When 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.