I was thirty-seven or thirty-eight when my lovely boyfriend let me in on this little gem: Women over 40 are invisible. Huh. That didn’t bode well for a lengthy relationship then. In a mere couple of years he wouldn’t be able to find me.
I asked him what he meant of course, as I patted his 40-year-old belly that never seemed to cause him a moment of angst or self-loathing. Immediately sensing that he might have said something insanely idiotic, he gave me some vague explanation about how guys just don’t tend to look at women of a certain age. He babbled on with distracting hand gestures, clarifying that he wasn’t including me in the “soon to be invisible” category. No way, he declared. I was going to stay hot and desirable. I was one of the lucky ones. Aww, thank you, honey.
I seem to remember being so stunned by this invisibility revelation that I let him off the hook and badgered him no further. I wasn’t prepared to hear this tidbit from the man cave. In fact, I wished I had never heard it because as soon as I heard it, I was so afraid it was true.
Tragically, I’ve now passed that 40-year mark. Remarkably, my boyfriend can still see me. Maybe because he went through the milestone with me? What if he hadn’t? Would I have registered with him among the flock of women out there? Would he have seen me across a room at the age I am now, 42, and thought to himself yes, I see her and I must have her?
I hate to admit it, but from my own experience and my own observations, his invisibility theory as applied to society at large seems to hold water. I find myself collecting evidence as I study other 40+ women on the subway, in the grocery store, at the mall, at the dentist. You name it, we’re there. The occasional woman strikes me as a lucky duck. Radiant and fit in her forties. Eye-catching. A contender. For the most part though, I observe a certain….commonality among us. The duller or over processed hair; a pallor that’s indescribable yet recognizable; a look of intent on our otherwise expressionless faces while we’re thinking of the next item on our never-ending agenda of things to take care of; the unmistakable flash in our eyes and assault on our self-esteem when we spot a young woman whose skin, body and youth we want yet despise at the same time. We see the men look. Not even men we’d care to engage with. Creeps even. Yet they look. They ogle. Not at us. We’re invisible.