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I’m not sure when I started disappearing. One minute I was clearly visible, with the confidence of a woman who knows that. The next… something had shifted. I felt invisible. More than that… I quickly expected that others wouldn’t see me either.
They didn’t. Heads failed to turn. I was often overlooked in a queue. But it was more than that. Suddenly my quirky collection of vintage clothing seemed ridiculous. I would enter certain restaurants or bars and feel like a dinosaur. Women around me were getting work on their face. For some it is subtle, but others look ridiculous. Surely that isn’t the alternative to my wrinkles?
It was an internal shift as well, not just physical. At a point in my life when I really knew myself, I wasn’t sure what to do with that hard earned wisdom. It wasn’t valued. Youth is celebrated, embraced, feted. Women my age often feel … invisible.
Welcome to womanhood in the forties. Not everyone feels invisible, but many do. I know. I’ve discussed this with countless women: friends, acquaintances, and strangers at parties. It’s something I experienced myself, with mounting dismay, until earlier this year I was handed a gift:
I was told I was going blind.
Fortunately for me, I was misdiagnosed. My eyesight is fine, however it took three months and further tests to confirm this. During these three months something interesting happened to me. For the first time in forever… I looked in the mirror and didn’t criticize myself. I looked at my body and I liked what I saw. The possibility of losing my sight provided me with greater insight.
The idea that I wouldn’t see myself age horrified me. And if that was so … then why would each new wrinkle be anything but a celebration.
If I want to see myself age… then why erase that age? Why try to beat it, deny it or ignore it? Why not fully and utterly embrace it? As I write in my novel, The Happy Endings Book Club, we should welcome ageing. It’s a privilege denied to many.
The way we see ourselves and the world around us is a major theme I explore in The Happy Endings Book Club. All of the seven female characters experience a shift in perception that alters their world. That shift is different for each character.
Paige misses glimpsing the magic in the world. Sadie doesn’t see the beauty inside people. Amanda wonders what she ever saw in her ex husband. Michi can’t bear looking at her family, while Clementine is blind to what’s right in front of her. And Eva looks for romance in all the wrong places.
But it’s Tilda I related to most. She literally can’t see herself. And once you’ve lost sight of yourself, how can you expect others to see you?
I’m visible again. It took the threat of losing my sight for me to see myself clearly. I like what I see now.