "To kiss your burled lips",

      I think there still is some passion in this soul. I am just observing the different reception I get as a "Woman of a certain age".

      Thanks for reading. and thanks for commenting.

    • fenzero profile image

      fenzero 8 years ago from Arizona

      As much as you say that you don't want to hear much on your story, Ill be honest, I did enjoy parts of it because what I depict and what I feel is somewhat different than what you write.

      It's probably not even my place to say but it just feels like you've lost some of your passion. That is something that nobody can help you with but just you! You need to relight that fire inside of you that burned for so long. I feel that you are someone who did a lot across your years but age most certainly doesn't stop you from continuing that, which I'm sure you already know :)

      Isn't it nice though on some days to feel invisible? People can be overly needy, demanding, and difficult and sometimes I'd love to be able to blend with the shadows and just observe everything that's going on.

      I won't keep going on, but find that fire again :D

      Lastly, please dont hit me with something or send your broom friend after me! I made the mistake once of saying something stupid to my ex-wife when she was pregnant and she chased me with a curling iron.. That was the last time I ever upset a woman :P.