Invisible League

Like Alice plunging down the rabbit hole, I was suddenly not the fun girl at the party but the dotty auntie figure we humor for a moment before moving on. As older women we are no longer desirable, no longer perceived as anything but taking up space a younger person could put to better use in the job, in the relationship, in life. Age, I now realize, doesn’t creep up, it fells you with changes you didn’t see coming. And it happens at 50. You vanish, replaced by an old and forgettable woman.

This is an excerpt from an article written by Tracy Nesdoly for The Star (see the full article here) about At what age do some women begin to feel invisible? I came across this while looking for random things about age on the internet. One click and I was suddenly bombarded with page after page of written stories about women of a certain age who are invisible and no longer seen as important part of society. The titles are demeaning. Not only for us middle age women but for any woman young or old because whether we like it or not we will be in that position sooner or later. What do you think of: Dating: I’m the Invisible woman,  where the writer calling herself a mere plankton in the food chain of sexuality and the marketplace for relationships. A flimflam, a nuisance, an embarrassment of landfill. It hurts, doesn’t it?

In this post, ‘Invisible’ middle-aged women are fighting back English writer Helen Walmsley-Johnson talks about menopause, sexual, currency, dressing up for your age and hormones replacement. She recounted her personal experience with a group of young boys while walking through the park one day.

They made fun of her brisk walk, then began to crudely share their views on which of a group of passing schoolgirls they wanted to have sex with, clearly intending for her to hear. Tired of listening, Walmsley-Johnson asked them to move on — and to consider keeping their sexist remarks to themselves. They reacted with hissing, noxious anger, calling her a “dried up old c***” and suggesting that if a “real woman” were to talk to them about sexism, they might listen.

I have yet to experience this sort of things. Do I have to consider myself lucky?

I have always been younger looking than my real age (thanks to my ethnicity and good genes- the only good I inherited from my ancestors) not only by few years but by more than a decade, let’s say at least fifteen. When I’ve met my current husband I was thirty-seven but he thought I was twenty-two and so were his family and friends. When I was twenty-five they don’t allow me in the discos because the guards thought my ID was fake. I was once banned from accompanying my daughter to sexual orientation class because they thought I was her sister and only parents were allowed. And so the years go on like that, me being used to getting attention (lots of it actually) I don’t care for and wishing I’m invisible.

No, I don’t wear sexy or provocative clothes, figure-hugging attires will not find a home in my closet, I don’t wear makeup, high heels and go to the hair salon only once a year. In short, I am a low maintenance girl. Attracting attention to myself (any kind of attention) was and will never be my purpose in life and it irritates me enormously getting more than I think I deserved. And I thought it will go on like that till the end. Never cross in my naive brain that it will change someday.

The first sign happened when I turned forty- three. I was in the pharmacy and the guy behind the counter referred to me as ‘Madame’ instead of ‘Mademoiselle.’  I was taken aback. Shocked in fact. It hurts. I was always been ‘Mademoiselle’ instead of ‘Madame’ and suddenly it’s the other way around. I thought then that ‘now the process had begun.’

When almost a decade had passed with nothing or little changes to my status as a desirable woman I again thought it will never happen, until this year.

I am still looking at least fifteen years younger than my real age but I’m fifty-one, and forty isn’t twenty. And gradually I noticed subtle changes. The guys who are looking at me now are not the sixteen years old anymore. The twenty-something still glance my way but soon averted their eyes when they realized in which age category I truly belonged. Their gaze never lingers anymore or check more than once, they bestow me an interested glance which quickly fades and then move on without looking back. I can walk now into a restaurant without commanding attention. There was a time that wherever I walk men (women too but with hostility) stop whatever they were doing and look, and keep looking till I was out of sight. I have out of this world experience related to my sensuality and it’s strong effect on men you wouldn’t believe if I tell so I would spare you the details. I was by no means a ‘beauty’ or ‘femme fatale,’ the truth is I never know why I had this such effect on men, my ex once described me as magic but whatever it is, it is soon disappearing.

And with it comes the realization that I don’t want to be invisible. Not only as a woman but as a human being. I’m getting old yes, I’m losing my magic, probably so, but I still have feelings. Feelings never change. Who wants to be irrelevant?

Deborra-Lee-Furness, in her interview with Australian Women’s Weekly magazine, talked about jaw-droppingly insulting titles of stories written about her (and others who are in the same situation) being married to uber hunk Mr. Hugh Jackman who happened to be thirteen years her junior. She said: “People think a 58-year-old woman doesn’t deserve a big-shot, funny, handsome, movie star husband at all. It’s still acceptable for there to be a million internet articles about being a supposedly unattractive middle-aged man and be able to “punch above your weight” and bag yourself a younger, stunning partner.”

What could I say? I am married to someone 11 years my junior. Do I have to be scared? He’s getting old too I know but everyone is aware that getting old is not the same for men and women. I don’t have to list the differences because it is a common knowledge. Damn the double standard.

Marina Benjamin, author of The Middlepause found an essay from a 1903 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine in which a woman of 50′ used to be perceived as a person of achievement and grace and was “characterized as having ‘distinctive charm and beauty, ripe views, disciplined intellect, and cultivated manifold gifts’.” That is so clearly not the case nowadays, and for the woman approaching this milestone age, there is a good reason to feel anxious, or sad, or pissed off. She said:

“Fifty feels tarnished as an old coin, and worn — worn down and worn out,” she says. “There is nothing glamorous about 50 that I can see, not even in some retro way.” 

How about you? Do you have Invisible Woman Syndrome?

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