One day, I realized that I was invisible.
Getting married, having babies, gaining a considerable amount of weight, and crawling way up into church culture, brings all the elements of human invisibility together for many women. It did for me. I watched myself fade into a vapor, and I was powerless to stop it.
We rarely vanish all at once. It starts with smaller sub-groups within one’s circle of influence. Marriage makes us immediately invisible to a certain group. Having children drops one off of several party guest lists. Excessive weight gain cancels us out of all respectable summer activities, at least the ones that don’t involve children. Church culture is more of a safe haven than a contributor to invisibility, but there’s a certain amount of social stigma, there.
For a long time, most of my human interactions consisted of people wanting me to do things for them, so I decided to make that work for me. I cleaned houses, professionally, for over ten years. Invisibility is a real plus when scuttling around behind people, picking up after them for cash.
There were good times. My kids seemed happy, so, okay. We were making reasonable bank, and everyone was warm and fed, so I counted myself blessed. As long as everyone was taken care of, being invisible wasn’t that bad.
Then came middle age, the biggest eraser of them all. By the time I was thirty-eight, I was well on my way to nothing. At forty-two, I vanished altogether.
- All of sudden, my whole life is wrong. Life is tough when nobody can see you.
- Who owns these horrible clothes in my closet? Invisible people pay little regard to personal appearance.
- I can’t stop over-reacting to everything. When nobody listens, one tends to shout.
- I struggle with feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy. Nothing plus nothing equals nothing.
- Occasionally, I have bouts (seasons) of intense anxiety. When others can’t see you, they walk all over you which is very stressful.
There’s little worse than unsolicited invisibility.
Don’t Stop Believin’
Your crazy, crazy brain tells you all kinds of foolishness when it’s being knocked about by wildly fluctuating levels of estrogen. Don’t listen to any of it. Fix your eyes on the horizon and avoid greasy food. Never walk too close to busy traffic. Being invisible, they’ll run right over you and never even know it. Always take a friend, hopefully, one who can still be seen by the general populace: young, attractive, wealthy, athletic, educated, big hair, pet dog, something like that.
Funnel your hysteria into a positive endeavor. I went to college. Ever since then, I’ve been somewhat visible. It’s probably just a confidence thing, right? That’s what I want to believe, anyway. Whenever I speak, people will now acknowledge me, listen to me, engage me intelligently, stuff like that. Poof! I’m visible again. Go figure.
I’m not saying college is the answer for everybody, but it was a big part of my solution. I’m definitely not saying that I’ve fought like a beast through all of this, or that I’m totally proud of how I’ve handled it, so far. I wish. But it sure feels good to walk through a crowded parking lot by myself.