The Age of Invisibility? Time to Get Your Mojo Back.

DSCN0130When you are young and pretty, strangers stare.  When you’re older, they look, too.  Perhaps they pity the hunch of your back, the way your feet shuffle.  Or are amazed that you’re still alive, spry, walking, talking.  But at fifty-nine, you are invisible.  You walk the dog, and truckers breeze by, not bothering to honk.  You breakfast at coffee bars, and no one at the creamer caddie gives you a second glance.  At middle age, you are like a tree, a chair, a sign.  Something people pass by.  

The above comes from A Tree, a Chair, a Sign, a short story I wrote several years when I was more than 20 years younger than the narrator.  Not long before I started writing it, I’d noticed construction workers no longer whistled at me as I walked by, and no one coming or going from the 7-11 rushed to open the door for me.  These things and others signaled that I had entered into the phase of womanhood when college students and young newlyweds called me, “Ma’am.”

It was about that same time that my father said, “Now you’re even too old for the old guys.”  He was 61 at the time, my stepmother only a month older than I.  Neither she or I had hit middle age.

So I tried to imagine what women past their child-bearing years were feeling, and that led to the above passage, and the story in which a woman rediscovers her mojo.  Soon after, I found mine.

The reason I bring this up is lately I’ve heard a lot of 40- and 50-something women complaining that they feel invisible.  And not the kind by choice, like on a lazy day when you scoot to the grocery store as soon as it opens so no one will see  you with stringy bed hair and in paint-splattered sweats, scuffing down the aisles in an old pair of Ugg’s.  No, these are women who seem no longer sure what anchors them in the world larger than their own family.  These are smart, funny, talented people with more than enough knowledge for a competitive run on Jeopardy.

I had already started thinking about writing this post when I saw a rerun of The New Adventures of  Old Christine in which the title character griped to her brother that she had become invisible.  When she finished her rant, he responded, “It sounds like you need Mojo Rehabilitation Therapy.”  Ah ha, I thought, remembering how I energized my life.  MRT.  That’s it.

Sometimes, all of us, men  and women become too comfortable or too tired to change our lives. We don’t change jobs because we can’t risk losing our retirement benefits or health insurance.  We keep to same group of friends who are much like ourselves.  Nights out for dinner are set, except for the month of December. Family vacations revolve around family, taking the kids somewhere fun for them or visiting relatives in other states.  We stick to the same genre of books when we have time to read, although free moments are scarce.  The worst part?  The future doesn’t look so different from the last 12 years or so.  More of the same old, same old, except maybe a kid or two will move out.  Or not.

There  are millions of way to get in touch with your mojo, and it doesn’t have to be costly.  My first step was setting up a makeover at Sephorra.  Perhaps that sounds shallow and a bit vain — I do come from a long line of vain people, but it’s amazing how a cosmetic artist can alter a face with color, which, in turn, can change an attitude.  As I left the store with my new look and strolled through the mall, I kept admiring my reflection in the glass windows of other shops.  I couldn’t decide whether I looked like a French actress or a high-class Parisian hooker.  It didn’t matter.  I no longer felt invisible.  I felt reborn, not unlike my younger self that hopped on a plane and spend three months on traveling alone in Europe and Great Britain without a plan.  Unpredictable yet powerful.  Full of moxie and mojo.

For my more mature self, this last rebirth led to new travels to third-world countries, which, in turn, gave me a new perspective of where I fit in the large world.  When I returned home, I continued to shake up my life by giving up my job and enrolling in graduate school where I was often the oldest student in the class.  Sometimes even older than the professors.  Bigger things happened later.  All because of a bright sexy red lipstick that I had never imagined wearing.

Note:  Stuck?  Need help taking that first step?  Take a look at The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Or. . .call Sephorra.

8 thoughts on “The Age of Invisibility? Time to Get Your Mojo Back.

  1. Amy

    Ok, so I am figuring out how to do this computer thingy, and loving your words!
    But, I’d like to mention an old cliche that I believe in 110%……no! 450%
    You have to believe in yourself, love who you are, before anyone else can truly love (notice) you….until then, you are floating through life with blinders on. Personally, I have found “me” through exercise (which gives me the energy), a better diet (energy) and “giving it back” or “paying it forward”… when you walk with confidence and warmth for other people, it doesn’t matter what you are wearing! People notice…

  2. Dottie

    So Terry, I have found that one of the advantages of attaining the age of wisdom is self acceptance. I don’t care whether I am ogled by construction workers. I don’t care if I am 10 pounds or so overweight. I don’t care what people think about me. I have survived some of the worst events that life can hit one with, albeit with some down days. But I have learned that those days are temporary and they teach me to appreciate the good ones.
    I think one’s attitude is critical. Learning new things, keeping active physically and mentally, and volunteering all contribute to wellbeing. My fifties were the beginning of my journey into yoga and meditation. Turning sixty I learned to play golf. Two years ago it was learning to play mah jongg. I’m also fascinated by technology and love messing around with computers, tablets and mobile phones. Will I ever be an expert at any of these activities? No. But the joy and fun is in the doing and learning.
    As far as being “invisible” I guess I’m not quite there yet, even at my age. My 41 year old son recently ran into an acquaintance of his having lunch with a well known former TV sports reporter. He told my son and his lunch companion that he had seen me at a local art show and that I was a “cougar”. I’m not sure what the cutoff age is for cougarism but I thought I was well past it! My son was horrified but I thought it was hilarious. Maybe his acquaintance forgot his eyeglasses that day! Or had had one too many drinks. Or just wanted to tease my son a little. Whatever, it made me laugh.

  3. Judy

    Oh, Terry, this is so true. I have been invisible for years, maybe decades, and sometimes wonder if anyone sees me at all. But there is a part of me that no longer cares.
    It really started for me at 50, my feeling like an old lady most of the time. When teenage cashiers offered me the “senior citizen discount” on Thursdays (the day the store gave them), I stopped shopping there on Thursdays. I found stupid things to worry about–slowing down, not being as flexible as I had been in my 20s (physically and cognitively),never being the writer I wanted to be and realizing that I didn’t have the time left on earth to ever get there, not having a child to focus on after my son had made his way into adulthood. For the next five years, I felt “displaced”–nothing seemed the same and each new wrinkle and gray hair plunged me into another waste-of-time depression.
    All of this changed for me after a very good friend of mine– a vital, active, youth filled woman of 60–died very unexpectedly of a brain aneurysm. It was a shocking loss and one that changed my opinion and my growing pessimism about growing older, making me appreciate the opportunity to experience life from a new vantage point–what I like to call the “mature” woman advantage.
    Three years later, I see age has its benefits. I can engage in conversation with an attractive young man and not worry that he thinks I am trying to come on to him. I can say (with greater confidence and surety than ever before) what I really am willing to stand up for, and I have reclaimed the things I loved doing prior to grad school, working, and raising a family. I am painting again, after 30 plus years. I no longer worry as much about being the “perfect” teacher or the “perfect” anything. I am less anxious about how I look or how I act, not because I want to be viewed as careless or facile but because I feel justified in reclaiming myself.

    1. Terry Perrel Post author

      First, when can I see your paintings?
      Second, I’m glad you reached the place you are.
      Third, I always ask about senior discounts, and try to look at aging as a badge of honor — meaning, I have survived my own reckless.

      1. Judy

        You can see my paintings anytime–they are mostly in the house, so come on over! I very much like what you said about aging be a badge of honor: you are right. Heck, we have survived!

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