Do older women really become 'invisible' as they age?
Do older women really become 'invisible' as they age?

YOUR STORY: The invisible women

RECENTLY I went out for a drink with a beautiful friend to celebrate her 40th birthday. As we waited and waited and waited at the bar for a drink, she turned to me with dismay and announced that life as we know it was all over. We had reached the age and stage where we are invisible.

I felt like saying to her, "An accumulation of crow's feet does not excuse bad manners or lack of professionalism!" But I stayed quiet and used much self-control not to throw the sticky bar mat at the bartender, as I could see she was visibly upset.

I found it hard to believe that such a gorgeous woman could ever be invisible. Not only is she an intelligent, thoughtful and funny person, she is the kind of woman to turn heads being a tall, curvaceous, buxom, tanned brunette with a smile that lights up the room. Men usually fall over themselves to buy her a drink.

I, on the other hand, am pale, thin and awkwardly proportioned, and have never felt visible (except in Asia - where I stand out for being so pale, tall, blonde and rather large by their standards). I'm not that old, and I don't think I have aged badly. I'm fit, but I might as well be a part of the furniture in the room. I am unremarkable. I dress well, but I don't dress to stand out. I'm confident, but not overly loud. I usually blend in, unnoticed amongst my surrounds.

I noticed that clusters formed around the most attractive women in the bar - those in the best physical condition and those particularly vibrant. The men were like bowerbirds, drawn to blue, shiny objects.

When the barman finally took our order, my friend announced that she had noticed that she on longer turned heads and there was a drop in the amount of unsolicited attention from men.

She was depressed that she had missed her chance to get a man. I didn't know what to say. Did she really feel that this her prime purpose in life? I felt sad for her.

In the bathroom as I was fixing her makeup, she stared at her beautiful face in the mirror and began to cry. She told me that age doesn't creep up, it fells you with changes you don't see coming. She felt she had vanished and was replaced by an old woman.

Australia is very much an ageist and patriarchal society. In Australia, and throughout most of the world, older men are typically held in higher esteem than older women. We tend to value those of either gender who are youthful. It is these people who are visible and relevant.

Perhaps this phenomenon is the result of the digital revolution. The smartphone captivates many trapping them within their own little world. In addition, a generation raised with accessible online porn and a dating app-obsessed culture, ensures that feeling seen and visible is a fast-fleeting concept. Swipe or blink and you're gone. Forgotten. Deleted.

We build self-esteem by living up to our own personal values and standards, however, we also rely upon the regard of others to feel good about ourselves. So this failure to be visible impacts a woman's feelings of self-worth.

However, on the other hand, being invisible is inherently powerful. When nobody really cares what you look like, or what you do, or even who you are, you are free to be yourself.

I have found invisibility is the key to freedom.