Have You Ever Felt Invisible?

Have you noticed now that you are past menopause and a few wrinkles have appeared around your mouth and eyes that men simply ignore you and that their gazes invariably land on younger women? Have you noticed how society in general just assumes that a woman past 50 is uninteresting and that even people who know you better than most tend to discount your opinion?

Why is this?

I recall talking to a man my age last year. He was single and so was I. But then a married woman in her thirties joined us. Yes, she was attractive, but she was MARRIED. Never mind. He ignored me for the rest of the evening, even though we sat side by side and he had to talk over me to flirt with her. Any time I spoke up, he gave me short shrift. I felt like kicking him in the b-lls, er, shins. It was not as if he was God's gift to women. In high school or college I would have dismissed him as not my type. Small comfort now when my dating pool has shrunk to about 1.2 eligible and interesting men per 1,000 square miles.

I spent Friday evening with three women - two in their twenties and one in her mid-thirties. They absolutely embraced my presence and were so flattering. We spoke about work, men, girlfriends, children, ambitions, renting apartments, the economy, clothes, politics, movies, books, Richmond events, and a series of other topics that kept me interested and on my toes. I felt ENERGIZED. Moreover, the three young ladies wanted to repeat the evening and invited me to join them again.

And yet . . . while they drew the admiring glances from men, those same men (all but one was younger than me), gave me not a single interested glance.

Here is what happened with my last "beau," who has been my friend since college. We were both divorced within 4 years of each other, and three years ago we became 'romantic." I had a hope that our relationship would lead to something, but it did not. By August I had not seen him in nine months. My silence was deliberate. He seemed to have lost interest in me and so I disappeared. When a conference brought me near him, I let him know that I would be in the neighborhood. I wanted, once and for all, to know why things had cooled off.

He absolutely insisted on seeing me, going through great lengths to meet me, and so I felt flattered. I recall preening like a sixteen-year-old on her first date. The moment he entered the seedy bar he had suggested, he said: "There might be some drama tonight. My girlfriend and her ex might show up." He then proceeded to talk about his new love for the next hour. Any time I brought up a topic related to what I had been doing, he failed to follow up with a question, bringing the subject back to his love, who, poor woman, had endured 17 years of a bad marriage.

Not once did he notice my arm protecting my middle section, and my other hand hiding my mouth. Any person trained in reading body language (as he was) would have seen that I was in pain. I excused myself and went to the bathroom, where I paced up and down the small room, wondering how long I could last. He had driven an hour to see me, so I figured I could give him the same amount of time for his effort: I would stay one more hour max. I returned to our table with a new attitude, determined to ask him some honest questions and speak my mind.

When he began to describe his new love's drama queen behavior and how he felt she should get therapy and how she felt he needed to change, I told him that he was ok just as he was, and while I understood that sex could be great after an argument, that he was not describing a mature relationship. Needless to say he was not interested in my opinion.

That was all I said. I mentioned a few other things I had been doing, not from any prompting on his side, and then (gratefully) left. The following morning he sent me her picture.

Did I tell you how he had described her? "5'5" - like you. 30 lbs. overweight - like you. Funny - like you. Bawdy - like you."

But not me.

When I looked at the picture I laughed. I saw someone 8 years younger than myself, with an extremely short neck, and hair redder than Lucille Ball's. Ok, so I shouldn't emphasize her physical attributes. This woman has a law degree, three children, and lives in a section of town that I can only dream about. Yet for all that he was telling me in what he thought was the most flattering light possible, she sounded like a whining and controlling person. Wonder of wonders, he is genuinely attracted to her drama. When he spoke of her, he seemed all a tingle and alive. His eyes kept darting to the door (for he had invited her to join us) and on his cell phone, hoping to see a message. Aargh! Talk about feeling invisible. I realized that in the entire two hours we were together he was talking about her, seeing her in his mind's eye, and looking for her. I could just as well have been a statue for all he cared.

My only response to her rather ordinary image was to wish him well and tell him that I was happy he had found someone to love. I have not heard from him since. Ever since I received her photo, the song "Insensitive" has played in my mind. The words Jan Arden sings in her video express how I feel and felt about my male friend's behavior. (No, I am not pining for him. Life is too short. But I do miss his friendship, which has been absent since he began dating her.) Do not EVER sleep with a friend of the opposite sex. Ninety nine percent of the time this will lead to the end of that friendship.

I think I shall just hang around with my girlfriends for a while and enjoy being seen and heard. For the time being I'll stick with relationships that are life-affirming.


Mom of 3 said...

I know how you feel. It doesn't matter the level of attractiveness, it's the age that seems to matter. I'm 47 and have had a boyfriend for just over two years. I started dating again at age 44 and had lots of men to choose from. But then I wonder, if my current relationship doesn't work out, who would be interested in me at age 48 or beyond. I'm sure the dating pool will have shrunk considerably.

It's also interesting to note that my boyfriend is 14 years older than me. He is fairly wealthy and I know he would never date anyone his own age. I guess the question is, why would he?

What I can't stand, however, is when I'm with my 19 year old daughter and men my age look her up and down like they want to devour her. Sometimes I just can't keep my mouth shut and have to say something. It's revolting.

I love to read More magazine, geared to women 40 plus, and there are loads of articles about how great these women feel, how sexy, sexual, etc. They must be exceptional, because I do believe, like you, that it's not the norm for a woman at this age to feel attractive.

Vic's Moving On said...

Mom of 3: I adore More magazine for talking to women your age and mine and affirming women our age. Thank you for mentioning this life enhancing magazine. Yes, when I am with my nieces or women in their thirties it is rather disgusting to witness men our age (or older) ogling young women who could be their daughters. A man I dated dismissed this habit by saying, "Men are just men." Na ah. Society condones their behavior and it has to stop.

What's wrong with a woman of a certain age being with a man 8 years younger? (as it was in my case), or even 15 years younger? as in Demi Moore's case.

Thank you for your comments. They are very much appreciated.