‘Ladies in their forties are still in the game in a big way.’ Tina Arena, Arias 2015
I turned fifty this year. I would describe my forties as the start of my ‘invisible phase’ – at least, it was during those years that it really hurt.
But I don’t mind being labelled ‘invisible’ or accepting society’s narrow-minded accusation that I am now invisible, anymore. I may have become invisible physically, but there is a wonderful freedom and confidence within that comes with not having to bother as much with the physical side you portray to the world.
Apparently, we women become invisible when we enter peri-menopause and our looks start to fade, our ovaries shrink, we fill out horizontally and are suddenly seen as ‘old’.
Life really is a non-stop merry-go-round of happiness for women, isn’t it?
And the invisibility is not just linked to physical attractiveness. It’s about the loss of fertility and the implication that a woman’s main job on this earth is done.
I have experienced ‘invisibility’ in many social situations, like when you meet new and vibrant young people at a party and recognise that instant look of disappointment that crosses their faces at being stuck with the ‘olds’; or when you are passed over for a job by a younger model or ignored at the bar in a pub.
If ‘invisibility’ is defined by physical decay, I think men suffer just as much, but perhaps most men haven’t been brainwashed into caring as much about the crows feet and the spare tyre around the middle in the way we women do. In general, men have much less pressure on them to look good all the time, having never suffered the fate of their intellect being judged by their looks. But it’s a nonsense to think that men don’t care about the loss of their looks, and when a man loses his job around the age of fifty, we are all aware of the inherent implications.
I joke about being invisible, to make it less uncomfortable for other people. The young barman at our local pub must be so OVER my pathetic joke about why he never asks to see MY ID – I know my kids are. But joking aside, there is no bigger slap in the face than walking just about anywhere with your beautiful twenty-one year old daughter by your side, and being treated as if you don’t exist.
Admit it – most of us have traded on our youth, looks and even sexuality at some point in our lives, so it’s no wonder it comes as a shock to suddenly merge with the scenery and have to prove our worth honestly, through personality, humor and shared interests.
It’s a harder slog, but the rewards are infinitely better.
And there’s a wonderful serenity and enlightenment about becoming physically invisible. One of the wonderful insights we get from ageing is that we finally realize that the people we thought ‘cool’ in our youth, never were that cool in reality. It was the reserved ones, the quietly confident ‘thinkers’ who didn’t need to perform, that were invariably more interesting once you got them out of the confines and restrictions of the school environment and into the pub.
And I really don’t miss the awkwardness of being visible, of being sexualised, whistled at and leched over. I rather like the inner confidence that ‘being me’ has created these days. I can be much more adventurous with my style when I’m feeling it, and when I’m not, I feel so much stronger stepping out for a meal without makeup, rocking my active wear and flat shoes.