There are so many good things about getting a little older. But a few bad ones too. Renee Fisher, co-author of “Saving the Best for Last: Creating Our Lives After 50,” has found out about one of the bad ones and turned it into something good!
Do you ever feel invisible? When my friends and I decided to write a book about women over 50, I asked a lot of women my age what sucked about getting older. I expected to hear the sagging/bagging/dragging thing, or maybe the memory thing, or maybe even the empty nest thing. But no, I didn’t hear any of that. What I heard over and over was, “I feel invisible.” Well, you could have knocked me over with a pair of sensible shoes.
I could relate to these women. I remember certain events in my own life vividly: My first kiss. The day John F Kennedy was shot. Going (ahem) “all the way.” My college graduation. My first wedding. The births of my three children. My second wedding. The day my grandson was born.
Whoops, back up. As much as anything, I remember the day, no, the moment, when I became invisible. Walking down the aisle at Safeway. Man coming toward me; man passing me; my brain registering: He never saw me. I don’t mean he didn’t oogle me. I mean, HE DIDN’T EVEN SEE ME. I simply wasn’t composed of any molecules that took up space in his world. Had someone asked him if he had passed anyone in the aisle, I’m sure he would have said “No.”
It was a real turning point for me. I never had to think about my visibility before. It was just sort of there. But from that day on, I didn’t take visibility as a given. I made sure I looked people in the eye and smiled when I passed them. I spoke up when sales people started to deal with other customers when I had been there first. I no longer allowed people to cut in front of me in line or to take a parking space I had been waiting for. And I got rid of all the long baggy jumpers I had been wearing just because they were so comfortable. In other words, I began to think about how I was going to be visible in the world. The result was incredibly energizing.
The conclusion I came to was that being visible has little to do with youth or sex appeal. It comes from a feeling of empowerment, and from a belief that I should be noticed. There’s a commercial on TV now that shows a woman all dressed up, coming down the stairs. The voiceover says, “It’s (whatever the product is) the difference between ‘I’m here’ and ‘Here I am’.” That pretty much sums it up for me.
All this is not to say that there aren’t times that I choose to be invisible, to fly under the radar. Sometimes, under the right circumstances, that can be liberating and/or comforting. At other times, it allows me to get away with things, like eating the nuts that haven’t been weighed yet while I’m standing in line at the checkout. Visible. Invisible. I simply want the choice.
Note to the guy at Safeway: If we ever share the same aisle again, I’ll bet you’ll notice me.
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