Tuesday 31 March 2015

I’m a 62-Year-Old Man and I’m Invisible

Recently I ran across a number of articles about the issue of being a woman over 50 and being invisible in today’s society. What struck me as odd about this was that when I reflected on my own situation, I had to admit that I am, by their definition, invisible. When I walk down the street, people don’t look at me once, never mind twice. I’ve had people offering me senior discounts for years. (Five bucks less at the movies. Woo-hoo!) Being a man, I don’t get catcalled, but heck, I’ve walked around gay sections of the city and couldn’t get picked up if my life depended on it.

I’m not your typically handsome male. George Clooney is getting no competition from me. I’m not young and the heartthrob Ryan Gosling is way out in front. I’m not a ripped hunk like Hugh Jackman à la Wolverine (sexiest man alive People Magazine 2008) or Chris Hemsworth as Thor (sexiest man alive People Magazine 2014). The only accolade I get is when I go home after work and find out I'm the sexiest man in my apartment. (I live alone.)

There are now over seven billion people on the planet and in the grand scheme of things, I am a mere grain of sand on the beach of life. Am I invisible? Those seven billion people are living their own lives and if they ignore me, I’m sure it’s not malicious. They’re busy.

Salon – Apr 5/2013
Women over 50 are invisible by Tira Harpaz
The first time I felt invisible was on a train to New York City, about nine years ago. As I eased into the end seat of a three-seat row, the 30-something man sitting in the window seat glanced up at me. It was a brief glance, but it conveyed disappointment and complete disinterest. After flinching inwardly, I made a mental list of reasons for his look that didn’t involve me: Maybe he had hoped for a row to himself, or maybe he was waiting for someone he knew to sit down. But as days and years went by, I realized that the look was everywhere. Passersby would simply not see me when I walked down the street. People I met at parties would look slightly disappointed and then look past me, and gradually, I began to shrink inside.

Your Tango - Apr 4/2013
Embracing The 'Invisible Woman': How I Learned To Age & Stay Sexy By Dori Hartley
Recently, a younger woman of 35 expressed this 'invisible woman' idea to me. She said it was already starting to happen to her; that her grand entrances weren't causing the same kind of splash that she had once received — that she wasn't even being catcalled anymore (ironic how we tend to miss things we once loathed).

Not All Women
In looking over the topic, I ran across a few women who responded in turn by declaring themselves anything but invisible.

Daily Plate of Crazy – Mar 24/2015
Are You Feeling Invisible? by D. A. Wolf
I was too busy living, loving, mothering and working to worry about what anyone was thinking except of course those to whom I am closest and those on whom I depended for a paycheck. And to them, I am not now and never will be invisible. Nor irrelevant. Nor without value.

A Sexy Woman of a Certain Age – Mar 10/2015
Older Women Are Supposed To Feel Invisible? I Must Have Missed The Memo. by Erica Jagger
How have I reached the grand old age age of 52 still feeling desirable…in a far more durable and meaningful way than I did in my 20s?

I could look at myself and see a middle-aged, cash-strapped, over-worked, and occasionally overwrought single mom and decide that sticking my head in the oven is my best option. OR I could see a survivor who shed her Stepford Wife shell and now isn’t letting anyone dictate how she should live, who she should date, or what kind of sex she should have.

HuffPost 50 - Mar 30/2015
It's Hard For Men To Believe I Feel Attractive At 50 by Shannon Bradley-Colleary
When I stand before the mirror I see the crow's feet at the corner of my eyes. I see the soft folds that are forming on my neck. I see the roundness in my formerly flat stomach and the various dents and scars from a life actively lived. But what I also see is a woman at the apex of her juiciness.

Final Word
How curious to read about a woman upset at not being catcalled and saying “ironic how we tend to miss things we once loathed”.

Self-confidence is the key. Many people have said this and I realise how true that is. Confident people walk into a room and if nobody looks at them, they get to work making them look. Somebody lacking in self-confidence is worried. We all, both women and men, must strive to define ourselves and accept ourselves. Confidence comes from within; it does not come from others. We must be the best we can be and when we’re good, we’re going to know we’re good. And when we know we’re good, we’re going to be confident. And when we’re confident, we’re going to glow. Other people naturally gravitate to confidence. It’s attractive.

But wait. Am I brimming over with assurance? Do I walk into a strange place and own the room? Do people melt when they see my smile? Hey, I have my moments of self-doubt. I look in the mirror and I don't always like what I see. But, I have to grit my teeth and soldier on. What other choice do I have? I think I can. I think I can.

Am I invisible? Seven billion people and one 62-year-old guy. When I walk down the street, nobody looks at me. But what’s important is that you’re looking at me right now.


From a comedian’s stand-up routine (I forget who said this)
I was walking around New York with a gay friend. I noticed after a while that other gay guys would check him out but would ignore me. When I told my friend I felt slighted, he wondered why I was worried because I’m not gay. I told him, “Just because I don’t want to go to the party doesn’t mean I don’t like getting an invitation.”

my blog: An open letter to (older) women about body image - Jan 27/2012
Body image, mental image: I'm not perfect but I'm beautiful anyway. I recently ran across a few articles written by women about the problem (their problem?) of not being the right weight, not being slim enough, maybe not being young enough and certainly not being able to keep up with never mind compete with the air brushed fashion magazine runway models who represent some sort of ideal every female should strive for. As a citizen of the other side of the great sexual divide, I thought to take a moment to add my two cents worth with the hope, accounting for inflation, that $0.02 is not over-evaluating my contribution.

my blog: Body Image: Being comfortable with yourself - Jul 19/2013
We are all the sum total of our experiences. Our personalities are developed by our parents, our families, our environment, and good or possibly tragic events. Ignoring the truly psychotic, how we act, who we are, is representative of what we have experienced in life. As such, when I meet somebody who is mean or cruel, I don't necessarily condemn them as a bad person, I wonder what bad thing has happened to them to leave them that way. In my observations, I found that people who have had a decent childhood and a measure of success in life tend to be happy, generous, and kind. Those who are miserable, mean or unkind have had a bad life event; they have been treated poorly by somebody or something really bad has happened to them.

my blog: Gettin' old, man boobs and Vladimir Putin – Aug 20/2011
We men like to strut our stuff once in a while. Even though we get older and start fading, we still have our moments when we like to relive our former glories, the time when other men would tremble before us and women would swoon. Yes, deep down we know that our glory years are behind us but occasionally we like to suck in our guts and stick out our chests while ignoring the mildly sarcastic "Yes dear, you've still got it". I'm not as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was.


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D. A. Wolf said...

I love this line: "Confident people walk into a room and if nobody looks at them, they get to work making them look."

Witty and right-on-target, as usual, Mr. Belle.

Walker Thornton said...

This idea of being visible/invisible. Sometimes it feels like the definition is focused on the outward male gaze. I'm 60, so close to your 62--and I don't really know how I would define my spot in that line--I probably am invisible to 25 year old men-but does that define me? No. As a public speaker I connect with people and I see recognition in their eyes--based on what I have to say and how we connect, which has little to do with how sexy someone else perceives me to be.
I see this idea of being invisible all over the place of late and I think it only serves to diminish older women, like the anti-aging medicine and all the other 'over 50 is old and bad thing'.

Maybe we matter in those areas where we put our attention? How and where we define ourselves, rather than letting ourselves be put on the shelf by cultural BS?