Thursday, March 3, 2011

Invisibility--Some Thoughts

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.


Angela said...

Those last two sentences sum it all up so beautifully. I am so grateful for my One Person. Even when I am invisible to everyone else, he makes me feel special.

Do NOT dye your hair red though. My hairdresser said that over 40, this was the last shade any woman should go for! [green, purple and others ok then?]
blessings x
ps glad pc has arrived

Melissa E said...

"Let's go get you a library card"! hehe...laughed out loud at that one! I have always preferred invisibility! Sounds like you and the boys are going to have a great summer project building that chicken coop! So exciting! I am planting my early Spring garden this weekend too (hopefully!)

Pom Pom said...

What a fantastic post, Frances. I especially like this: "It's okay. You needed to develop some hobbies anyway. Let's go get you a library card."
Ha ha ha!
I had a mom come in for parent/teacher conferences who had very bottle orange/kinda artsy red hair. She looked cute.

wayside wanderer said...

Have you noticed that there comes a point where women check you out more than men do? I think we always have, but now we are scoping out how we age or something.

I pierced my ear with my daughter last year. In the cartilage. Because I wanted to. It probably says something that I haven't told my mom yet. haha =)

I like your hobby quote, too. Don't worry, piercing will not become my hobby. =D

Sandy H said...

I haven't quite decided how I feel about invisibility yet--but I've never been one to wear the skirts like I was 18 (even when I was 18) and the whole perky bosom thing never really happened, in my opinion. I've always been a jeans-and-sneaker type. So while I'm not denying aging, I want to be seen as...something. "Classic," perhaps? Although that sounds disturbingly like a car. For me, it's all about the young women I work with. I'd like to be visible to them in some way--a role model of one way to do adulthood happily, I guess. So while I'm OK with being invisible to certain parts of the population, I'm trying not to disappear to another part. Not sure what that means for my wardrobe and hair color, LOL!

Tracy said...

As long as I'm not invisible to the most important people in my life, the rest of my invisibility is just fine.

I like people-watching. Invisility suits me fine.

Gumbo Lily said...

I just want to grow old gracefully. My man likes me a lot and he's the one I care to woo and impress.

Good post, Frances.


The dB family said...

Oh yes! I love those last two sentences too! I'm turning forty this year and am feeling quite smug about it all. I do think it is the invisibility factor. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!


CJP said...

Good post, I enjoyed it. But I'm wondering why having a decent set of knockers is a sign of 'denial' or immaturity for you. Speaking as a 42 year old marathoner with a body that's WAY better than it's ever been in my life, I am really enjoying being noticed these days. I'm embracing my sexuality as never before and one of the rewards for all the hard work that I do for racing or climbing or backpacking, is wearing whatever the hell I feel like wearing. I'm not a mom, I'm not a wallflower (anymore) and dammit, it feels awfully good to be over forty and happy with my body, at last. In fact, I'd love to get a very tight T shirt with the slogan "This is what a fit feminist looks like."

Remember, a fit woman is a powerful woman. Take responsibility for your health as you age and be proud of the results.

This was a thought-provoking post. I'd like to hear your take on the 'slut walks' that are starting to pop up in the post modern feminist movement.

Best wishes,
Ontario, Canada