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Are Older Women Really Invisible?

I keep hearing that we older women become invisible, but I don’t know if I believe it.

I think invisibility is like a new car: once you buy it, you see that model everywhere.

Recently I read a post wherein an older woman (OW) claimed to be invisible because, while she stood at a counter talking with a clerk, a younger woman came up and got the clerk’s attention. And this happened on two occasions! The OW was greatly offended.

I wasn’t there, but maybe the intruder was rude and pushy, and inserted herself in a way that left the clerk no choice. It happens. Maybe you’ve even done it. Yeah, you just had that one little question. Real fast, short, question. Don’t mean to interrupt. (Are you kidding me? Never?) The OW had plans for if this happened again: she would demand the intruder wait her turn. Refuse to be shoved aside. Command respect. Show those kids you’re just as important as they are.

Heck, while you’re at it, whack ‘em with your cane, Grandma.

Do you feel invisible because men no longer ogle you? Listen, I’m not bragging, but back when I was young and cute I felt like I couldn’t sneak by those jerks. Now I can walk right down the street and they don’t even notice. It’s a relief. And really, you could get dogs to chase you if you wore a steak tied to each ankle. Or move to Alaska for more attention, where as one tour guide told me, “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.”

Say you didn’t get the promotion you deserved. Maybe you’re not invisible so much as (a) a woman, (b) your boss is stupid or you remind him of his mom, or (c) your resume’ has some gaps in it because you took a few years off to perpetuate the species. Bad you!

I culled through everything I could find on invisibility for women over forty, and here are the suggestions for fighting back:

  • speak up, don’t mumble
  • dress appropriately. No bag-lady attire.
  • stay up with current events so you can carry on an interesting conversation
  • act interested/think of other people
  • maintain fitness
  • don’t be negative
  • get to the point and/or be clear when articulating a problem

But you know, if a person mumbles, dresses like crap, doesn’t know what’s going on in the world, isn’t interested in their conversational partner, is cranky and complains all the time, or blabbers incoherently when reporting a problem to an authority figure, that person isn’t invisible. That person is unpleasant, or annoying, or is using way too much time. When you do that, people tend to avoid you, and it’s not age- or gender-specific.

My mom is 86 years old and less than five feet tall. She walks slowly and uses a cane, but she is only invisible until she gets to the front of the line. Then she makes herself visible. She makes eye contact, projects her voice, is courteous and gets to the point. This is on good days. On bad days, when she is more frustrated or tired, she rambles and people want her gone. They ignore her and look at me. I feel bad for Mom when that happens, but it’s not about her being invisible. It’s about her being tired, and them being in a hurry. Our species can be competitive and even cruel. A lot of the time, if you don’t bring your “A” game, you can get run over.

As if you were invisible.

What do you think? Is invisibility real, or is it something else?


3 Comment count
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not invisible

Lynne, I like your thinking. I'm up there with your Mom. All the factors you mention--what a great list!--function. It may make us feel invisible, but that's a problem for us.

Sometimes, if you're just too tired to be assertive, you could get depressed or negative about how you're treated. But, again, that's our problem.

It's a challenge to grow old "gracefully"--no matter what.  

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not invisible

Hi Dolores, 

Thanks for the comment. It's the eternal question: is it me or is it them? And I'd rather do everything I can to make sure it isn't me. If the rest of the world is acting like jackasses, I'll get through it. But if I'm the jackass, I sure hope somebody tells me. Best wishes for your continuing awesome creativity.

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It doesn't happen to me.

It didn't happen to my 91-old-mom either.  She was very shy.  She is kind of invisible now that she's in the afterlife. Does that count?

Maybe it doesn't happen to me because I just go up and start talking to people about whatever is on my mind, like my dad did.  However, I'm not rude to those in front of me.  I wait my turn and in the meantime talk to the person next to  me.  They are probably bored standing in line too.  Some years ago my husband and I moved from an urban environment to a rural one, so we could write in peace.  Are people nicer here?  They were, but that's changing as more urbanites move in and bring their bad manners.  One difference as I see it is that there are less people here.  In scientific studies when rats were overcrowded, they became cannablistic.  So we are in a society of cannablistic rats. 

People need to be taught manners again.  In school first period, kids need to have a class in manners, all 12 years.  Most cell phones need to be recyled into something useful.  Children do not need them. Some of the bad manners have developed because a person never has to see the person they are flipping off.  It becomes ingrained, and this behavior then is taken into the face-to-face world.  Oh, bother.  I'd rather talk to Winnie the Pooh.

I'd rather be alone than around someone who treats me badly anyway, and I can buy a lot of things online where I don't have to talk to rude people.

The one place I've experienced mistreatment that is sort of similar is the doctors' offices.  The little girls with MDs beside their names are sometimes arrogant.  But it isn't just to me, it's to everyone.  It appeared to be insecurity on their parts.  Maybe one day they will grow up.  No matter, I never make a repeat appointment with a rude doctor.