Are We Headed For Invisible-ness?
A few months back at book club, several ladies pointed out that they did indeed feel like they were invisible now that they were of a certain age. It was hard for me to swallow since a) I didn’t really believe that happened to older women and figured it was just in the mind of the believer, and b) the women admitting to it in front of me were amazing, smart, vibrant, still-gorgeous and extremely worthy of second-glances. I tried to dive into this possibility, asking them questions about what attention they got in the past that they thought they were missing and what exactly they were seeing differently in their now-lives. There just had to be an explanation for this, and I wanted to prove it wrong and eliminate it as an expectation that loosely equates to the end of a women’s life.
But here it was in front of me, something the ladies didn’t quite believe themselves until they reached a certain age and noticed it happening to them. It was hard for them to pinpoint exactly what it was that was going on and how they could identify it, although some examples involved waiters and other drivers. I still ponder that conversation from time to time and the things I come up with are probably things all younger women juggle in their minds, until they have evidence in their own lives that makes them feel ignored. Perhaps it’s not so much that older women all of a sudden are ignored by everyone in their peripheral world, but that their awareness of just how much attention is showered on youth becomes even more pronounced. The media inundates us with stories of young-looking women trying to look younger. Hollywood is full of older men actors falling in love onscreen with younger leading ladies. The masses are continually commenting on how old so-and-so has gotten, and voters are typically turned off by older candidates. Women are so accustomed to these stay-young-whatever-the-cost messages, having grown up with them all their lives. But once women reach their fifties and above, the messages probably seem louder and more rampant now that they’re no longer identifying with younger media subjects and movie characters. We’ve now reached the age that doesn’t fit within that world. We’re now on the outside and it feels different. And because of that, we’re more in tuned to the youthful-leanings in our own everyday lives.
I wondered how I will be affected when I get to that point. I grew up mostly ignoring second-glances and being annoyed by obvious stares, probably because it made me feel more self-conscious and questioning of myself. If a guy is staring at me, I must have my clothes on backwards. So I wonder if I’ll miss those things when I’m older, when I didn’t really thrive on them in the past. Regardless, it made me also think about the not-so-much-older generation and made me more aware of them in my own world. I, like most younger people, probably don’t pay enough attention to them but instead wonder why they drive at all if they’re not going to exceed the speed limit. So this all made me stop and realize that we all have histories. We all have interesting lives, and we all want to be acknowledged. So it’s worth it for me to pay attention to an older person who’s standing next to me in line. And maybe what will help me, should I ever become “invisible” is to focus on other people “of a certain age,” rather than focusing on the lack of attention I’m supposedly getting.