On becoming a superhero

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Are you a woman under fifty? If so, prepare to receive a surprise gift on your fiftieth birthday. This gift is something you may have spent your younger years wishing for, and believing you could never have. It is however, something you will find out is nowhere near as cool as you think it would be. I love a superhero movie as much as the next person, and have often thought it might be cool to fly like Superman or Ironman, have X-ray eyes, or the power to become invisible. Well you can become invisible, and you won’t have to undergo any horrible painful tests,  there will be no need to drink a nasty tasting concoction, and no scary injections of dreadful chemical mixtures. What must you do, I hear you cry? It’s simple, just be a woman over fifty.

This phenomenon creeps up on you without you realising until it’s too late and then, bam, you’re invisible with no way back. Like a spectre you glide into crowded rooms unseen by those present until you throw a cup across the room and scream. You queue in stores and fast food joints and when finally you get to the front of the line, the sales person looks right through you and serves the guy behind you. Your fifty plus year old joints complain more and more, but you will never get a seat on a bus because no one knows you’re there.

Hoping to get yourself a younger toy boy? Forget it sister. Unless you walk down the street stark naked, singing a falsetto rendition of The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins to get their attention, Most men will cease to notice you. There are some men who will notice you, but that will most likely be for all the wrong reasons. The fat, balding, paunchy, toothless, beer swilling, farting sofas will notice you, but only because they know that the younger and better looking chicks won’t give them the time of day. They’re trying to ‘settle for second best’ by trying it on with the invisible older women, and assume said women will be grateful for the attention.

I turned 53 a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been aware of my superhero status for a few years now. My 83 year old mother and I have discussed this topic often and she reports to having noticed the same thing happening to her from middle age. She also informs me that this superhero status, once gained, is permanent. Once invisible, you can never hope to be seen again.  You are doomed to wander through your winter years like a ghost wandering a lofty mansion, the occasional grunt or shriek to shock people into wondering what the hell that noise was, and if their house is haunted?

This new found ability does have one or two advantages though, that help to temper the shock and disappointment. No longer must you spend hours wondering what to wear. No longer do you have to spend hours applying layers of make up. You don’t even have to bother shaving your chin or plucking your eyebrows anymore. Your middle aged spread can wobble unashamedly, and you can relax about the diet. After all, you’re now way passed such concerns. No, your priorities now are tracking down cut price life insurance deals, funeral plans, and dealing with bladder problems. The younger generation don’t know how sweet their life is, do they?

But of course, this is what society wants us to believe.

Why should we suddenly become invisible? What is wrong with our society, that a woman who has worked hard bringing up children, working, caring for elderly parents and useless husbands, is rewarded for her efforts with indifference and a yawn? Without us, the younger generation would not exist to enjoy the life they take far too much for granted, so why can’t they be grateful? Because that is the way of life today, that’s why. Old is a dirty word, something to be afraid of and avoided at all costs. In choosing not to notice us, they are admitting their fear of confronting their own mortality and the march of time. We cannot all be Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, with enough money to hire clever people who can help us come out from behind our cloak of invisibility. Most of us just have to accept that we no longer exist, and some of us will end our days alone, not found for weeks. Our mouldering corpses will still be sitting in front of the tv and finally, for a moment, we will no longer be invisible. The younger generation will shake their heads and mutter, “What a shame, how could an old person go unnoticed like that.”

Its seems the only way to stop this unwanted new superhero ability, is to become the neighbourhood weirdo, the crazy cat lady at the end of the street, the old bat who talks to her plants and probably has a body hidden in the cellar, “so the guy in bar told me.” Not all of us fancy any of those roles for ourselves. Most of us would like to be just as visible as we were when we were thirty years younger. We’re not asking for wolf whistles, (although that might be nice once in a while), we don’t want to be thought of as man eating cougars or new age converts embracing veganism. We want to be ordinary women, just like always. We want a smile, a nod, a “good morning.”

Is that really beyond the realms of possibility for a civilised society?

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