Joan's Blog

"Watch Me Pull A Rabbit Out Of My Hat"
Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 28, 2010 11:02AM

Approaching Invisible

Rate: 97 Flag

 I am of a certain age and I am approaching invisible.  I am in the second act of life. 

It is a long way from the first act. Youthful and glowing and careless. The first act got me noticed, but not always for the right things.

This second act is limbo. I am not young, I am not old.  Sometimes men on the street smile. Older women always do. Kids bump into me. Most everyone calls me ma'am. 

It is the sales girls who don't see me anymore. Unless I am silly enough to cut through Neiman Marcus on my way to the street. Then I am preyed upon like a young gazelle.  But that is a whole different world.

The young sales girls in the funkier shops rarely give me a second glance. I am still hip and funky in my own head. True, I'm wearing yoga pants and an old sweater, but I still need/want/desire the overpriced beauty products and pretty things they are selling. I wonder why they think I don't still need/want/desire the same stuff in the second act. I'm quite sure I will need/want/desire the same pretty things in the third act as well.

I am not mourning my youth, I am examining my middle age. It is the state of being neither here nor there.  I fit in the junior department sizes but I cannot wear the fashions. When I swerve toward my daughter's department she reminds me with a clear command to "Step away from the junior department, Mom."

The fashions that are geared to women of a certain age are frumpy and dowdy. They don't know me. They don't know me at all.  I tell myself, "Step away from the women's department, Joan." Yoga pants and sweaters are my reluctant fashion choice. It is my middle- aged uniform.

The bus driver on my morning commute has not offered me the senior citizen discount which I take as  a good sign. But he does not joke and say he missed me when I didn't ride his bus for a week. He asks the young girls where they have been when they miss a day on his route. It's OK. I'm not looking for male attention. I'm just noticing how it isn't there anymore.

I have worn sensible shoes all winter. I feel short and sexless in them. There is something about the shoes I wore in the first act that added some much- needed confidence. My mother preached sensible shoes and here I am for the first time listening to her. My mother accepted invisible. I apparently do not.

I am not writing about sex or men or even attractiveness. I am simply pondering the second act. The potential it has to send me on the way to a place called Invisible. 

The funny thing about the second act is that I forget I am in it most of the time.  It takes an unacknowledged jostle on the sidewalk or a salesgirl's slight to remind me. 

Maybe this  second act is the act where women stop being seen and start being heard.  I am going to give this some serious thought. And get myself some not so serious shoes. 




Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Oh honey, never accept invisible. Come shopping with me ...we'll show them middle-aged visibility.
Looking at this from a writer's point of view, the second act is the most important act. While most people are only interested in the anticipation of the beginning and the hopful climactic ending, if you stop and lose your focus and don't pay attention in the second act, the whole play, your entire life in this case, won't make one iota of sense.

I say, if you want to wear clothes from the junior department, go ahead. If you want to wear nonsensible shoes, who's stopping you other than your own voice in your head?

Take the advice i give in my own letter to myself "Fuck'em and feed'em fish guts", do what you want, and what makes you happy. It's one thing to be invisible to others, the last thing you want is to become invisible or unrecognizeable to yourself
Know how you feel.

As I reached the half-century mark a week or so ago, I am resigned to adapt to the role of "wise old man" now.

That doesn't mean I don't bust my teenage sons' balls in front of his friends relentlessly for entertainment. He gets nervous having new friends over to the house worrying about what's going to pop outta his old man's mouth. Baaa haa haa!

(The one thing I promised him is that I would act like "an adult" and never tease him when a girl is present).

Of course, because of my ponytail, I've been called "ma'me" a couple of times by distracted food service people before they fully direct their attention to me -- that's always good for a laugh.

Joan, You said it all, my dear. I was explaining to a much younger than I thirtysomething woman the other day how the problem is not so much how I see myself, but how society sees me. How it expects me to act, dress, think. Dress, act, talk too young and you're pathetic. The object of ridicule. Dress, act, talk too old and you're pathetic as well. Not sure where the middle ground or middle age and beyond actually lies. Like you, I'm feeling around for it. I know there are lots of bold, ballsey women on OS who will say, screw everyone. Do what you want. Never been like that. Never will be. Age bestows freedom from some insecurities, but simultaneously adds another layer or two for those of us who have been struggling with self image all along. Well said.-r
@Scarlett, middle-aged visibility indeed! I'll be planning that shopping trip with you in the future.
@Placebo, first of all I did not expect one man to respond to this and I see there are two. Second, you are awfully smart. The second act *is* crucial. Well said. I'm going over to your post now.
@CrazeCzar, I am so happy for another man's point of view.(Placebo weighed in above your comment.) I clearly saw this as a woman's issue. How very enlightening to read your comment. Thanks so much.
Ah, I get this on so many levels, I just wrote a comment in Sharon Kay's blog about it. Again, as you say invisible has many levels, some which are preferable, you can observe with ease, be in your own skin without self consciousness. However, it is hard when you are used to being more "part" of the scene in many other areas. I don't like when people deny this is true, I think it is better to just admit and move on.
This really strikes a chord. There is "grey", and then there is invisible. Placebo's last sentence is great. I find myself in a "uniform" like your yoga pants & sweater--mine is levis (shrink to fit) & cardigan (grey, Lord & Taylor cashmere always on sale, with moth holes). I keep trying to find glimmers of "who I used to be" and sometimes it's just a new shade of lipstick. Or unsensible shoes. You'd be fun to shop with. (r)
Joan, On a serious note here, this is a fantastic post. We know, if they don't pay attention it truly is their loss. If I am standing in a line with "older women" which (being somewhat in denial) I obviously don't consider myself one yet, I usually make conversation or compliment them on something. And it is genuine. With age comes a different type of beauty.
I hear you, my middle-aged sister. I love this honest, well-written piece, Joan, and I understand it with every fiber of my being. As I read the comments from smart, vibrant women who also understand, it makes me realize that society is going to have a whole lot of Invisible to deal with. If we remain true to ourselves, refusing to go quietly into this second act and beyond, our invisibility may become our catalyst for getting noticed, for carving a place for ourselves. Nothing says that we have to "do" middle age like it's always been done. Let's define it according to our own rules.
@Densie, thank you for getting this. It's true! It's true! But I have to say, Placebo's last line is brilliant. And your last sentence about age bestowing some freedom from insecurities but adding others is the absolute truth.
@Rita, I agree. Better to just admit and yes, move on rather than deny it.
@Dirndl,I see a shopping trip in our future. You, Scarlett and me so far. Funny, I pictured you more as the ballerina skirt type.
What a terrific post. I can totally relate. I am often invisible. The good thing about being invisible is that it gives you a front row seat to many things you might not other see. For us as writers, that's a good thing.
Thanks for writing. R
@Lisa, I really like your response. There's going to be a whole lot of Invisible, indeed. Thanks so much for coming by.
Margaret Mead: "There is no greater power in the world than the zest of a postmenopausal woman." Women in traditional cultures seem more likely to realize it.

