I like to describe myself as a proudly visible member of the most invisible segments of our society – older women. - Cindy Gallop
Have you ever felt ignored? Whether in a social setting, retail establishment, at work or anywhere, it seems to be a not uncommon event in the lives of older folks – more so with women than men. Men on the greater side of 50 are described with adjectives such as distinguished, notable, revered. White hair is dignified and imposing on men. People admire, respect and pay attention to older men. Women of the same vintage are aging, mature, or simply old, the pressure for women to look young pervasive in our society.
The notion that gray hair implies old women, folks to be shoved aside in the work place and everyplace else, is pervasive in American culture, but slowly fading. Women are beginning to revel in their gray locks. I am not there yet, but slowly transitioning, at least mentally if not actually.
This weekend hub and I attended a milestone event, a Bar Mitzvah, the center of attention a 13-year-old boy. Bar Mitzvah is a religious ceremony where a boy or girl (a Bat Mitzvah for a girl) stands before the congregation, participates in the service, and is welcomed into the community as an adult member now able to fully participate in religious services. A social event celebrating the occasion often follows the religious service.
As invitees to the event, we were surrounded by young people. Not only 13-year-olds –there were a lot of them – but men and women of all ages younger than we are. That is normal in our world today, but sometimes we are undeniably reminded of our advancing age and not thrilled by the revelation. We know we are older, but don’t necessarily want it pointed out. I felt that way at the party.
We were the folks at the old people’s table.
Remember the old folks when you were young and innocent? The men and women hunched over, maybe walking with a cane, tottering around, the women in thick stockings rolled down over their knees, wearing clunky shoes. They sat at a table in the far corner of the room, rarely moving, observing all the activity but not participating. If any of these ancients were relatives we knew, we went over, greeted them, then left to romp with friends.
Fast forward, and we are the old people. No cane yet, my stockings are black transparent ones NOT rolled over my knees, and my shoes, although not yet clunky, are definitely comfy.
We had a table in the back, but not in the far corner of the room. Reflecting on the perfectly placed event table, my criteria is as follows: far from the DJ and blaring music, although close enough to hear announcements, a short walk to the buffet table, and NOT a lengthy hike to the restroom.
We are the older generation. The comrades at our table ranged in age from the early sixties to (early) seventies, not ancient in my estimation, and definitely not old-old. But I wonder what the 13-year-olds thought of us, although I suspect they may not have thought of us at all.
In many ways we do not look like our predecessors. Some of us dye our hair. We look healthier. The women’s clothes are not old-fashioned and out-of-date, although most of our figures are, and that applies to both men and women.
I wonder if the old folks I knew when a kid believed they were ignored by everyone else in the room. Or felt old. An aspect of growing old I find difficult to get my head around is that I don’t think old (most of the time), and much of the time don’t feel old, but when I look in the mirror the realization hits...Wow, I am
old mature on the very high side of middle age...
Hub and I enjoyed the party and the company of friends seldom seen (this was an out-of-town event), danced (the girls a lot, the men not so much), and relished the fact that we were healthy enough to attend and participate in the festivities.
Returning to my opening premise...The fact of senior invisibility has been illustrated in TV shows and movies, but perhaps not as humorously, yet poignantly, as in the following excerpt from a Grace and Frankie show. In this segment, Grace and Frankie, a.k.a. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, react passionately when ignored in a convenience store.
I will never be an old man.
To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am.
- Francis Bacon