Today I went to the store not wearing something that 10 years ago I swore I never would…no makeup. And I paid for it dearly just like I thought I would during all these many years of not venturing out the door without, at the very least, a good coat of mascara. As far as I was concerned my lack of an encounter with the sales girls confirmed my suspicions that no makeup=no service. So I just stood there at the counter while two young sales clerks had a gossip fest that would make Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons proud. Finally, I started to get annoyed. But here is the thing. It wasn’t so much that the girls were ignoring me that upset me but it was the fact that I was all but invisible to them. HUH? Since when did this cloak of inconspicuousness begin to envelop me? I mean it seems like just yesterday that I was twenty-five and men would whistle and sales women couldn’t wait to give me the time of day. So when did I become invisible?
I wish I could pinpoint a time that I began to disappear. A day or an event that I could look back on and blame would be nice. A moment at which I could say “Ah ha. It was the day you stopped dying your hair,” or something significant like that. Yet, if the truth is told, I do have a vague idea of when this slide into nothingness began. It was around my 40th birthday when I gained twenty-five pounds and crows feet all in the same day. It was the year the Dow dropped precipitously and so did my boobs. And it was the year my collagen supply diminished and my shoe size increased as everything in my body suddenly let go and “loosened” up. Instantly, I was no longer youthful nor desirable to Madison Avenue or the man on the street. Society began to dictate no more cute low cut dresses, open toe shoes or fishnet hose for me. In fact, the sales girls in some sort of giggly, jiggly, conspiracy started steering me towards the matronly woman department. You know the place. It’s where they sell swimsuits with huge explosive pink flowers with aprons to cover your “older but wiser” big ass. Here you can find shoes without heels and interchangeable inserts for shoes and bras. It’s the one place on earth where the minute hands are removed from watches so as to not remind you of your impending demise. And it’s where White Shoulders perfume strangles the air. Come to think of it, after turning forty I never again received free samples of tanning lotion, sculpting gel or feminine deodorant spray in the mail. Now its just, AARP news, denture cream and life insurance spokesman Ed McMann that clutters my mailbox.
This invisibleness I have taken on is not of my choosing and somehow it doesn’t seem fair nor does it suit me. I mean, come on, when my mother was forty she was OLD. I on the other hand, well, I am hip, sassy and can still have a decent conversation with “the girls” about sex that would make even Oprah squirm. In fact, I almost jumped into the sales girls conversation when it started venturing towards men’s body parts. But instead I laughed out loud thinking about how young, inexperienced and naive they were. It was then that they turned, and gave me “THE LOOK” that told me they thought that dementia was settling in and making a permanent home in my soon-to-be grandma brain.
“May I help you?” shouted a nineteen year-old bleached blondie named Brittany who had a permanent Botox IV drip inserted under her skin. She sashayed over to where I stood in her perfect size 00 hipsters; her perky boobs still able to arrive at my side of the counter five minutes before the rest of her.
“I believe you can. I want the biggest jar of anti-wrinkle cream you have,” I said. I remembered to smile while trying standing a little straighter in a futile effort to raise my boobs an inch higher so I would not inadvertently knock the samples to the floor.
She gave me the “poor pitiful you there is nothing that can help” look as she placed my purchase in the bag with her set of perfectly polished two inch nails.
“Oh, I threw in some free samples of the newest and most technologically advanced firming creams on the market,” Brittany said patting me on the hand. “They guarantee that it will make you look ten years younger. It really helps women YOUR age.”
It was at that precise moment a miracle occurred and I grew comfortable in my aging skin. For in that second, I knew without a doubt, that invisible and fifty-five was a thousand times better than insecure and nineteen. Sure she may have the world by the tail but give it a few years and Brittany would soon be directed to the matrons department by girls just like her. But there would be one big difference. She would arrive scared, not confident. She would be feeling dread, not optimism. Instead of my BRING IT ON attitude she would the type who would cut, lipo, shape, tweeze and pilate her way into middle age. Eventually, she would begin to develop a flat head as she engaged in twenty minute headstand marathons trying to get her breasts somewhere up near her shoulders again. Then she would discover gravity doesn’t work that way and it would be all downhill from there.
Luckily, I am one of those that “Age” has been speaking with for a while now. I have slowly gotten used to having her around. Sometimes she speaks softly to me offering encouragement. At other times “Age’ becomes loud and brassy with a “Take A Look At Me Now” attitude; daring the world to see what I see when I look in the mirror…naked. She gives me a comforting yet gentle push to the future even as I resist her intrusion into my life. We have a love/hate relationship going on. Yet,I am fortunate because for others “Age” is not so kind. She digs her stilettos in, fighting to remain in the past, fearful of what’s to come. It was obvious Blondie would be one of those.
I took pity on the nineteen year-old. I reached into my bag and placed the new miracle of science back into her hand.
“Darling you take it,” I said with a laugh. “In fact, take all of it,” I laughed shoving the samples back into her hands. “Believe it or not someday you will need it.”
And with that, I turned and headed over to the hat department. There I found a vibrant scarlet red one; it’s upturned brim spotted with leopard material. It sits in my closet waiting as I bridge the gap between young and old, wise and wishful, content and always searching. Every once in awhile I put it on to remind myself that I am not invisible even if the youth of society and Madison Avenue wants me to be. It reinforces the fact don’t intend on bowing out quickly and quietly as a nearly invisible shadow of my former self. Instead, I have chosen to live my life celebrating my age, my lines, my sense of humor , the wisdom I have acquired, my many accomplishments to date, and my verve. I’ll be the one to decide if and when I will cease to exist, not some blonde bimbo at Bloomingdales. I may be older and grayer than the ME generation but I still have my power and I‘m still feeling pretty damn groovy.