On being invisible: Have you felt this?
Several years ago, I was in a restaurant in Branson, Missouri with my beautiful, vibrant, and 25 years younger, friend. She is one of those women who attract men like butterflies to their favorite Black-Eyed Susan flowers.
This was a common occurrence for us…men flock to her, barely noticing that I am at the table. Pheromones, I’m told. They affect the behavior of the opposite sex. My friend has lots of pheromones. I, apparently, do not.
One day I attended a book signing. The author is handsome and young-ish. Most of the women in line were smiley, flirty, and obvious…I remember acting and Being like that. The author was smiley, flirty, and very talkative with those younger women. When it was my turn, he took my book, asked my name (almost without looking up), signed his book and handed it back to me. Next.
Wow! That was fun…not!
You know, I’ve done this. When I was younger and hiring employees for my company, well, back then it was still OK to ask a candidates’ age. I’d look through the pile of applications and almost immediately dismiss anyone whose age exceeded 40. In my opinion, they were most likely not trainable, set in their ways, and overly opinionated.
Of course, I senselessly overlooked potentially tremendous employees. Back then, they were invisible to me. Why? Because, to me, they were old.
I was invisible when I was with my pheromone laden friend and to the handsome young author. Why? Because I am old.
Have you experienced being invisible? I know I’m not the only one who has behaved this way and who has experienced not being seen. Although older men are typically held in higher esteem than older women, I suspect older men experience moments of being invisible, too.
Shockingly (because it “feels like” people born in 1969 should be about 25!), people born in 1969 and earlier are now 50-plus. According to Google, with research from AARP, there are 108.7 million people are 50-plus. This includes 76.4 million boomers (born 1946–64), compared with 49 million Gen-Xers (born in the 1960s and 70s) and 82 million millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). Moreover, the population of people 50-plus will continue to grow over the next decade to the tune of 19 million, versus growth of only 6 million for the 18–49-year-old population.
Marketing media recognizes the buying power of our 50-plus age group. More and more companies are using older actors to hawk their goods and services. We see gray hairs on television, magazines, and online; they are far from invisible. Apparently, we 50-plus folks find them to be honest and believable. Is it that old know me-like me-trust me factor? Probably.
Older models are the new rage. It makes sense, doesn’t it? I’m 70. I don’t want to purchase clothes that look fabulous on a 20-something woman. Take a look at China Machado: she was born in 1928. Carmen Dell’Orefice appeared on Vogue when she was 15…she is modeling again at 85. Twiggy is now in her 60s and still working. These women never expected to be working in their industry as senior citizens. It was unheard of for (practically) anyone over 25 to still be modeling. Not today. Older models speak to the 108.7 million people who are 50-plus.
Now, let’s consider the senior citizens we see in advertising. What do they have in common? Almost every one of them presents as fabulously confident and each one is good looking. They sport expensive haircuts. They are in great physical shape, thin and tone. Maybe the photos are airbrushed, maybe the camera angles are ideal, but I sure have never seen wrinkly arms like mine…or a pot belly, so common to older men and post-menopausal women.
Even the older, not famous actors used in advertising, the ones who are supposed to look like us and our neighbors…their teeth are perfect. Their makeup hides the reality of spotted and wrinkled skin. Their hair is just slightly not perfect. Right?
Those 50-plus people who are featured are our age but they don’t look like us…not in real-life.
“So, what’s your point, Mickie?”, you may be thinking. Is this the green monster of jealousy raising its ugly head? Are you just venting about being an older, sometimes invisible woman?
My point is, even being the largest population segment, as we age, we become more and more invisible. In spite of the power of AARP and the use of Boomers in advertising, in real life, there are some people who don’t see us.
As a 20-something, those people over 40 were invisible to me.
Now it’s my turn to be the one not seen.
It’s human nature in the United States, I guess. Elderly are not valued here the way we are in many other cultures. Families are spread all across the Country. Many children today don’t know their grandparents; perhaps do not have interaction with grandparent-age adults.
When people are undervalued in their families and cultures, their personal value is eroded. As we accept that lower position in society, we become more invisible.
When we are undervalued, we don’t shine. You know, that vibrant energy that emanates from excited, focused, directed people. You’ve seen it…you’ve probably experienced that level of happiness yourself.
Many older people have allowed that Light to become dull. Many seniors don’t smile a lot…because they are ashamed of their teeth (which really does not matter) or because they have lost that inner glow that smiling creates and shares with others.
A lot of 50-plus people have retired and chosen to sit in a comfy chair rather than continue interaction in their communities, sharing their gifts through volunteering, or finally living their dream of entrepreneurship. Inactivity, isolation, removing ourselves from personal interaction allows our Light to become dull…and we allow ourselves to become invisible.
My suggestions to avoid being invisible?
· Choose to smile a lot…smiling is the fastest way to increase your positive energy level and smiling is contagious. Practice smiling on the telephone…people can feel the energy of a smile in a telephone conversation.
· Join a yoga and/or a meditation group … you’ll find a free group for seniors, or a low-cost offer near you. OR, consider Googling yoga and meditation and begin home practice until you’re ready to join a group. When you choose to be active, you’ll feel much better about yourself and your Light will shine brighter.
· Make a list of your strengths, business and personal. Find a volunteer opportunity to share all that experience and positive input you have to offer. Or, find a part-time job.
· Wear only clothes that feel good on you. If you have lost or gained weight, choose clothes that fit you now. Repair some zippers, replace buttons, and pull out that iron that’s gathered dust. Remember that book, Dress for Success? There is still a lot to be said for presenting yourself the best you can. When we look good, we feel good. That does not mean wearing designer clothes. It means being You. Dress to present your authentic self.
· Every evening, write a list of five things you are grateful for on that day. Could be a beautiful sunrise or sunset; watching birds in your yard; talking on the phone with a grandchild; baking cookies for your neighbor, a conversation with a friend, enjoying whipped cream on your morning coffee…simple things that we pay attention to and savor.
Recap: Decide to smile more, become involved, choose an activity you enjoy, dress as well and comfortably as you are able, keep a gratitude journal, and let your Light shine.
Yes, I did all of this. And I was still invisible around my high-pheromone friend and to the author. Yes, not being seen…feeling less-than…hurts and is undermining. One thing I’ve learned in the past few years is this brilliant philosophy: Other people’s opinion of me is none of my business.
The more I smile, continue to explore and learn, share my gifts, do things I enjoy, stay involved in my community and continue creating my authentic life, the more brightly my Light shines and the less likely I will be identified as an invisible old woman.
I’m learning to embrace my journey into Being 70 and remaining visible. Thank you for being on this Journey with me!