I was leaving the gym the other day and came upon an older lady in the hall who had approached a young muscle-y dude. I could hear her asking him if he worked there. He shook his head dismissively without looking at her and continued on to the water fountain, while she said to his back, “Oh, sorry. I was just going to ask a question.” He got his drink and left, without ever making eye contact.

I was thinking about this as I got in my car and headed home: how at a certain age women just become invisible to men, especially young men. The visual assessment system doesn’t even get deployed, we don’t even register. So many years being weighed on a scale of desire, then a permanent re-categorization into the wholly uninteresting land of the Unfuckable.

I see it happening with me more and more as I get older. It’s like becoming a ghost: a little more translucent as each year passes by.

It feels embarrassing and dumb to mourn this fact. Like, if it bothers me, then I’m buying into it, right? But how do you even pick apart what you truly think as opposed to what you’ve been told all your life you’re supposed to think? How do you learn to value your own worth without factoring in all the bullshit analytics that come with being a female?

In retrospect, I wish I had stopped and talked with that woman. Maybe I could have helped her, or at least pointed her towards someone who could. Seems like instead of giving a single fuck whether I show up on some dick-based radar, that’s the sort of thing that actually matters.


12 Responses to “Visibility”

  1. Francesca on January 5th, 2018 12:54 pm

    First time I’ve posted (I think). You could be in my brain. About to turn 41 and I’m trying to negotiate this land where really, I’m no one at all.

  2. Jennifer on January 5th, 2018 1:09 pm

    My first taste of invisibility came in the weight room of the gym when I was in my mid-30’s. I didn’t even register with the young men there. It wasn’t that they looked me over and decided that I wasn’t worth their time, but that they didn’t even see me in the first place. At first it was offensive, but then I realized I LIKED it – I felt so free! I hadn’t realized the burden that being constantly observed had put on me, as it was ever present. I’m looking forward to experiencing this more as I get older!

  3. Evelynne on January 5th, 2018 1:33 pm

    My MIL has been used that exact term, “invisible”, for a long time, so I’ve been waiting to experience it. The only thing I’ve noticed is that the men who see me are just older, 40+, which works for me because I don’t usually find under-40s attractive either (I’m 46). From a sexual standpoint, younger men look like children to me. I don’t even enjoy watching actor-crushes my age in films when they were in their 20s or even 30s, because the age difference feels icky.

    There is a difference between a person not thinking you’re in the bangable zone and a person who doesn’t recognize your worth as a human being. The guy ignoring that woman was the latter. He was an asshole.

  4. Olivia on January 5th, 2018 1:44 pm

    I have well, and truly, passedo over into unfuckable between my age and weight. I find it refreshing. I can go pretty much anywhere and not have to deal with harrasment. The downside will be in a few years when I am not only invisible, but what I say and think also becomes worthless to society.

  5. Linda on January 5th, 2018 1:50 pm

    Jennifer & Olivia: I love that perspective. There’s this line in Sarai Walker’s (amazing) Dietland where a character says, “We’ll never fit society’s idea for how women should look and behave, but why is that a tragedy? We’re free to live how we want. It’s liberating, if you choose to see it that way.”

  6. Kendra on January 5th, 2018 3:35 pm

    I want to believe that this is Ameri-centric, though. Eldership is KING in S. Korea where my in-laws are from. Had Gym Rat Musclehead been approached by this woman in any Asian country, if not most of the world, she would have had full license to bonk him w/ a proverbial rolling pin and no one would have batted an eye. But eldership is so disposable in the U.S. There really isn’t even a concept or reverence for it.

  7. Jo on January 6th, 2018 9:46 am

    It’s how I’ve always felt being overweight. Obese overweight, not packing an extra 20 pounds, over 300. Not only have I been invisible, but since my size prevents me from being completely overlooked, men seem to make an extra effort to avoid eye contact and even civil communication, just in case I dare think they might show any attention and get my desperate fat girl hopes up. Like, actively being reminded that I SHOULD be invisible.

    I finally lost weight, not all of it, but a considerable amount. But now at the age of being invisible just because, ew, woman over 40.

    I shouldn’t care, but of course I do a little bit. How about just politeness toward all humans? Asking for directions doesn’t mean we are wanting to see how fuckable we are in some little piss ants eyes.

  8. Andrea on January 6th, 2018 11:40 am

    “There is a difference between a person not thinking you’re in the bangable zone and a person who doesn’t recognize your worth as a human being. The guy ignoring that woman was the latter. He was an asshole” ~ Evelynne (comment above).

    I really hope this was a case of asshole.
    I really hope I’ve raised my boys right. To see people as people before they assign them to categories and sexualize everything.

  9. Kate on January 6th, 2018 1:24 pm

    Linda – I loved this post so much. You have always been and continue to be an amazing writer. And person.

  10. Rachel on January 7th, 2018 11:10 am

    great writing!
    I have recently noticed th same in my life.

  11. Lisa on January 8th, 2018 1:58 pm

    I am just spiteful enough where one of the things I love about being a woman over 40 is how I can surprise young men simply by the virtue of existing. Like no, Jeremy and Chad and Zachary, I am NOT stepping to the gutter so you three can continue your conversation as you walk down the sidewalk. Adjust your eyesockets to see middle-aged women walking toward you on their righthand side of the walk.

    I also really enjoy when these guys are thrown by the fact that I somehow am in front of them in a line and am not disappearing in a puff of smoke the minute one of them huffs about having to wait.

  12. Jess on February 12th, 2018 4:28 am

    GAH!!! I don’t know how you do it but you ALwAYS put into words how I’m feeling, even if I can’t punpoint how I’m feeling…. but when I read your words they can almost bring me to tears because all at once I feel…. understood.

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