You are right. Stop worrying about being seen and concentrate on being heard. I find wearing red most of the time helps with the invisibility, especially when complimented by silver hair:)

I am very glad I was never excessively visible in my youth, always more confident about my brains than my appearance.
I forgot. Being invisible makes it easier to leer at men of all ages. A greater number of men seem sexy to me.
Ay, Joan! I want to hug you and dance with you on the streets, and remind all those snotty salesgirls that one day they will be as old as we are, and they'd better pray they end up as good as you are.

This is exactly how I feel right now. And just like you, I'd rather be listened than looked at, because to be looked at could be to be looked down upon. You are so wise, my dear, so wise, and you write beautifully.

There is a terribly dirty saying in my country, "Gallina vieja da buen caldo." Literally translated it means the old chicken gives good broth. What it refers to is that while a woman might not be young, she is experienced and knows how to do things, while a spring chicken is just that, young and igorant. (I told you it is terribly dirty and sexist.) But, there is a grain of truth in there.

I, for one, feel like I am in the best time of my life. Long live the gray chicks!
Well, I think all of us in middle-age are invisible: neither the young who have potential nor the elderly who need care. We're just the ones doing the work.

But I hear you that the matter is acute, or at least resonates in a particular way, for a woman. This is one case, I think, where the advice "Do not go gentle into that good night" is good. (Though I'd leave out the raging part.) I'm sure there are ways to express your still considerable vitality!
{{HUGE HUGS}} Oh! I can relate to what you are saying. I had to stop, and think about you saying your daughter steers you away from the juniors department.
My daughters (24 and 25), steer me into the junior department. They tell me "Mom, just because you are forty four, and you are a grandma. Doesn't mean you have to look like one." They tell me "Wear something, beautiful, sexy, something that makes you not only look good, but makes you feel good inside, and also something that shows your confidence. Because you never know who you might meet in the produce department."
I think they listened to their mother a little too much, but you know I have to tell you it does work. So I would have to tell you, go to the juniors department, find yourself a style all your own. Something beautiful, sexy, and something that shows confidence. Even wearing sexy under your everyday clothes, makes you feel good about yourself, inside and outside.
So just because you are in act 2 of life, doesn't mean you can't look great, feel great, and enjoy life.
Wonderful, and touching piece, and enjoyable to read. Touched home a lot..
Good luck and keep SMILE. (It increases your face value)
This is very thought-provoking Joan and I'm surprised you viewed it a "women's issue". I don't know how I do, or should, present myself to the world at my age (43). I feel young, I'm told I look younger than I am, but I really do think I'm invisible most of the time. The environment I work in is full of young people and while I believe I can relate to them, they probably don't even notice I'm there.

Yep, I hear you too. The irony is that we are the ones with the money - they should be paying more attention to us!
I just looked at your helen reddy tag and laughed--it's what I thought of when I first read this. Or, "hear us BOOM!"I am loving these responses, men & women alike. I do like being able to observe, unnoticed. But just not disrespected. Disregarded. Discounted. (Just my sweaters, in that category:) Oh--and I wear ballerina shoes, not skirts :) Tho, unlike you, I can't dance a lick.
In my mid forties two things started to happen. Teenagers started calling me "elderly". "Sir" and "Mr." were bad enough. "Pops" caused a lot of angst but "elderly" use a rusty, dull knife and twist it why don't you.

