Invisible At 50? (Day 4)

(photo: My dog is wearing his invisibility cloak.)

“Nobody tells the carefree 25-year old female that in another 25 years she’ll be invisible.”

I took that quote from a 2/25/15 article on HuffPost50 called, “The Taboo That Still Surrounds the Aging Woman.”

The article discusses stereotypes and aging women’s limited options and the way our society confines us through the media, through language, etc. It ends with a call to women to own the lines in our faces, to see our stories as victories.

Good closing point. I agree.

Except I don’t relate to the introductory sentence, the one that inspires the rest of the story, the one about invisibility.

At 50, I do not feel invisible. I actually feel more visible than I ever have.

When I was 25 and “carefree,” I struggled internally. I had horrible recurring dreams where I could not speak. I became depressed. The real me, the one who didn’t want to stay locked away inside any longer, felt invisible. Invisible and without a voice. Yet, for a long time I kept her hidden because I was afraid to reveal her and find out that people only were interested in me because of the parts that I chose to show them.

As a rule, young people look to the world to define them. They are still in the early stages of learning about who they are and what they care about and how to interact with others in work and at play. They’re experimenting with love and loss and responsibility and recklessness.

We learn as we live. We act. We freeze. We listen. We don’t listen. We look outside for approval. We look inside. We build up armor. We bare ourselves.

Then suddenly, we’re older and we realize that the world can’t define us. We are, and always have been, defined by a combination of genetic information and genetic predisposition and personal experience and individual choices. We can pretend that we are something other than what we are, but we can’t hide forever from our physical reality. We also can’t deny that who we are is always changing in microscopic increments as we live.

There are times when I still look to the world to hear its definition of me, but the difference between the young me and the older me is that I know the world is viewing me as a type, not as a person.

The most important part of this is that as a type, I may be invisible now that I am 50 and a woman. But, as a person, I will never be invisible. There are too many people in my life who know me, and when you know someone, you see them.

The best thing about having gone through what I have to get to 50 is that I’ve finally let down the veil so the people that matter in my life can see me for who I really am.

And I am a person of consequence. As we all are.

Maybe I’m missing the point about invisibility. If you can clarify for me what is meant by that, please do. I’m only one person among many and am curious about how others experience their aging.

Is invisibility one of the issues you face?


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9 thoughts on “Invisible At 50? (Day 4)

  1. I feel invisible a lot. Like wallpaper. Men don’t look at me, other women don’t look at me, clothes are not designed for me, products are not developed for me–not the ones I want to buy anyway. I am no one’s target audience, unless they are selling anti-depressants or bladder control products. This does not make me angry, only a little sad sometimes.

    1. I think the product development and marketing piece is very real, but I do question your perspective re: men and women looking at you. Maybe those who don’t know you or anything about you don’t look, but my experience of being around you is that you are very visible, with people constantly coming over to talk to you about something. I wonder why it matters to any of us whether we are acknowledged by people we don’t know.

  2. I hear what you’re saying about the invisibility of youth, Sara. because for sure insecurity and a general lack of self-esteem kept me in wallpaper mode – until I hit about 25. Then I had…and I’m going to be probably more honest than you really want…about ten years of knowing that when I walked into a room, EVERYONE saw me, especially men. And I loved it…like I said, honest. Then I hit my 40s, married with young kids, let my hair go gray, and presto: invisibility. And now, at 52, I know that when a handsome 30-some guy smiles at me, it’s out of politeness, not any sincere interest. And you’d think that after 20 years of marriage, two kids, a satisfying job, and a rewarding second gig, It wouldn’t bug me that men don’t flirt with me anymore, but there you have it.

    After the Grammy’s there was some one-line chatter about how classy Annie Lennox looked compared with Madonna’s trashy bustier & garters outfit. I can say without a doubt that, while I might buy something similar to Annie’s long, black, chic suit, in my heart of hearts I’d want to be dressed like Madonna.

    (I also agree with everything your friend Cheryl said about marketers and advertisers. My bladder is fine, thanks.)

    1. Being the center of attention is addictive and wonderful during “those” years, but I’m glad that is over. However, unlike you, when a 30-some man smiles at me, I automatically think that he isn’t being polite but that he has some sincere interest. So I smile back. And wink. 🙂

  3. I don’t feel invisible at all! Sometimes I WISH I could hide! Sometimes I DO hide (don’t answer the phone, don’t even turn the phone on, don’t open email).

    As far as age goes, sometimes it gets funny. I remember being at one of those auto checkouts and having to read the directions. Some lovely young girl (well, woman, in her twenties) came to “help” me. Called me “dear”. Of course I had my “granny” glasses on as I was trying to read the directions. And of course I could figure it out. But she seemed to feel so good about “helping” me that I let her and I thanked her and we were all happy. 🙂

    1. Those polite young people who call me “Ma’am,” how can I get upset with them? I’m still always surprised by the way some people treat me differently because of the way I look or dress or who knows what. It’s just like that feeling that I just graduated college a couple of years ago even though one of my children is now in college.

  4. At 50, I do not feel invisible. I actually feel more visible than I ever have. –
    But, as a person, I will never be invisible. There are too many people in my life who know me, and when you know someone, you see them. –

    I love these lines. Thank you for writing them.

    I have always struggled with visibility and invisibility. Very complicated. I too, now feel more visible than ever, and pretty good about it. I have finally grown into myself. Took a long 51 years!

    I think you’re right…the invisibility to the world is because the world doesn’t see us as a self…just a type. That’s not so bad, really, so long as we have good friends and family. What is dangerous and sad is when we become invisible to ourselves. When we see ourselves through the blind and judging eyes of others.

    1. It is hard sometimes not to see yourself through the blind and judging eyes of others especially if you are a sensitive person. The key, I think, is to be quiet with yourself regularly (maybe sit by the ocean!) so you can feel who you are and sense the things about you that are real and true. The more you are able to “see” yourself without the interference of other people, the more you begin to recognize your own specialness. Again, a benefit of aging: having more time with yourself helps you recognize and accept who you are at your core. At least it has for me.

So what do you think?