I’ve been reading a lot about women and aging. I am fairly accepting of the aging process, but it doesn’t hurt to get other perspectives to help me with my journey.
One theme I’ve picked up in a number of articles are women feeling like they’ve turned invisible now that they aren’t young anymore.
First of all, I am not negating the feelings of any woman who feels like she’s become invisible and mourning the passing of her youthful looks. I am not minimizing the sadness a woman feels when she realizes her days of getting cat-called are in her rearview mirror. We all feel the way we feel.
That being said, I’ve never felt invisible. I am one hundred percent corporeal. And I weigh more than I did when I was young, so there is even more of me to see now.
This isn’t to say that I don’t sometimes feel wistful about my youth.
I am not the most photogenic human and I rarely like images of myself. My husband, Randy, disagrees vehemently. He recently took a picture of me. He immediately deemed it beautiful. I did not.
Me: I have coin face.
Randy: Coin face?
Randy: What the fuck is coin face?
Me: Something I just made up.
Me: It means my face looks like it should be stamped on a coin. I look like a dead president from a hundred years ago, but not their regular face, their coin face.
Randy: You look nothing like Woodrow Wilson.
Me: I’m not even sure what he looks like.
Randy: He was president a hundred years ago.
Me: Fine, from 200 years ago, then.
Randy: You don’t look like James Monroe, either.
Me: I’m always happy for you when you can put that history degree to good use.
Randy: That picture is gorgeous.
Me: Yeah, if you are a long dead president. Or a quarter.
I might not enjoy looking at pictures of myself, whether I have coin face or not, but I don’t feel invisible. I have substance. I am a complete and valid human regardless of whether or not all the boys still come to my yard. To be fair, all the boys never came to my yard. But I did receive a fair amount of validation based solely on my looks. This was a different time. A time when we could still hug each other and dance cheek to cheek. This was a time when we wore our hair big and our denim acid washed. When we could pile in together in a haze of sweat and hormones and dance to Billy Idol.
I could go through a half can of Aqua Net getting ready for a night at the clubs. I had blue frosted eyeshadow and roll-on lip gloss in the back pocket of my jeans. All that effort was spent trying to look a certain way for other people. Every rip in my jeans or the slouch of my shirt was calculated. Important.
It occured to me, perhaps I wasn’t bothered by my new invisibility factor because it no longer is important to me to be validated by the approval of others. Perhaps, I reached a point in my life where I value myself because I exist and not value myself by how pleased men are by my appearance.
I don’t find this an uncomfortable place to be. I enjoy existing in my own skin now. Even if I see loose change when I see pictures of myself. Or, it is possible, that I just grew tired of the effort.
I’m not suggesting that our appearance should be neglected. But when we get to the age where we might start noticing that we aren’t noticed anymore, then we can keep our appearance for ourselves. We can wear the clothes we like and keep our hair in a way that pleases us. For me, it seems blue jeans and black t-shirts please me the most. And I will never wear heels again. Probably.
Yesterday morning, my husband and I donned masks and gloves and went to the grocery at an obscenely early hour. My husband qualifies for the old people early hours at our grocery, or at least he will in 3 months. We decided not to quibble over 90 days and went to get a few weeks of groceries before locking ourselves back in our house. At least I think it was yesterday. It might have been this morning. It seems time and days aren’t a thing anymore.
Anyway, Randy and I each got a cart. We had a plan. We’d get everything we needed and get back to our COVID-19 free vehicle. Back to our hand sanitizer.
He was going to find paper goods and cat treats and I went in search of fresh produce and peanut butter.
I got spinach and lettuce and mandarin oranges. I wanted a few red bell peppers, but the stock guy was blocking them and I also needed him to be at least 6 feet from me. I finally politely asked him if he could step back so I could grab a few peppers.
He gave me a look that said “Lady, your very existence annoys the shit out of me.” Then he started singing Rock and Roll All Night by Kiss.
I literally had no idea how to respond. So, I turned around and picked up some onions.
I thought maybe this is what the invisible articles were talking about. I have reached an age where young men no longer try to impress me. Instead, I get dismissed and, apparently, serenaded.
But no. Nope. This behavior isn’t new. I’ve dealt with jackasses my entire life in one form or another. I’m not invisible because I’m old. That guy was just a dick.
I’m not invisible.
That would be a cool superpower though. Invisibility. Although, if I had it, I’d just use my superpower irresponsibly. And I would definitely have my red bell peppers now.
Michelle Poston Combs writes humorous and serious observations on life, menopause, anxiety, and marriage on her site, Rubber Shoes In Hell.
She lives in Ohio with her husband and youngest son. She stands at the precipice of empty nest syndrome which she finds both terrifying and exhilarating.
Michelle programs computers to pay the bills. She counters this soul sucking endeavor by contributing to Jen Mann’s anthology I Still Just Want To Pee Alone, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Better Homes and Garden, Grand, Vibrant Nation, Erma Bombeck's Writers Workshop, New Jersey Family Magazine, and Listen To Your Mother.