The other thing that started to happen came from waitresses that would take my wife's order and walk off without taking mine like I wasn't there. It took me awhile to realize that my wife was now having so much trouble making up her mind and getting incredibly picky that if I were waiting on her I'd have told her to make her own.
The wait staff was actually being overloaded by her ordering process.
not a damn thing wrong with invisible. makes sneaking upon them easier.
Where ya been, kiddo? Missed ya yesterday! ;>| (r)
When the pretty young twenty-somethings come into the store, and I am ignored when I say hello, I want to say to them, "Enjoy your youth because someday you will be invisible too."
Joan: You will never be invisible to me. r.
I love the yoga pants. And the short hair. My daughters and friends have given up telling me what to wear. I feel like I'm being seen as me rather than a dress-up dolly. Sales staff have always ignored me. Lorianne is absolutely right about the sneak-up value. It's fun to listen in on conversations and if they get rowdy, you can now drop in a comment -- nobody doubts the right of a gray haired woman to bring the peace.
Dear, dear Joan. . . what an introspective, beautiful post. I'm late to say many of the things that have been said by Pilgrim, Studman, Scarlett, LisaK and v. seijo. They are all right. To me age has always been a frame of mind, and I don't mean this flippantly. Perhaps this is what "having arrived" is. Life is a continuum without acts or parts, it is what you make of it and how comfortable you feel within your skin. Big hug to a most beautiful lady. Rated (highly).
This was a terrifically written post. I love the visual of the Nieman Marcus salesladies. I can't say I relate, and i'm kind of having the opposite experience, to be honest. I think age made me kind of loony in the sense that I just don't care, and just am not shy at all and it emanates or something.
People constantly say "hi how are you " to me just walking anywhere and I get smiled at constantly. I thought I was going crazy but there have been witnesses.
This has only started happening in the last ten years or so and I marvel at it because it is due to no real effort on my part and I don't know what is happening. Maybe, I have some open very friendly face. But, I was better looking at 30 and 20 and got a tenth less of the attention . Strange. Too much about me this comment but I'm just hoping this adds a different angle to what you are musing about.
Another great post, Joan.
Do not go down easy! Fight! Wear open toed high heeled shoes in winter! Wear low cut jeans and lower cut sweaters! Don't expose your stomach!!!!! (That's never a pretty sight) And, most of all, forbid -- with a vengeance -- the use of the most undermining, demeaning phrase a woman can hear -- "For your age."
When the Boy Scouts start offering to help you across the street, the Third Act has begun. Until then, enjoy. Older and slyer beats young and enthusiastic any day of the week.
Please tell me you're not cruising Forever 21 looking for clothes. I have a 65 year old aunt who does that. I'm totally hoping it's not genetic.

I have a habit of wearing mostly capri pants which makes me look pretty juvenile and is incongruous with the gray hair, but makes me feel tall.

Red Shoes. Vintage aluminum and rhinestone cat's eye glasses frames. A dozen circle skirts from the fifties, often worn two at a time. Go ahead! I do. We earned it.

Every so often, I will be in the checkout line at the supermarket, and I will look up and lock eyes with another women my age, and maybe I imagine it, but it can feel like we exchange a twinkle, a spark of knowing that we are both extraordinary women in now ordinary bodies, undercover. I'll be looking for you Joan H.!
I asked my dad (who was always in the Army... short, clean hair cut, perfectly polished shoes.. even a demerit system for his kids) why he was wearing his gray hair in a ponytial... wearing odd slogan hats and letting his ear hair grow out. He said he was.. for the first time, treated like an invisible old man and now.... at least people noticed him.
I understand this invisible. It hit me in a bar one night last year. All these pretty little girls, tight pants, firm breasts, well you know. I looked in the mirror in the woman's room and for that second saw myself as I am. Scared me! So now I say screw 'em, someday they too will be here, God willing, and some tight assed girl will make them look in the mirror and say shit.
I wear what I want, on a good day I can still turn heads, if not with my looks, then with my laugh. So I say go forward wear what you want, smile and keep an image in your head of about 25 years of age. It works for me.
Great self introspection!!!
Oh yes, yes yes! We are neither fish, nor foul nor good red herring. I do not want to wear appliqued sweatshirts from Quacker factory, or elastic pants (well, except for yoga pants) or look like the women in ads for the stuff that makes you stop having to pee all of the time. I think your last paragraph is true. It's an opportunity we should not take lightly because unlike being noticed because we're cute young things, its something we have earned.
P.S. Check out this photo blog, grrls and boyz, images of people who are older and brimming with style, and hardly invisible. The young whippersnapper who keeps the blog works at the New Museum in NYC, and even though these are primarilty New Yorkers, they are a visual inspiration:
@Bernadine, for writers it is a wonderful thing, you are right.
@Redstocking Grandma, I like the way you think!
@v., there is a grain of truth in every dirty saying! Thanks so much.
@AHP, thanks for commenting. And don't worry. I'm not going gently *anywhere.*
@fireeyes24, my daughter is horrified when i get anywhere near the junior dept. She likes the term"Age appropriate." Who does she think she is? Anna Wintour?
@WAH, thank you for reading and understanding. Julia Roberts! good analogy!
@ainthatamerica, I was always under the impression that men do not feel that invisible feeling women do. I stand corrected and I am really not usually so narrow minded, but... I had no idea.
@sweetfeet, yes. We *are* the ones with the money. Well, at least more than the teenagers...
@Dirndl, "disrespected, discarded, discounted." Oh, perfect words to describe this feeling.
@wschanz, thanks for stopping by. "Pops?" That would get me madder than "elderly" even.
Yes, the second act. Being heard is hard also--sometimes it's as if they shake their heads and say, should we wait the typical 3 seconds and then go on. But it gets better. You learn to linger behind, and forge ahead--hard to ignore!
Sharply observed. Well, you were (and still are) clearly a stunner. You might notice a lack of notice more acutely.

On the other hand, you have the freedom to divide your life any way you want. When I waved goodbye to fifty (I mean, fifty-five...oh never mind), I began to divide my life into three acts. At this point, I'll have to live an awfully long time to make the acts equal but then again, it's the quality of the performance, not the length of the play. R
Ah, Joan, too true, I report, from further down the invisibility road. One does what one can. Me, I dye the hair, wear it rather longer than might be expected, the make-up is always ON, I wear colors, I make eye contact, I go out into the world with the air of somebody who knows a thing or two about a thing or two - because I do - and if no one is ogling me the way they might have in my younger years, I flatter myself that at least they might be trying to figure me out.
I loved this post, Joan. I think it speaks volumes about our culture, fleeting and evolving beauty and ever present change. I've just returned from a trip to California where I noticed that I got noticed more there than I do in Florida. I'm not sure if it is the state as much as it is the state of mind. Or maybe I see myself through different eyes when I am elsewhere? Hmm. Excellent food for thought and very well written.
I love this post!
Invisible clearly doesn't suit you.
Dye your hair purple!
Great post! love the way you can organize your thoughts and share with us so clearly your private, honest observations.

