I was in a doctor’s waiting room the other day catching up on my magazine reading (see “Death, Taxes, and the Annual Exam,” February 29, 2016), when the title of a particular article captured my attention: The Disappearance of Older Women.
Had this been the National Enquirer, I would have assumed that it was another story about alien abductions. But why aliens would want to kidnap post-menopausal females was indeed a mystery unto itself. Perhaps on some planet not yet discovered by NASA they had overbuilt their assisted living facilities? Even for the Enquirer, that seemed a little far-fetched.
As I continued waiting in the space designated for this purpose, I had ample opportunity to delve further into this article to discover that in fact it was a lament. Written by an attractive middle-aged woman (judging from her photo which may or may not have been retouched), she was somewhat bitterly expounding the fact that women, once they reach the age of 50, become invisible.
Blaming this phenomenon on a youth-obsessed society, she went on to cite examples from her recent experiences which made her feel that she was no longer vital or important or noticeable by others.
She stated that men didn’t look up when she walked into a room. She went largely unnoticed by passersby on the street. She could no longer hold the glance of a 30-year-old man on the subway. Gone were her attractiveness and sex appeal, all washed away with the last flow of menstrual blood (my words, not hers). She believed herself to be in a slow, lingering decline.
Wow! Give that woman some Prozac, and save some for me. This was indeed very serious. Had I, too, become invisible but was too busy being busy to notice?
I tried to recall the last time I had walked past a construction site to the sound of cat calls emanating from under the hard hats. Many years ago, probably, and even then, I recall he was a good deal older and most likely had cataracts.
As I checked more deeply into this phenomenon, I discovered not just other articles on the same topic, but also actual studies proving that women of a certain age shared this sense of becoming invisible. And it seems that the primary cause is no longer being acknowledged by men. If this is true, how sad that our self esteem is so dependent upon male attention. But nevertheless, I think I might have discovered at least a temporary antidote.
Older women, want to not be invisible? Want to be noticed by men, particularly younger men? Then wander through the cosmetics section of a department store, or stroll past a boutique selling expensive anti-aging products, and I promise you, you will get more attention than Megyn Kelly at a Donald Trump rally.
This is what happened to me. We were enjoying a visit from our beautiful 24-year-old granddaughter and her 24-year-old boyfriend. (Should I feel badly that he didn’t try to flirt with me, or ask me to run away with him?) I had taken them for a stroll on a famous shopping street in our town noted for its beautiful architecture and unaffordable clothing.
Standing outside of one of the boutiques, was a man, probably in his 30s, dressed in a suit, shirt, and tie, all of which was black. His hair was black, his skin was swarthy, and his face sported five o’clock shadow, not the grungy, but the sexy kind. As we passed by, he spoke. An exotic foreign accent added to his sex appeal. I noticed all of this, but paid it little mind until I realized he was speaking not to my beautiful granddaughter, but to me!
He laughed, he joked, he teased; he was utterly charming. He was totally into me. I was the opposite of invisible! I was a target.
Next thing I knew I was practically yanked into the store, and seated in a chair. He whipped out an elegantly packaged tube of cream which he proceeded to apply under my left eye. He extolled its magical powers, how it would instantly reduce the wrinkles and puffiness, giving me a much younger appearance. When he was done, he held up a mirror so that I might witness this miracle for myself.
I compared my two eyes, and told him I preferred my right eye, as the skin under my left eye still looked the same, but was now greasy. He did not appreciate my humor, nor my lack of interest in his product. I was summarily dismissed.
He stepped back outside to stalk his next invisible woman.
Afterwards, I had to laugh at myself for enjoying this little bit of flirtatious exchange with a handsome “younger” man, even if he was trying to empty my wallet by selling me some ridiculously expensive products that falsely promise to make me look like my granddaughter’s big sister.
So, would I trade the confidence and self-awareness that aging has provided for a few more whistles from a construction worker? Absolutely not. There’s freedom in no longer requiring that kind of approval. And there is freedom in being invisible. Perhaps attention is highly overrated.