A couple of years ago I was driven around suburban Chicago by a book sales rep in her mid-fifties. She had a funky salt and pepper crew cut and wore cool Wilma Flintstone beads, a crisp white shirt, black trousers, and comfortable flats.
I told her how much I liked her hair, and she told me it was her post-cancer 'doo. Before breast cancer, she'd had long, flowing locks, but once chemo made it all fall out, she'd said to hell with it. The fact is, she told me, once you're fifty, you're invisible. Nobody sees you anymore, and it's liberating. Why bother spending thirty minutes every morning doing your hair? Why ruin your feet with stilettos?
Mind you, she was attractive, her clothes fit well, she looked great. "I dress for my friends," she said. "We dress for each other. It's more fun that way."
As I said in my last post, I, too, have joined the ranks of the invisible, and I don't mind a bit. In fact, I never liked being looked at. Some of this, I'm sure, stems from having a father who was always checking out women in a way that made me feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. You can do the Freudian math on that one. And I'm a self-conscious person in general, so the last thing I need is a lot of eyes looking me up and down.
Besides, for a natural born people-watcher, invisibility rocks. It is the state that you aspire to.
Lately I've been putting a lot of product in my hair and making it stick out all over, sort of like Laurie Anderson in the early '80s. When you're invisible you can do this. You make your hair stick out, you put on your cowboy boots, you get in your minivan, and you turn up the music really loud. I probably won't dye my hair red, though some might consider that the logical next step.
I see some women fighting their impending invisibility tooth and nail. There are some moms at Our Fine School, attractive women, in great shape who are over forty and in big-time rebellion. They dress like they're twenty-two, wear skirts like they're eighteen, have long hair and very perky bosoms. They look scared to me. I want to take them aside and say, "It's okay. You needed to develop some hobbies anyway. Let's go get you a library card."
The rewards for being good-looking are so great, but it's like a career as a professional athlete. Sooner or later you've got to buy the car dealership and get on with your life, accept the fact that there are younger kids coming up behind you, and they're fast and really good, and no one's looking at you anymore.
One more thing about that sales rep I met in Chicago--her husband's seventy, a retired cop. He thinks she's a hot, young babe. All you need is one person whose eyes light up when you walk into the room. The rest is gravy.