That's great writing.

Thank you!
Elegance is the revenge of the old on the young. The dull-witted boys in saggies and hoodies stand slack-jawed a I whisk by in my top hat and tails!

Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future. - Coco Chanel
Brava! The older I get, the more comfortable I am in a tie and trousers...when I was much younger, I still felt self conscious. A suit and tie makes me feel good...even in this day and age, people still stare. To thine own self be to you. xox
Maybe this second act is the act where women stop being seen and start being heard.

Yes, let's be heard!
There are millions and millions of young beautiful women in the world, many that physical looks alone is no longer enough to truly turn a head more than a twitch.
When phyiscal beauty is everywhere, then appreciating it is nowhere.
What becomes important then has to be the inside; the personality and the effervescent quality of character. The intangibles that become tangible as we know each other.

Physical beauty is all well and good, but it is so common as to lack meaning anymore.

A very nice post. A well written post. But then..look who wrote it.
I knew I was invisible when returning to my college campus when driving through the town several months ago to pick up some stuff at the book store.

Nope. Don't blend in on a college campus anymore.
Oh Joan...I was just thinking about this last night. The march toward invisibility for simply aging. But then I remember how *I* don't consider older women to be invisible. How one of my very best friends will be sixty this year, and how she fits into our entourage of forty-three-year olds just fine. I'm hoping invisibility is largely a feeling that comes from within, rather than a judgement coming from without. At least then, we can do something about it.
Joan, you seem to have struck a chord, look at the rates and posts! It is "a whole lot of invisible" as Lisa said.
I'm right there with you as many who responded here are and dealing with their individual 'invisibilty'. It really hit home for me when I left a job with a uniform and could actually shop for a wardrobe for work without any constrictions. What I encountered was no middle ground, no in-between. The youth section and the retired lady section. Trip after trip brought on so much frstration I didn't know what to do. Too bad a shopping trip showed me what a lost segment I had hit when I hit my 40's. We still mattered, didn't we?
Great piece, thank you!
Joan You are so right, who does she think she is? Just too funny...
I think "age appropriate" goes more for girls under 16 or 17, and women over 80.
You do what makes you feel good about yourself, tell your daughter to light up a little. SMILES!! Because you could always go shopping without her.
My girls are Horrified when I pick out something they call "Grandma Look". And that only happens when I am looking for dress clothes for work.

Isn't raising girls just so much fun? LOL
I was glad to see Cartouche comment, as I immediately was reminded of a piece she did aout Invisibility that I have been pondering for awhile. I think it takes work to line up our 25 year old mind with our 50 or 60 something body. some don't want to bother - just go with the frump. But for those of us who do, I think the second act will be better than the first. Great post, Joan
Fantastic Joan, especially the last paragraph. Wear what you like!
Interesting and thought-provoking post. I particularly like your last paragraph. There are some advantages to being invisible, as another commenter said.
i know this stage so well. in a few months, i'll be 47, and i still find myself shopping in the juniors department. i won't let myself do that right now because the migraine drugs have me 15 pound above my comfort level, so not only am i getting older, but i'm feeling fat. bad combination. but joan, just a couple of years ago, and i'm determined to do it again when i can get back in shape, i was wearing pencil skirts and stiletto heels and tops that hugged my body. they looked great on my middle-aged body, even if they would have looked middle-aged on my 20-year old self.
the highest compliment that i get from my girls is 'you look great, mom' or 'i like that shirt.' my youngest daughter just bought my exact same rainboots. my eldest daughter borrows some of my clothes.
right now, my winter uniform is men's jeans from target (i roll them up from the bottom), a long-sleeved shirt, and cardigans. cardigans are back in style, and i'm determined to buy as many as i can while they're in fashion. when they go out of fashion, i won't care, 'coz i love how they look on me. and my polka-dotted rainboots with 3 layers of warm socks on underneath. it's not sexy. my love tells me i look academic.
there was a time when i was scared shitless of what would happen when men stopped finding me attractive. me, with my feminist credentials, all upset over that stuff. but i'm like you now. part of me is settling into this. you know why? because i look at those 20-year old women at my college and i think, 'that one's bulimic, that one doesn't think she's pretty, that one thinks her thighs are too big,' and i think, god, am i finally getting to a point where that doesn't matter to me? and they look so scared that they're invisible.
what matters to me is that i've turned into a 'role model' for the young women at my college. which makes me laugh my ass off, because well, you can guess.
i'm rambling. but you've obviously struck a nerve. i'm not invisible, but i can feel myself fading, and i look at women 20 years my senior and wonder how it feels then.
but girlfriend, this summer, when i'm down to my fighting weight, i'll go shopping with you, and we can buy clothes that tell the world that we're middle aged--not dead. you watch.
shoe therapy, go for it.
I could write a male version of this post.
remember, in theatre, the 2nd act is where all the interesting stuff happens.
Well, Mame, I guess you oldsters need to move aside for us young bloods. We need plenty of room, hah!
@lorianne, you certainly have a good point!
@ClarkK, I found your wonderful post today, my dear!
@Steve, just another reason I love you.
@geezerchick, I appreciate your comments and I love your name.
@FusunA, I love your way of thinking and i look forward to day the day I arrive...
@Fernsy, I am almost not surprised that you have a different experience. You are one of the most unique individuals I "know". I love that people are drawn to you.
@Donna, if someone said I looked good "for my age" I'd smack 'em. Thanks so much for reading. Oh yeah. Open toe shoes? Donna, I don't live in Florida! (you are so lucky that you do)
@Con, when I see those boy scouts coming I'm gonna run.
@Iamsurly, I have been in Forever 21 a couple of times but was escorted out by security. Even in there we are not forever 21. Especially in there.
@greenheron, believe me when I tell you I know that look.
@Amanda, your Dad understands.
@Ll2, the first rule is never surround yourself with 20 somethings! I have a feeling you still turn heads.
@Ann, OMG, Quacker Factory! That is the last stop on the train to Invisible. It's also the last stop on the train called I Gave Up.
@Brown Eyed Girl, I am so glad you came by. I hope you are right.
@Nikki, "It's the quality of the performance..." Oh that's good.
@Sixtycandles, I really like the way you think. I'm going to start wearing some colors too! How many years can I just wear black?
@cartouche, I honestly think that I have felt more attractive in California too. It may be that I am perceiving myself differently in a different place, as you say. We can't *all* be better looking in California, can we?
@Emogirl, I appreciate your comment and I like your name.
@donnastreet, your comment is so kind. Thank you so much.
@BFTQ, I love purple. But I'd like to be a blonde just once before the 3rd act. Thanks for coming by.
@Charlie, thank you so much for reading and commenting.
@Monsieur, Coco Chanel _ it really doesn't get more elegant in the 2nd act than that. Thank you so much for coming by.
@Robin, I just love that you feel more at home in your skin the older you get. That is what I hope for too.
@Caroline, I'm so glad you came by.
@JD, you are an awfully smart man. And very kind. What a wonderful combination.
@Gwool, I feel you. I took some college courses last year and felt incredibly conspicuous. Old people *do* go back to college, you know, I wanted to tell them...
@Bell, you are a smart cookie.
@Rita, Wow! Lisa said it all right! Thanks for reading.
@Leslie, yes! "The youth section and the retired lady section." Gah!
@fireeyes 24, raising a daughter is the best thing in the world. Shopping with her is one of the worst.
@Trilogy, now I have to find the post cartouche wrote. Please tell me I didn't steal her title.
@Linda, thank you so much for reading and commenting.

