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New Syndrome

Have you ever had that feeling? You know, that you are in a Harry Potter movie, wearing an “Invisibility Cloak” and no one can see you?

You go to a store and no one asks if you need help? At work, people don’t miss when you aren’t in a meeting? Good luck getting a coffee or a cocktail, right?

It is disturbing to not feel relevant any longer, frustrating to not be seen, and yes, it even hurts.

If you are a woman anywhere between 50 to 65 you may have experienced this. Why is that? You have the Invisible Woman Syndrome.

It seems after a certain age we somehow become “invisible women” and people just don’t notice us anymore.

Now, I know after a certain point you are certainly not going to be a “hottie” anymore and men don’t check you out and flirt with you (unless they want something – dinner, help with a work project, or a good tip). So, I guess that is understandable and expected. We know how that dynamic works. It was fun while it lasted.

However, what gives with other women?

I have experienced this invisibility dynamic myself. I join in the conversation with younger women around me in a yoga class or a work meeting, only to feel like what I am saying is not important or worthy of a response. And I am confused, hurt. What did I do or say that was weird or inappropriate? What was my conversational faux pas?

Is there only so much attention to go around? Do we women think there just isn’t enough and aren’t willing to share the “visibility” rations? Is it a subconscious fear of getting older and seeing that etched on our faces, which makes younger women pull back from us? They will catch menopause, like “cooties”? (I know, I am dating myself).

I realize now it was not my conversation at all. It was rather that I thought I was one of their peers (ha, ha). You know what I am talking about. We still think we are the young, cool one – yea, right. We are not conscious of our outward appearance, only how we feel internally. But, they are not our tribe anymore.

And worst, we don’t see our peers in the room. The women who, like us, have wrinkles, gray hair, and softer middles. So, while we are getting ghosted by the youngsters, we are equally culpable. The “invisible woman” giving other “invisible women” the shaft. How lonely for us all.

Today I had a delightful experience at the salon I go to. I was overdue for a COVID cut, and I was looking forward to getting something a little sassier to make up for my lack of attention to my appearance lately. I show my stylist, Ricki, a picture of what I want, and she goes to it, cutting a highly texturized pixie on my all-white hair.

The woman and stylist next to me kept remarking on how nice my hair was looking as it was getting styled. A young woman walked by and asked if that was my natural hair color (it is). A guy (yes, really) stopped by and told me how beautiful my hair looked, the style and the color.

It gets better! The woman next to me asked to take pictures of me, both front and sides, to show her mom (who is my age, my tribe). And my stylist asked if she could take photos as Rizzieri is trying to get use social media posts of real clients and she was happy with the results. Yes, and yes!

I felt like a rock star today, ladies. And it carried me through my next expedition of the day, food shopping which I find immensely tedious, with newfound energy.

The lesson I reconnected with today is that it doesn’t take much to make people feel seen, heard and valued. And, I am going to make a conscious effort going forward that when I see one of my Invisible Woman Syndrome (IWS) sisters, I really see her. We can wipe this syndrome out in our lifetime, if everyone just does her part.

I am curious about your experience with invisibility, either as the IWS or the perp, or both. Connect with me here. I would love to hear from you.

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