Friday, July 01, 2011

Invisible women.......

The Daily Mail has an article in it this morning on The Invisible Woman. First things first here (because I am about to launch into a rant, I feel) (on a few fronts) - I don't read the Daily Mail. It was reviewed on the news this morning and I felt the need to read the article. Possibly because of the dismissive tone of the reviewers. One, I think, is the same age as my daughter. I checked. She is.

Women between the ages of 46 and 60 are apparently invisible. There is hope, people, because at 60 we magically reappear, so I only have 3 years before I will be seen again. Who knew.

The article as you will see if you click on the link, covers a number of aspects, including being invisible to men, forgetful, unattractive, gaining weight, menopausal, low self-esteem, pursuit of perfection, make-overs etc etc. It is only towards the end of the article, that the author makes a comment which should be the focus of the entire piece. Well, I think so any way.

"But in middle age one has half a lifetime of experience of dealing with change. 

The mystery of female middle age is why we don’t trust that experience more."

Read more:

The acknowledgement that the older woman, and I use that phrase advisedly, faces change and loss is crucial. I will come back to this in a sec. 

The article is also accompanied by THE MOST INANE little box on the side with helpful suggestions as to how we can stay visible. You have to read it. Hit the shops. Invest in great jeans. There is more. AND you will be happy to know that the last suggestion is to go for a bra fitting. 

To be fair, the reviewer did say that there was no mention of hobbies or interests. She is absolutely right. But she is 30. It is not so simple. 

Let me tell you a little story about invisibility of a far more obvious kind. 

On Wednesday afternoon, I decided to go and visit a well known store in Milton Keynes. John Lewis . They pride themselves on service. It was 3.30 in the afternoon, and their computer / TV section was not busy. There were many assistants standing around chatting to each other. One or two were dealing with customers. Male customers. 

I was wearing a matching clothes and shoes, with a chunky necklace and earrings. I had a nice bag. My hair looked just fine (under control), and don't forget the highlights, of course,  and I was wearing make-up. I also had a stick. And my glasses perched on my nose. In other words, I did not look like a bag lady. Just not like Joan Collins.

I started looking at iPads. Laptops. I checked the different specs on dozens. And the prices. Back and forth comparing them all. I looked at portable hard drives. I looked for those network thingies to make the computer work if I moved it to another room. I was there for at least half an hour. I went back to the iPads. The assistants chatted on. Whenever I looked at them, they were occupied. The conversation must have been fascinating. They seemed very young. 

At no stage did anyone approach me, or ask if I needed help. At no stage was I visible. I was so mega tempted to walk up to them, tap my stick on the floor with vigour and announce that I had intended buying an iPad, laptop, hard drive and network things, and all accessories - oh and throw in a large TV at the same time - but as they were not interested in my custom, I was taking that custom elsewhere. 

I didn't. I left. I didn't buy anything. 


I wasn't surprised, because this was not the first time. 

The blood pressure was not in the low range, however. 

The article talked of middle aged women. 46-60 is not middle aged. I discovered that a few months ago, remember. And realistically, I will not be around when I am 114. I am no longer 30, but neither am I in my dotage. I also find it totally hilarious when, on the odd occasion, I get to talk to an assistant in a computer shop, they ask in a vaguely patronising way, if I know how to use a computer. I just love the expression when I say breezily - of course - I taught computer aided design, I blog, use Facebook - and oh yes, I have been tweeting since the beginning of time. 

Do I know how to use a computer. 

Do I look THAT old?

My mother uses a computer and she is 85.

Older women have to cope with more change in their 50's than they ever could have anticipated. We all know how life brings changes along the way. Children grow up. They leave. Gravity does start weighing heavily on our bodies. We have to work twice as hard for half the results in terms of those bodies. Things start breaking. We creak a little. Eyesight diminishes. Circumstances change. Jobs may be lost. Health may fail. Marriages may dissolve. People die. Parents need more attention. Grandparenthood arrives. Retirement looms. People move away. 

Change? It comes in spades. And yes, we are well placed to use the experience of the years we have amassed. However, at the same time, menopause hits, and with it, in some cases, the loss of the perception of womanhood. These bodies of ours develop minds of their own and misbehave. Totally out of our realm of experience, or control. And that can be scary. 

You see, it is that same sense of control with which we have lived our lives, raised our families, and kept a million balls in the air at the same time, which suddenly disappears. And with it goes our sense of who we are. Change? Oh yes. In spades. Our grandparents who called the menopause "The Change of Life" had it spot on. They knew what they were talking about. We would do well to think back to what they had to say after they talked of the "change". 