Lovely post. I wrote a similar called 'Becoming Invisible' awhile back, and it resonated as well. I'm older than you and fighting it, but to some degree it's a blessing. I don't feel I have to wear heels. Why bother? You are heading into a comfortable time if you embrace the changes gracefully, as I'm sure you will.
You are far from invisible. Much love to you. Rated.
@Joan: Yeah we can. Maybe it brings out better things in us or they are more receptive to the creative vibe?
Are we invisible or do we believe we are invisible because this word is being linked to us by the mass media? We need to seriously think about the choices we make - are we going to fit into other's mass media fueled and preconceived notion of who we should be as females in middle age and beyond or are we going to continue to define who we are ourselves. I was at the gym this morning and a young man struck conversation with me because he was impressed about how much iron I can move and that I don't use "girly" weights. If I chose to put artificial limits on how much I lifted, worked out or how much muscle I built according to some external specifications and strictures, I wouldn't be me. I refuse to be invisible but I don't care what other people think or if they notice me either. The ones who do not acknowledge others because of outward appearances are the ones that are limited. I would definitely get some fun shoes though - maybe some new clothes that are totally different than your usual style and color - life is too short not to have fun and even be outrageous at times.
Joan this so expresses how I feel much of the time. Last weekend I finally went and bought some higher heeled shoes - stylish ones, on sale, but not as on-sale as I usually restrict myself too. It felt good to wear them - even though I did get blisters! BTW, I am typing this in yoga pants and a sweatshirt!
@sophieh, I appreciate you reading and commenting.
@flw, I hear you,girl. I really understand what you are saying. And I had to laugh because I came home with new cardigans today before reading your comment. See you this summer for shopping.
@vzn, the second act is what it's all about. Thanks for that.
@scanner, you crack me up.
@Lea, I found your post. It was fabulous.
@Jill, thank you for your continued kindness.
@cartouche, I've always suspected I'm living on the wrong coast.
@Leonde, I admire physical strength in women almost as much as emotional strength. When I am strong physically, I feel very visible, actually. Thanks so much for commenting.
I loved this.....and obviously have a depth of character that is fascinating and multi layered, much more attractive than a ticklish bubble gum chewer trying to sound out big she can text them to her BFF
We should start a support group called Invisible Anonymous. It would be well attended. Seriously, I think about it every time I see an elderly person walking on the streets. They are REALLY ignored by so many. At least us middle aged people get attention from THEM!
I know what you mean there comes a time when you're just somebody's mother and they look at you when you're getting your daughter something! But in the same breath, I don't try as hard as I used to because, I have other priorities. I remember when I was in high school I would sit in front of that magnified make-up mirror obsessing over flaws that no one could see with the naked eye . Now I don't want to look for too long, don't want to see the dark circles under my eyes or a new worry line. Plus I don't care --if people don't see me for who I am then that's their failing not mine.
heh-heh. I went shopping today. Wandered into the Jr. Dept looking for yoga pants. Thought of you. ;)
I did not miss this. First, those young ones can never be as cool as you are; it is a delusion. Second, it is the second act that has all the fun, and I mean aaaaall the fun. In the second act we *know* what and where real fun is; you just flourish.

Beautiful post, well done, rated.
Joan you are right, raising daughters is the best thing in the world. But shopping with them is the worst.. I used to love shopping when I was younger. After raising two girls (13 months apart) I got to the point where I now hate shopping. Seriously true fact there.. LOL But the three of us had some really great times no matter what we were doing.
Have a wonderful week.. Go shopping in the juniors department. SMILES
joan as a 57 year old man, walking down the street, it's eyes i'm looking at, man or woman, for smiles - not shoes or product or yoga pants, just eyes - eyes and smiles, miles and miles of eyes and smiles.

the whole point of being this age is to recognize each other, and maybe wink, as we walk on by. or turn around ...
lovely & true! I believe you're going to handle invisibility much better than I did. It took me a few years to not be all depressed when the grocery checker didn't see me, & then there was the trauma of being offered the senior discount before I was actually a senior.

but then somewhere along the line it all changed & I stopped getting all freaked-out about it & recognized that, being invisible, I can slip by the bad guys & use my magic powers.
Joan. This was great. I'd suggest a pair of black leather boots. I'm serious. They do wonders for the spirit!

