Saturday, November 28, 2009

On Being Invisible

Today I wanna talk about something that I've thought a lot about as I creep through my 40's. Hmmm. Perhaps "creep" is the wrong verb. Maybe I'd feel better if I were strutting through my 40's. Not to get sidetracked and turn this into a semantic issue or anything.... but aging.. when it's not driving us all bananas (what with the creaks and the sagging and all the other stuff that comes with it), well there are some shiny bits to consider along with the cruddy ones. The topic of aging has come up a couple of times recently in conversation and I thought I'd expound a bit on an earlier post I wrote about the vilification of aging.

I was never one who banked on her looks. I just never had that kind of cachet. I was plump and a bit geeky looking. So I sort of spent my youth developing my brain and a sense of humour. And working up the courage to wear cocktail dresses with Doc Martens. And trying to duck the kind of all consuming paranoia that comes with being young and insecure.

Do you remember the paranoia that comes with being 15 or 16? You know the scene: you're walking down the street and suddenly you notice a group of teenagers. They are very cool. You recognize this particular flavour of cool because you are not like them. Not. One. Bit. Nope - YOU are awkward and have a bad hair cut, a terrible body image and tinted aviator glasses. The group laughs. You blush and pop into a sweat because you are PRETTY CERTAIN they are laughing at you. You become uncomfortable and want to cross the street, but wouldn't that make your fear and insecurity even more obvious THAN IT ALREADY IS? So you white knuckle it and attempt to breeze on by them. It is hard. Breezing is not something you do well (unless it's in a revenge fantasy.....) You would give ANYTHING to have this moment be over.

And then, you're in your 40's. You are still plump and geeky. But you have come to understand that there are SO MANY THINGS IN LIFE that are more important than not looking like a super model! And about 75% of the time, you are so comfortable in your skin. You don't really GIVE a rat's ass about all that other stuff (except for 25% of the time when, despite all efforts, you succumb to the GRAND NARRATIVE served up by the media and realize that you do not resemble the heroine of this narrative in any way, shape or form.)

Something else happens when you hit your 40's - suddenly, you are vested with a super power!!! Yes!! You become INVISIBLE to most of the world. Maybe this sounds negative, but I have to tell you that it is KIND OF LIBERATING!!! Maybe it's harder for women who WERE able to leverage their looks, but for most of us, the invisibility thing is a breath of fresh air. At least it is for me. I know that I could SERIOUSLY go out wearing my pj bottoms (the ones with the teddy bear astronauts on them), and no one would give me a second look. And I gotta say. I like it! Violet Parr from The Incredibles: you never knew how good you had it!

So now when I see young women struggling in public spaces, I just wanna go over and give them a hug and tell them "there there - this will all end soon. And THEN you can look forward to the aging... and even though you'll get creaky and sprout chin whiskers, YOU TOO WILL BE INVISIBLE. You will finally have that secret super power you've always longed for. And let me tell you little sister - it is so very liberating."


  1. What I find sad is that with all your wisdom, learned experience and knowlege, now more than ever you should be becoming more visible. Unfortunately most of the world looks on aging through "youth coloured glasses" and not with wisdom "goggles".

    I guess I am embracing aging in the same way you are describing but I am seeking out others ahead of me on the journey to learn from and now see visibility in a different way.

    There is a liberty in that which you describe, that being off the "treadmill" as it were. In that I am able to focus on things that are much more important than myself and my vanity.

  2. Such wise words - all of them. You're so right about the glasses through which we see the world. I wonder how different our world would be if we all donned the wisdom "goggles" for a day?

    The liberty part of this is great, but you're right - the price is kinda off the map because we're too busy looking backwards.....

  3. i was once at lunch with an engineer who, after an unsucessful flirt with the waitress sighed and said "it's no fun being invisible to these girls". but he's 60ish, hitting on 20ish women, it's not the same, just creepy