I can’t count the number of times I’ve read about women “feeling invisible” once they start to age. I’ve even heard it first hand from some of my friends. Its a statement that is completely lost on me. I’m not sure what’s like to feel “visible.” Does it mean that the world at large is generally kinder and more accommodating to pretty young things? Does it mean that when you’re young and beautiful every day is peppered by attention from men? As you supposedly lose your looks do you also lose the respect and consideration of the society around you? Do you feel that your “market value” is heading south with your appearance?
Recently I was having a conversation with a Mumrade about how we were going to cope when our young daughters hit their teenage years. (Shudder). She asked me how I coped with men leering at me. I don’t recall men leering at me ever! Why would they when there was always something better to leer at? Other Mumrades have laughed affectionately about how as younger women, they would go out in mid winter in revealing outfits, freezing for the sake of fashion. Heck – I’d nearly always cover up lest someone caught a glance of my dimply size 10 thighs. I’d wear board shorts on the beach to hide my cellulite shame.
There are certain women who attract men like moths to the flame (please forgive that old cliche) but I’ve never been one of them. Their magnetism comes from a flash (or even better a face full) of cleavage, a perky butt and the swish of a long mane of hair – attributes I’ve never possessed. My relationship with my appearance has long been abusive. If it had been a marriage I’d be divorced by now but you cant separate from your own hips. I noticed them pop out at age 14 and immediately instituted a starvation regime. I got down to 39kgs (which is quite lame by anorexic standards) and was rewarded by a 6 week hospital stay. The experience taught me way more than a 14 year old needs to know about the human condition but not alot about myself.
My body image anxiety continued into my twenties and thirties. I was particularly talented at finding boyfriends who’d re-inforce my negative self view. One, who was completing an MBA at the time, described me as a “standard on the bell curve”, meaning bog average. Another seemed to be dissatisfied with everything about me. I was not fit enough, my hair was not long enough, my breasts were too small, my legs were bad and my dress sense unsophisticated. (This from an overweight Adonis wearing a chambray shirt and white joggers – WTF?). The most hurtful comment came from a beau who said that he “did not want to look at me” and I “needed to learn that men are visual creatures”. I wish I had said ” Well if I am such an eyesore, I will remove myself from your field of vision permanently”. Don’t you hate it when you think of the perfect retort weeks later? Needless to say, this smooth operator and I soon parted company.
By the time Dadabulous arrived on the scene, I believed that I was headed for the proverbial scrap heap. I fretted that my market value was low that no decent, successful man would want to “buy the cow”. Dadabulous told me within about half an hour of our meeting that he thought I was beautiful. I told him that he needed to get out more but I had a feeling that this time things would be different. It may not be politically correct to measure your self worth through the approval of others but Dadabulous’ acceptance and love has been like a healing balm to an inflamed soul. Perhaps things were never as bad as I thought they were.
At 42 I don’t feel any less “visible” than I did at 22. If anything the world is a friendlier place. People smile as I amble past with my girls. Shop assistants are usually cordial and kind hearted folk more often than not help out when I’m in a fix. When people make comments they are complementary – a sign that I’m surrounded by good eggs these days. Most importantly motherhood has finally made me realize that in this short life what you do counts far more than the way you look. Its who you are that makes you “visible”. I hope I can teach this to my little girls who are smart, funny and spirited. They could not be more gorgeous on the inside and I know that Dadabulous and I will never see them as anything but beautiful.
Do you feel invisible or empowered as you age?