Loved this. You rock.
You are not invisible, Joan. Invisible to younger people, sure--when did everyone get so young?--but not to everyone. I have always thought women of a certain age to be the most beautiful people in the world.
I spent a lifetime of being invisible in the world. It was an occupational necessity. But 2 young daughters make it a point to change that now. I know I've never lost my individuality when they say, "You're not wearing that are you?" Keeps them on their toes. Although, Michelle my wife does have a tendency to insist that my public appearance with her be non-eventful. You go gal, get on with your bad self, you''ll won't have any regrets I'm sure. My best to you......o/e ****r*
@toddpony, thank you for reading and for the kind words!
@PatriciaK: A support group... brilliant!
@Anne, I watch my daughter do the scrutinizing thing in the mirror. Only the young would dare to look that closely...
@sweetfeet, so did you find anything good there?
@Thoth, thanks for the words of encouragement!
@kim, I am going to start making eye contact.
@suzie, where do i get those magic powers?
@Eden, ooh, black leather boots... now there's a thought.
@Frank, see, that's why women must adore you.
@O/E, I love the fashion police. er, I mean daughters.
Ah, the second act. What a perfect phrase for the middle age as it's a continuation of the same play. I'm in it myself. I actually find it freeing because I find I am taken more seriously than I was in my younger years.

I hardly fit in junior department clothes, and the "mommy pants" section seems too conventional. So, I have found J.Jill, what I consider stylish "mommy pants."
I just turned 50 this weekend, and I can promise you I am not invisible. Nor do I ever intend to be. I do not get ignored on the street, nor by the young things working in the shops. IMHO, invisible isn't something society does to us, or the young do to us, but something we do to ourselves. We look in the mirror, and not seeing a young face staring back, we begin to feel invisible.

But, there are plenty of young people that are invisible. People that fade into a crowd and are barely noticed. Being invisible isn't about our age, it's about how we carry ourselves, how we feel about ourselves, what we perceive as our role in society. It's about whether we feel "less than..."

People who carry themselves with presence, and never allow anyone to make them feel "less than" are never invisible. IMHO, anyway.
Been there for a while. Thanks for expressing this so well. I remind myself that young sales clerks will one day be there.
Oh man I know this feeling. I spent 45 minutes yesterday in a small optical shop before any sales clerk bothered to help me. It was the second time this has happened in two days. Others were being helped, just not me. And a couple of weeks before that I went to buy boots. Was in the store, found the boots and was prepared to buy them, but despite being one of only two people in the store, the clerks did not every approach me and ask if they could help me. Screw 'em. They work on commission.

But there should be stores or clothing lines for us in-betweeners--somewhere between Sluts-R-Us, and the elastic waist, appliqued top outfits worn by too many older ladies. My uniform is a perfect pair of jeans and a perfect white blouse, perfectly pressed and starched into submission.
Those sales clerks are idiots.

Middle aged people have more money.

I wrote this several years ago in a piece about exercise:

" I know that as we get older, we become increasingly transparent to younger generations until in late middle age, we achieve total invisibility in a feat that would astound H. G. Wells."

True, we become less visible to the young as we age, but there's a certain freedom that compensates for the wounded vanity. Embrace that, and ignore the young and shallow as they ignore us.
This is excellent Joan. People don't look at women in act 2 as much and the clothes situation is really annoying sometimes. I think I can honestly say I don't care as much either but still it is very interesting.
"I am not mourning my youth. I am examining my middle age"
That's a great line and I agree with you. It's a new phase.
Great post, thanks for sharing. I get it.

My experience has been that I dye my hair to hide the gray, because I like it. I wear a bit of makeup, because I feel better doing it. I smile at people when I get the vibe that I should and they do smile back, sometimes, surprised, sometimes just genuine, warm.

I buy less because I seem to have just about everything I need. I am more concerned with my messages in this second half than my unspoken presence. I am still afraid in a way of offending, but I tend to speak out about what I have learned is my point of view, because it has substance, truth and logic to it. I am more fearless, maybe more feared by those who would silence me. I am going out with a brass band and hopefully none to soon.

Enjoy it all in your own way, smoke em it you got em...heh, heh, just a joke!
Some of the most powerful forces are invisible.
Have fun shoe shopping!
Well I WOULD NOTICE. Not that there's much value in that.
I have been observing this invisibility phenomenon lately, both for myself and for others. A smile seems to bring me into focus for others pretty quickly. As far as clothes go, I must be beyond the junior section pretty far, because I refuse to buy it if I can't wear it for a hike, to work in the yard, or to play with glue, paint, and paper. This means I spend a lot of time shopping at REI or the equivalent sports section of the department stores. Of course, I do live in the west, where dressing like this makes sense. However, I usually listen to my daughters, and avoid my favorite non-colors of black and tan. Going brighter these days makes me feel good, but I have to try really hard not to be so matchy-matchy as my younger daughter condescendingly puts it. When I need to feel good about my wardrobe choices, I watch "What Not to Wear;" I think they would only throw out half of my wardrobe...
My observation is that when I feel "invisible" I am...when I acknowledge the youthful, strong, opinionated me I am not! Be not meek!
Girl, I think it's time to break out your red high heels. The snow is melting. I enjoyed this post very much. Unless you have posted a photo from decades past, you still look young and beautiful. I shop with my niece who is17-years-younger when I want to feel hip and sexy. Just a thought. I do like what you say about getting noticed for the wrong reasons in your youth. But, sometimes it is nice still to be noticed for those reasons -- at this age where some of us have acquired a little better judgement. :-).
I'm expecting to reach this stage of invisibility any day now, as someone who is approaching her middle forties. Like my mother, I look a few years younger than I actually am, so perhaps that explains why this hasn't happened to me yet.

