The Age of the Invisible Women
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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?
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.