Monday, August 9, 2010

Middle-Aged Invisibility

Women complain that they become invisible in public from the age of 45. Middle-aged women are ignored by service staff everywhere, especially if they are part of a couple. The man automatically seizes the focus of attention from waitresses, sales assistants and even strangers hanging about in airport terminals.

Travelling with my husband from Australia to London provided an opportunity to observe this absurd phenomenon, which would be highly amusing if I was not on the receiving end. When you are treated as invisible, it is not so much like having a super power, as downright insulting.

On our last connecting flight from Zurich after a long, weary journey, my husband struck up a conversation with the businessman seated next to him. He chatted for five minutes, which was pleasantly polite, but when he continued the conversation for the entire flight, while ignoring me, I was hurt and teary.

His choice was short-sighted. It was me he would be cuddling up to in the B & B that night, not the big-noting Canadian. It is the wise husband who has a brief courteous exchange with a fellow passenger then turns his attention back to his wife!

When we made it to the Hire Cars at London Airport, I stood guard with the luggage while my husband approached the counter where there were three services to choose from. He called out to me “Do you have a preference?” I didn’t want to leave the luggage to walk up to him with a discreet answer.

We were travelling on a budget, so I replied loudly “The cheapest one I suppose.” In that split second, a young woman seated nearby shot him a smile and he smiled back, sharing a joke at my expense. I flushed, not with a power surge, but a twinge of betrayal and a jolt of embarrassment.

News flash. Husbands, it is not your job to amuse people in public places especially when your wife is the butt of the joke. It is not your job to be a charming people-pleaser. It IS your job, the one you signed up for, to show respect to your wife.

Australian balladeer John Williamson reckons that being True Blue is standing by your mate when she’s in a fight (or a tight spot at an airport or during an awkward moment at a cocktail party). It means showing unwavering loyalty to your best buddy even when she’s behaving badly!

I believe such an act of kindness is called extending grace. You offer undeserved support and smooth over her social blunders because she’s your Number One ahead of all casual acquaintances.

Granted, you can not control other people. It seems that women of all ages, from teenagers to old ladies, are biologically programmed to flirt with men of all ages, shapes and dubious features. My middle-aged husband, despite his salt and pepper ‘George Clooney’ spikes is apparently still attractive to younger women.

Most men with a pulse are suckers for a random female smile or stray flirtation, while pleading naïve innocence. However a clever husband resists the fleeting ego kick of momentary female flattery in preference for the flesh and blood woman by his side (even if she has more curves than the stick-figure in jeans). The mature man knows the difference between snacking on junk and feasting on wholesome nourishing meals!

When we arrived at the Real Estate office, I clued up my husband to let me do the talking as I had been emailing the office for weeks. I engaged the attention of the forty-something woman for five minutes before her eyes shifted to Him seated on the couch behind me.

She proceeded to lock eye contact, explaining the availability of rental houses in earnest, even moving to sit next to him to show the local listings up close! Despite my campaign of rapport-building emails, I was snubbed as a second-class citizen and tag-along wife.

So this is the curse of being a woman over 45. You are regularly treated with disdain by other women. Whatever happened to the sisterhood? Or perhaps this fierce competition and ruthless rivalry for male attention is symptomatic of a desperate divorce-wrecked society?

As if female disdain is not bad enough, male interest in middle-aged chooks is zero. Middle-aged blokes can apparently impress young chickie-babes but we are invisible in public to all males under 70 who can still master bladder control and possess their own teeth. Spunky young guys just see Mother.

The one consolation Baby Boomer wives can hope for is loyalty from a True Blue husband who appreciates the flirty gal he married all those years ago; his travelling buddy for life who will patiently pose for his happy snaps, laugh at his corny jokes and stroke his salt and pepper hair long after the skinny thing in denim has turned her pearly whites on another deluded middle-aged ‘George Clooney’.


  1. LOL Diane ....i've felt invisible for years .....some bonus' tho....if you don't get to shave the legs over winter ,no-one notices.....yay..However if I'm with my 4 girls ,then I'm totally and utterly "not there" and I notice how the men and boys ogle and turn around to view the the girls as they "sail "by , quite oblivious to them ! So it would seem that we all watch someone as well as not being noticed by others....xxxxxx

  2. Great piece...
    but...I don't mind being "invisible" now(and yes I know that I am in that sense)... all that attention in my more beautiful years had nothing (or very little) to do with who I really was but was more about the procreation of the species... people at the mercy of their hormones. The fact that mens eyes wander to beauty says more about their shallow (albeit unknowing) interests than about me... I celebrate the freedom of no longer being part of that... of being able to wear comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes and being appreciated by those who notice that I am now powerful in a way I never was, wiser than I ever was, happier than I ever was... and yes.. a far better lover and my "salt and pepper guy" knows it!!!

  3. Wow, sounds to me like you're just feeling sorry for yourself...and aren't you a bit old for that?

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