Joan, I heartily second some of the previous commenters who suggested that you wear clothes from the junior department if you want (hey, they fit you! That's great!). I have a friend who is in her early fifties, looks great in miniskirts, and wears them frequently. More power to her (and you!). If you have a good sense of fashion, you'll know the difference between "what's right for me, never mind my age" and "ridiculous."

Sc**w the sensible shoes, too, if "sensible" means "ugly," "boring" or "bland." I'm personally a woman who has always preferred comfortable shoes ;), even as a teenager, but these are YOUR feet, not anyone else's. I've managed to find comfortable shoes that aren't boring, myself.

Your daughte, in directing you away from the junior section, may be engaging in what I would call "age policing" - along with the rest of the culture, relegating you to this limbo that is neither young nor old but somewhere in between, and deemed to not exist. To me that's just as bad as gender policing - my mother wasn't allowed to wear pants in the Fifties, and boys today are harassed if they're interested in things like dolls, pink, whatever is coded "female." You don't have to accept it.

Insightful of you to wonder if women get loud about the time they become invisible. Quite possible. It seems to me that once you start being ignored for what used to get you attention (youth and femininity, whatever that adds up to for each of us), you don't have as much to lose for speaking up and speaking out. Older woman may also be more likely to be sure of themselves - we've been around the block a couple of times, and know that something is right, or wrong, or that we too deserve service, dammit!

As for those salesgirls, well, aren't they silly. I don't know for sure, but you probably have more money to spend on your favourite skin care goop and face paint than the younger women they're focusing on.

Great post. Rated!
"Maybe this second act is the act where women stop being seen and start being heard. "

Wow! Maybe you are right. A friend of mine and I were just laughing the other day about how when we were in our 20s we thought all the middle-aged women were bitchy. But we realize now that they just took up more space than we thought we had permission to at that time in our lives.
Girlfriend! I've embraced "Chico's" clothes and will be wearing the slim leg jeans and the Cotton white shirts and pearls and won't be looking frumpy.

But yes, middle-aged women become invisible as middle-aged men are celebrated. Think Barbara Bush vs. Sean Connery. Biology sucks. Which I guess answers the question why so many women resort to dangerous and expensive plastic surgery.
@Robyn, J.Jill, eh? I'll check it out. Thanks for coming by.
@Ranting, I love your confidence. Thanks for reading.
@Kathy, thank you so much for reading.
@Bonnie, I'm happy to be understood. Thanks so much.
@Kim, I hear you! Ha! Sluts-R-Us! Funny.
@Leeandra, I know it!
@Jeff, very good quote, indeed.
@Reader, It is just that. A new phase. Thanks so much for reading.
@Sheila, you sound very grounded. Ha! Smoke 'em if you've got 'em! please, what a great line!
@OEsheepdog, tons of value in that. Thank you.
@Susan, thanks so much. I like the show too. My problem would be nothing to throw out-I just don't *have* any clothes right now!
@Buffy, Yes! Thanks for reading.
@Patty, thank you for your very kind words.
@pharmawriter, I appreciate your insights. Thanks for reading.
@Will, you are funny and kind. Thanks for coming by.
@Wildmarjoram, yes, I must start taking up more space! Love your name, by the way.
@Deborah, I cannot imagine you looking frumpy.
@Penrose, great thought. Thank you for reading.
My mother used to say there's a world of difference between being "young" and "still young." Excellent post. Rated.
So well said and lovely. You don't look invisible to me, beautiful.
@Liane, very true indeed. Thank you for reading.
@Caroline, You just come visit my blog *anytime.* Thanks for reading.
Well said! I'm not sure what your demarcations are, but I think I might be in my third act. I have felt a little invisible for since I was about 55 and started losing height due to osteopenia. But now that my hair has turned more silver than black, I notice that I'm getting those special little smiles people give to old people, as if they are saying "Bless your heart, Honey. You are still out here trying." I used to do that to old people and I sure wish I hadn't.
I adore this piece. "Maybe this second act is the act where women stop being seen and start being heard." Let's hope so AND I hope you don't give up on being seen - you shine so bright!

Love to you.
Two in a row! You are on a roll, and not so invisible in the talent department. You're hitting your stride.
Oh dear Joan, these are my words. This opening phrase: "I am approaching invisible". This is mine. You reached into my heart and took it from me. You shook them all up, the stumbling fumble of words, and gave them voice. I am speechless. Yes, you are being heard, but yes, more than that, you are being seen. Truly seen. And you are beautiful in a way that cannot be touched by time. I salute you.
Yep. I know this thing called 'invisibility.' It happened around age 40. When I try to explain it to my younger friends I can see that they do not get it. But they will. But it does offer a new way of approaching the world that is much better in many ways.
"It is the sales girls who don't see me anymore."

I tell you what, they get mad when a cat like me tries on the pantyhose!!!

