Saturday, 15 August 2015

Am I Invisible?

There was a time when I'd give anything for not having men leer at my cleavage. Or at business meetings discussing cash flow or budgets, stare at the odd recalcitrant  nipple, which had managed to penetrate through a bra and a summer blouse.

But these days, to my shame, I actually miss the odd wolf whistle from a bunch of builders, something which used to drive me bonkers.

Now I can happily walk past any amount of building sites with its compulsory bunch of bum-clevaged men. Not one of them will even turn to look at me. 

Which, joking aside, is a relief.

What isn't a relief, however, is having to wait for two or three cars to pass me while standing at a zebra crossing, or being utterly ignored by barmaids in pubs, or being overrun by twenty- and thirty-somethings at entrances to busy tube stations, or in bus queues. It's as if someone had made the decision that I don't matter anymore, that at my age I can't possibly be in a hurry. Or that I can't walk as fast as everyone else. (Which obviously I can).

On the pavement outside our block of flats in North London, I have to literally stop dead when a group of teenagers is heading towards me for them to notice and let me pass. At times when I do this, I wonder if they'll just run over me as if I really have become invisible.

Don't think this development was sudden - I first noticed something was awry, when I took daughter to Paris  a few years ago. At a posh restaurant the Maitre'd opened the door to us, let Daughter through and shut the door on me, leaving me standing outside in the rain (literally). Of course the man was utterly apologetic afterwards; still, at that moment, I could feel the sands shifting.

After this, it just slowly became apparent that I was becoming more and more invisible.

Of course it's liberating in a way. Especially as an author, it's useful to be able to observe people without being noticed; and I am glad I can talk to men normally without there being an instant, 'Fancy a shag?' moment.

I'm not saying that I was so stunning in my youth that people would stop me in the street, no, all I'm saying is that if I walked into a shop, someone asked me if they could help me; if I walked into a restaurant, I'd be served fairly quickly. And, yes, cars at zebra crossings stopped for me.

Anyone else have a similar experience? Or am I just being a Princess?


Robert Cormican said...

Hi Helen - now I know you are not invisible, nor ignorable. You are still eye-catchingly gorgeous for sure, but age appears different to the young. I remember when 24 year olds seemed so old looking and grown up. One friend said he would throw himself to his death rather than get that old. As an average bloke, I have mostly been invisible all my life when it comes to the situations you describe. When I used to wear glasses all the time I was completely out of sight... Often it feels like I accidentally put on my cloak of invisibility - or switch on the cloaking device in the car. Welcome to the world that most of us inhabit. (Actually it is not as cut and dried as that - visibility shines out sometimes.)

Helena Halme said...

Robert, you're too kind. But wow, throw yourself to your death if you reached 24? It's all in the eye of the beholder, I know, still the world seems to belong to the young (at least in London it does).

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Helena - it seems to happen to young and old - even if I be the younger one in my 3rd age! I get acknowledged the older, wiser person - probably who is also paying! .. gets ignored. I make a point of ensuring that the other person is acknowledged and included and served first ...

Common sense ... politeness ... sadly manners don't seem to be taught - but letting the door go in your face --- is so not on! But I think I might mention it to your daughter too?!?!

Cheers - yes we become invisible .. can be useful at times .. Hilary

Helena Halme said...

Hilary, you're so right on manners, people just don't seem to have them anymore. But with the door in Paris, it was actually my daughter who was horrified and showed the guy what he'd done. It was the weirdest thing to happen, but then she is very beautiful (and I'm not at all biased)...