Ever feel like no one sees you, especially those of the opposite sex? Do you sometimes wonder, “Am I fading into oblivion?” Don’t let it get you down, you’re among friends, and there are better things on the horizon than a “cat-call.”
I talk to women of all kinds—friends, relatives, and strangers: some in my workshops, some on the street, some in groups I belong to, and some on social media. I observe people and the interactions between them.
After hearing women repeat sentiments about fading into oblivion as they age, I realized there is a theme reverberating among women in mid-life and beyond. Blurry lines frame the mid-life years it seems, since I’m hearing similar words from women in their forties on up to eighty-year-olds. Mostly, I sense that “forgettable women” feel a loss, perhaps bewilderment, a little pain, but not anger at being less visible. They accept, though they feel uncomfortably cut off, particularly from the opposite sex. They feel a separation of sorts, but not necessarily a negative one.
This is the gist of what I hear “on the street”:
- I’ve met a good friend’s husband three times now, and on each occasion, he acts like it’s the first we’ve met.
- My adult children talk about me as though I’m not in the room.
- When I ask my husband how his day was, he’ll tell me about his day, but he doesn’t even think to ask me about mine.
- I used to walk down the street and get whistles from construction workers. I kind of miss that. Obviously, I’m not a feminist. I appreciate the difference between the sexes, and I miss being noticed by men.
- When I’m in a conversation with my husband, say at a cocktail party, he’s looking around the room, as if he’d like to find a younger woman to schmooze with. He’ll comment on how terrific someone ten years my junior looks, but complimenting me on my appearance never happens.
- My husband talks about himself, is disinterested in what’s going on in my life, but nevertheless expects me to listen attentively to him.
- At the office, the young gals get by with murder, while we older gals do most of the work and, incidentally, without praise or appreciation.
- I knew I was over the hill when young women quit talking when I entered the room. I look in the mirror and wonder who that old woman is looking back at me. Maybe I’d like to be even more invisible!
- When I see women trying so hard to stay young, I just shake my head. They’re just plain going down the wrong path by dressing in their “daughter’s jeans.” They’re not fooling anyone but themselves.
On the other hand, the transition through menopause, the empty nest, and the strength of character that often comes with age makes bright, shiny stars out of many women.
The following is talk from “the other side of the street”:
- I finally really like myself. I’m smarter, stronger, savvier, even sexier than I was fifteen years ago. I like me! And so do a lot of other people.
- I refuse to respond to the myth that aging is unattractive in every way. Why, I’m in better shape today at sixty than I was at thirty and proud of it.
- I shed competition years ago. I now walk around with confidence knowing who I am, what I want, and what I don’t want. It’s liberating.
- I’ve discovered the joy of closer female relationships, those that I didn’t have time for when the children were at home. True communication happens between women as a rule; not so much with men in general.
- It used to bother me that some people would talk right through me, act like I wasn’t even around. I’m not one to be shoved aside, so I made the decision to surround myself with people who like me for me. I’m happy.
- Being less visible on many fronts is liberating. The games are out the window. I’m seen and valued for what I do and what I know. At this point in life, I believe wisdom is my most valuable asset—that’s rewarding.
- There’s no more playing the meek and mild roll for me. I speak my piece gracefully, while saying exactly what’s on my mind.
- I’d have to be nuts to say I like the wrinkles and sags that multiply each year (not so pretty), but I love the space I have now, in my late fifties, to explore and even push the limits of my mind and body. There’s real beauty in the stretch.
- My true self is more visible than ever before, which turns out to be a plus all the way around. For those to whom I’m invisible, well, that’s their loss!
- Her eyes still had a deep glow, bright as stars burning from the inside out. This is how I see my eight-five-year-old mother. I only hope mine will burn as brightly. She’s the star ship still guiding my way.
The words in this last quote, from a woman on the bright side of the street, became the beginning of the story she wrote about her mother; another TellTale Soul was born.
Whether you feel like you’re fading into shadow or your star is burning brightly, sit down and write a short, true story. And start at the beginning of you—through writing about the woman who gave you life, you’ll discover more than you can imagine about both your mother and yourself. Write the Mother Memoir.