Man, you think you're invisible till then!! Then, WOOSH!! They come out with the brooms and the curse words and well, let me tell you, they know some curse words!! ;)

Rated for my own walk down memory lane!! :)
I was an extremely shy child and never really got over it. I've been waiting for invisible my whole life.
Joan H. I love palm of the hand resting on the chin.
I followed Stellaa. I'd visit a bakery with her and you.
You don't need money. Ya smell and loiter all day long.
Sooner or later, bakers see two invisible public nuisances.
They give you old-stale Boston Cream Bavarian doughnuts.
If you feel invisible sing songs? Visit a PA bank? Ya get jailed.
Sing jail-cell song`I Call Dead-beat LAWYER`TOMORROW!
Then go home, kick Ya shoes off? Be happy Ya got no fracture!
Be shouting`Halo-Loony! Pick stinky bare toes all day all alone!
I love to Play`I'm Invisible. Caress a pillow and Play game`Senile.
@Linthe, I think I'm planning to live to 120. "You are still out here trying..." Hilarious! Thanks for reading.
@Sparking, thank you for reading and for your always kind words.
@Bell, many thanks!
@Gail, we definitely understand each other, don't we? I'm glad you came by.
@odetteroulette, yes, they will. Indeed they will. Thanks for reading.
@Tink, Ha! I'm picturing you in pantyhose.
@owtad, thanks for reading. Invisible has its perks.
@Stellaa, I hear you. Thanks for reading.
@Art, as long as the doughnuts aren't invisible. Love having you visit.
Fantastic writing, Joan.

The theme of invisibility is so important to me. I was invisible for most of my growing up, until maybe college age or my mid-twenties. I might be doing this thing backwards. I'm getting more noticed as I get older.

I've had to wear sensible shoes since my mid-twenties because of working eight hours a day on my feet. I now buy the expensive Dansko shoes that nurses wear. I am sad that I can't wear flip-flops anymore. Oh, well.

Great post. Well deserved EP.
Well, Joan, I'd say you hit a nerve with this post. Congrats on the well-deserved EP - this is one piece where I think the editors got it right.

Middle-aged invisibility - what a topic. One that inspires passionate debate. I tend to agree and disagree with the comments in equal measure.

Here are my thoughts: Obviously, we don't elicit the same gawking stares and cat calls that the very young, sexily-dressed young things do. But, when I remember the way I used to rail at being sized up like a piece of meat, I realize I don't miss those stares so much after all.

As for myself, I know there are days when I am invisible and days when I am anything but. The invisible days are those when I just run a brush through my hair and go out in my "genderless" clothes and happily realize that I'm not out to impress anyone. The still-visible days are the ones when I choose not to be invisible - and I'm not.

I agree with those who say whether we are invisible has more to do with our own attitude toward ourselves than it does with anyone else. I also am savvy enough to know that there is truth in the statement that ages confers a degree of invisibility despite how young we may feel, act or look. We live in a society that worships youth, one that hardly recognizes the wisdom or the beauty of the ages. That is a hard fact.

I agree wholeheartedly with Scarlett when she says that "with age comes a different type of beauty." Recognizing that and making peace with it is more than half the battle.

Great post, dear friend.
Very nice. James Tiptree, a long-gone science-fiction writer, wrote a wonderful story about invisible women who were in fact taking over the world. I think that we have more to think about and do than shop in the juniors department and farther to go than we can get in stilletto heels. We have a lot of experience that we have survived and learned from--ignore us at your peril.
@Unbreakable, thank you for reading and giving such a thoughtful, thought provoking comment. Some of it may seem frivolous, but there is a real passage women go through in every stage of life. We are complex, amazing people.
@nolalibrarian, thank you for reading and commenting. I like your way of thinking.
Rated and congratulations on the Editor's Pick!! :o)

As for feeling invisible ... I always do feel that way and this post describes it so well!
Ok, once again I am missing out on another important aspect of womanhood. Invisibility. I am 47 and the last time I tried to be invisible I was 5 years old. I have also just found out that I am middle aged and it's a bad thing. Damn, I was really happy about that 250 dollar a month car insurance discount from AARP, I've been using the money I've saved to treat myself to fun things like a pink parka with a furry hood and matching boots and Hello Kitty T shirts. I'm opting out of the invisibility, like I said earlier, when I was five I really wanted it, but now, no thanks. you ladies can keep the invisibility all to yourselves.
I like dressing funky, like the eighties. I like (gasp) shoulder pads, but that is because I think Kate Hepburn, et al, looked so gorgeous in the 40's movies. The eighties are my favorite because then I was young and thin and gorgeous too. But I don't think of my shoes as sensible, though none have more than an inch heel. That is because I grew up barefoot, in Florida, so I never got that whole stiletto thing, well for me. Go ahead, and get those spike-y heels, girl! You are not invisible, and won't ever be! HUGS!
Great post, Joan, I remember it, and it is so relevant. RRR
Well for starters, I'm totally down with the yoga pants and the sweaters. (Or in my case, yoga pants and over-sized mens button down shirts.) I'm all about comfort, although my profession requires I glam it up on a regular basis. (I hate that aspect of being a jazz singer, frankly. And I'm not good at it. I find the feminine arts stressful.)

I feel completely invisible in the world most of the time. I don't know if it's my age (48) or because of my divorce. It's odd how the latter seemed to almost instantaneously cut me off from any sense of community. I think the prolonged search for employment has definitely contributed to my sense of invisibility as well; every job I've even come close to getting was given to some 20-something young woman. Aside from finishing up my job as a mom, I sometimes wonder why I'm here. I can't seem to figure out the divine missive.

I loved what you said about the second act perhaps being when women stop being seen and start being heard. I hope that's true. And I hope someone is listening.

Great post, Joan.
And oh yeah, dear Enzo herded me out of the junior's department one day a few months ago. I think he thought he was saving me from embarrassing myself. Sigh.
Katy B., your son and my daughter are just keeping us from embarrassing ourselves...:)
Joan, it's funny, I am writing an essay about this very's a funny feeling. I almost like it sometimes.
CB, I want to read it when you are done. It is a topic that is near and dear to my heart!