This is the first in a three-part series on aging and motherhood.
Last week a video clip from the Amy Shumer show went viral. It featured some of my favorite middle-aged women -Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette – discussing the fact that, since they’re in their fifties, they’re now unf**kable by Hollywood standards. I have very sad news for these ladies, however. While Hollywood deems you unf**kable in your 50s, you’ve long outlasted those of us who don’t have access to personal chefs, three-hour fitness training sessions and endless plastic surgical procedures. For the lowly average gal, becoming unf**kable starts much, much earlier.
It happened to me in my late ‘30s. After 18 years in Boston, where I could always turn the heads of, at the very least, a construction worker or man in his late 40s, I’d grown quite used to men giving me the once-over. This wasn’t because I was some drop-dead beauty, or wore revealing clothes; I was simply a woman of a youngish age, with a decent enough look. Most men would have done me, because, let’s face it, they’re just not that selective.
At 37, however, I moved to Southern California where there’s an abundance of ridiculously gorgeous women in their 20s, traipsing around in a state of semi-dress, baring their perfect tans, fake breasts and belly piercings 365 days a year. The result: men have so many amazing women to gawk at, that even the older gents could care less about a woman in her late ‘30s, especially a brunette with nothing special going on. That was when I became the invisible woman.
At first I relished being invisible. I could easily walk by a construction site without having to hear an annoying catcall. How refreshing! After a while, though, I started to take it personally. I guess I’d lost my mojo. Having a child certainly didn’t add to my sex appeal. Even on those rare occasions when I dressed up, I was never considered a MILF by SoCal standards.
A few years later, at age 44, my husband and I moved back to our native Rhode Island with our two sons. I knew I’d miss the sublime weather and gorgeous views of California, but I looked forward to getting to a place where people are slightly more down-to-earth. The women look more like real women, and the men will typically show their appreciation for the female species at any age.
What I discovered, however, is that being middle-aged makes you invisible to the entire spectrum of American males. Oh sure, a man in his ‘70s or ‘80s might occasionally attempt to flirt with me while in line at the pharmacy, but to all men under the age of 60 (except my husband), I don’t exist. I know I’m not alone, as I have many very attractive friends who’ve had the same experience. We’re all told we look great for our age. Quite a change from a few years ago when we heard the compliment without that “for our age” caveat.
What happened? I am, after all, still 28 in my head and don’t think I look much different than my younger self. Upon closer inspection, however, I see the sagging, wrinkles and gray hair. I’m a decent looking middle-aged mom and, unlike attractive middle-aged men, I’m just no longer desirable. The sad irony is that I’m also like a dog in heat. I pity the good-looking pizza delivery guy who got visually assaulted last week when he arrived at my front door. I can’t watch an episode of The Walking Dead without moaning at the sight of Daryl Dixon’s biceps or Sheriff Rick’s…everything. I’ve become that Boston construction worker who will give any decent looking guy the once-over. And bonus – it’s so easy to do when you’re invisible!
If you’re concerned about me running to the plastic surgeon or becoming Mrs. Robinson, take heed. Despite my constant gawking at the opposite sex, I’m happily married and love that I’m no longer beholden to how I look or what I wear. Like Tina, Julia and Patricia, I happily accept my status as the invisible, “unf**kable” woman. It took a while though, which made me painfully aware of how important a role my looks – and men’s reaction to them – played in my younger life. I’d always assumed the time I spent on my appearance was mostly for me. This process, however, opened my eyes to the falsehood of that assumption. I cared gravely what men thought of my appearance, and judged myself accordingly.
Now that I’m invisible, however, I’m truly free of other’s reaction to my looks. This doesn’t mean I’ve let myself go. I do color my grays, use wrinkle cream and try to not always dress like a lazy slob. This time, however, I am doing it for me…and only me.
I wish I had a daughter upon whom I could impart some of this wisdom, but I don’t. I do, however, have two sons. Perhaps by focusing less on my appearance and accepting myself as is, they’ll see there’s more to beauty than one’s looks. Maybe by watching their mother have a healthy respect for her aging body, they’ll be less likely to objectify women. I guess that means I should set a proper example and stop objectifying the pizza delivery guy? Nah…
Next week: The effects of aging and child-bearing on a woman’s body. Warning, this post will contain discussion of bodily functions.