Coming up with a guest post for someone else’s blog was always going to be a challenge. My own blog veers from being all about things I find ‘wow’ or emotional outpourings that have no other place than the semi-anonymous internet. So I’m honoured that Jennie asked me to do this and I do hope that it measures up to her witty writings on My Human Revolution.
Life IS a revolution, or maybe a revolving door. In with the good, the bad, out with the good, the bad. Some people seem to make life harder by the choices they make, others look as if they are breezing through, totally in control.
But there is one thing about getting older that strikes to the heart of many a woman, and many men too. At times it is as if we are shrouded in a cloak of invisibility.
A younger more vociferously feminist me reacted with anger towards any man who dared hoot, holler or shout as I passed by. Cries of ‘cheer up, love’ or ‘hello darling’ would be greeted with a scowl and I would feel the indignation rise up inside me. How dare they feel they had the right to speak to me like that, would they want their own daughters and wives oggled in the same way?
Somewhere along the line, probably around the time the swollen belly of pregnancy took over, followed by several years of pram-pushing, the hollering stopped. I didn’t notice at first.
But then I realised I felt totally invisible. Not just to the ‘men-being-men’ brigade, but it seemed to EVERYONE. When did I become that plain, anonymous woman on the street? Suddenly it felt like I was the one that younger people ignored in busy shops, or bumped into on a crowded street. I was slower than everyone else, I couldn’t keep up, armed with baby things and exhausted from the marathon that is breastfeeding.
But then it didn’t seem to end, even beyond the stroller phase. And I realised that it wasn’t that I WAS invisible, but that I wanted to be. I didn’t look people in the eye, or speak to them directly. I avoided eye contact, and trying to blend into the frenzy of an urban existence, I certainly tried to avoid conversation. I gave shop-keepers short shrift if there was a long queue and I had to wait more than 10 minutes.
Life was passing me by and I didn’t even realise it.
It dawned on me that I had to make major changes in attitude. I remembered something a dapper older French gentleman had said to me once when I was in a huff about being whistled at in the street. Wearing white gloves and a white silk scarf, he said in a thick French accent ‘if you were a French woman you would be angry if they DIDN’T notice you..enjoy it. The French always appreciate a woman, no matter what age.’
But it’s not about being whistled at or called ‘beautiful’ by the local construction crew – really it’s not (although I admit that I don’t mind that now and smile and say thank you when it does happen.) It’s about taking notice of everyone and being aware of those people around you, no matter what you look like, or what your circumstance. It’s about not jumping to conclusions about what people think of me, or I of them. Of allowing everyone, including myself, to just… be.
By slowing down, looking people in the eye, actually taking notice, I’ve met the most amazing people. An elderly woman who was saving up her pension to go on yet another Asian back-packing trip, a quiet business executive who spent an hour explaining to me about the spiritual mysteries of the universe, a young actor who spent ages regaling me with stories of his dysfunctional family and how he was trying to run away from them.
Everyone has a story. I choose to listen and not allow the cloak of invisibility to hang over my life.