I do not want to be invisible. I like to think that every person has a valid and interesting contribution to make to life. Communities. Society. I have no intention whatsoever of devoting my life to being "visible to men". Good grief. I want to be visible to PEOPLE. I want people to think of me as nice. Kind. Interesting. Creative. Fun. Strong. Did I say INTERESTING????? 

Valid. A fellow human being. Alive. Standing over there at the laptops. Tapping her stick. 

To glibly list a range of cosmetic options for becoming visible at a time when there is SO much more going on is fatuous in the extreme. Of course it is good to take care of ourselves, to get up in the morning and try to look our best. But the invisibility women of a certain age discover they are cloaked in is far more deep and profound than mere appearance. 

But maybe you need to be over 50 to understand that.

In a sense, it is all about respect, isn't it? To be respectful means to be considerate. To notice. To be aware. To have good manners. To see.......

And I am off and running again on a whole new topic. Next time. Maybe.  


Jane said...

I now go up to assistants and shame them - nicely, I hope, but life's too short to stand around waiting for someone else to finish a totally inane conversation! I also tell them that I've used a computer since the hard drive took up half a room and you had take the chips out and bend the legs to get them to work. (i.e. about 1977).
It has got better in some places, I now get superb service in the garage when the car goes for service and no-one asks me if I need and idiot's guide to what they've done.
I wish the younger generation would remember that the middle-aged were once young (and not that long ago) and they themselves will quite soon be middle-aged. And what happened to 60 being the new 40?

Stripeyspots said...

Lindsey - the child who wrote the article missed the point. You haven't become invisible at all. It's the narrowness of youth, the blinkered vision of the twentysomething that doesn't allow them to experience the world as it truly is that is the interesting phenomenon. Just because she and her generation do not see something doesn't mean the flaw is with the things/people she cannot see.
It's like that unbelievably stupid question people like to quote. "If a tree falls and nobody hears/sees it - did it really fall?" Of course it fell! Unless you really believe that things can only exist with your presence (ie, you're God).
Whoops, now you have me ranting!!

Patti said...

Take comfort in the thought that the young will be in our shoes one day. Better not to warn them tho, let them find out for themselves. We will be somewhere smiling!

Needled Mom said...

It's the "me generation" writing that. They will learn soon enough. I blame the parents on raising these children to think the world revolves around them. I would, however, write to the store and let them know of your experience. That sort of customer service needs to be reported.

Crystal said...

Well said, my friend! I think you should send this to the paper as a letter to the editor and a rebuttal / looking at the other side.

I see the original article as another checkmark for the whole idea that life / success / happiness revolves around how women look and dress. Everyone, men and women, are so caught up in superficial cosmetic appearances that it is quite sad and makes me disgusted at times. I don't want my granddaughters to be judged by the kind of jeans they wear or how much they weigh and I will be encouraging and loving them so they don't get caught up in this nonsense. And now I am the one ranting!!

You always find the most interesting things to post about and stimulate discussion :) Perhaps try the Apple store for your iPad - the one that I go to has such nice sales and service technicians. Have a lovely weekend!

Vee said...

You are onto something here...respect for every individual. Fools. Every one of them who doesn't see a woman of a certain age. And that a pipsqueak like that young writer even dares to write about such a subject in that way proves that she has a vacuous mind.

older mom said...

Thank you for mirroring my thoughts. I read that article, saw the side-bar about making yourself visible, and was aghast. My 21 year old son, my 8 year old twins and my 5 year younger husband keep me busy. Nevermind that I was a computer analyst for 20 years and now I am a "housewife."
I am not invisible to anyone but shallow people.

Janine (txmomx6) said...

Great post, Linds .... just great. And I agree with so many of the other comments. Yes, you should definitely contact that store and tell them. I, to, have started speaking up more, if only to say, "I'm leaving your establishment without my intended purchase(s) and here's why ...."
And you should definitely send this in to that paper. It's very print-worthy. And intelligent.
And visible.
Oh ... and I loved hearing your voice on my answering machine today. You touched me so very much.

Lu said...

Some people find it funny, to laugh about the old
but they will find before they know they are just as we are.
And if they don't believe it, they should give this a thought
What other choice will life give them
instead of growing old

Becky said...

Hear, hear! Well said and I agree with the previous comments. I also find you "nice. Kind. Interesting. Creative. Fun. Strong." You write the best posts!