When I was younger, if someone had asked me what superpower I’d like to have, I might have chosen invisibility. To dip in and out unnoticed. To be the proverbial fly on the wall. To perform ordinary acts that would appear as miracles. That all sounds like great fun.
Until it actually becomes your reality. Until people start to treat you as if you aren’t there. And then it sucks. It really sucks.
I’m hardwired for self-confidence. I don’t worry much about what other people think. I am not an attention-seeker, and I can get along just fine without the approval of anyone but myself. But lately, I’ve noticed that I’m not, well, noticed. Certainly not like I used to be. What’s up with that?
What’s happening to me — a slow slide into invisibility — is absolutely fascinating. Weird, yes. Painful, too. But watching as other people stop watching me is fascinating nonetheless.
I am surprised. But I shouldn’t be.
I am 59. When I was in my mid-40s, a friend who was a few years older than I was told me that men still looked at her, they just didn’t look twice. I was a stunner — men and women both had always considered me attractive — and I wasn’t convinced. Certainly I would always be worthy of a second glance.
Until I wasn’t. Somewhere along the way — some research says this phenomenon starts for women around 45 — people began to see me differently. Though I don’t feel any different.
Certainly I would always be worthy of a second glance. Until I wasn’t.
Of course, I am not alone.
I live in Los Angeles, and if there ever were a place on earth where older women should remain in the limelight, it would be where they spent their youth and built their careers as movie stars covetable for their genetic advantages and finely honed talents. But it’s not so.
Earlier this year, a report from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism confirmed what we already knew: Older women aren’t well represented in television and film. It’s not like we’re invisible, though. That would imply that we are actually there, you just can’t see us. In this case, we’re literally not there. That’s sad.
Most of us aren’t movie stars, of course, but we are still moving around the planet, feeling increasingly frustrated that we go unseen among the beautiful young things, who are everywhere — not just Hollywood. (And please don’t get us wrong: We do not begrudge those women. In fact, we love those women. They keep us fashion forward and teach us how to use Snapchat. Without them, we’d be as irrelevant as we are sometimes treated.)
Our editor in chief tells the story of stopping traffic in her 20s — of men actually pulling over in their cars, rolling down their windows, and admiring her hair, her walk, the way her dress hugged her ass. That was a period of time, she says, that she ate and drank free every night, her editorial assistant salary supplemented by generous admirers. Now, she can’t even get a bartender to serve her at an uncrowded bar with a Gold Card in her hand.
This happens. And it hurts.
Earlier this year, Marvel Comics registered the trademark “Invisible Woman.” And Hasbro received the rights to make an “Invisible Woman” action figure. In movies, the Invisible Woman has always been played by a beautiful young actress. Most recently pixie-with-an-edge Kate Mara was cast in the role, in the 2015 film Fantastic Four. At 33, that lady’s a long way from the day she walks into a room unnoticed.
I’m not going to live my life like nobody sees me. And neither should you.
But I’m not. And neither are most of the roughly 43 million women in the United States ages 45 to 64. That’s something that became abundantly — and aggravatingly — clear as we prepared to launch The Fine Line.
In the last six months, our team has spent hour after hour poring over stock images, looking for women who represent our mission: chic, worldly women with a sophisticated, urban aesthetic. And hour after hour, we were disappointed. Only occasionally would we find a photo of a beautiful woman with perfectly tousled silver hair in a blazer with an impeccable cut and with just the right amount of wrinkles to convey experience and wisdom. In our lives — in our friends — we see these women everywhere, but they are woefully underrepresented by the stock photo houses and on the Internet in general.
It’s an outrage. Frankly, it’s bullshit.
A story from Next Avenue, a website that purports to cater to my crowd, tells me to “enjoy being an older invisible woman,” and though some of its points are valid (I’ve experienced a whole lot more freedom with each passing year), I’m not going to live my life like nobody sees me.
And neither should you.