Musings & Threads. The Invisibility Cloak.
The Invisibility Cloak
In a conversation among women of a certain age, we sometimes will reveal when we became invisible. There are a number of reasons, but usually it is due to age, weight gain or the stress of children. But at some point in every woman’s life, she will become invisible.
Most of us are happy about it.
It took a while for me to realize when I first became invisible, but it happened in my 50s. I was walking past a construction site and was not verbally abused. It surprised me, as I had spent my entire adult life wearing loose fitting clothing and walking authoritatively and brusquely to avoid hearing comments about parts of my body. That day, I walked past the construction site unimpeded. Surprised, I actually walked back and, again, no verbal abuse.
It took about 5 minutes to get over the life that I had known. The life where career women do the balancing between sexuality, attractiveness and being taken seriously. As girls, we are programmed by social norms, fashion, glamour magazines, and peer pressure to look attractive to men. Yet, in the work force, we must dress down our sexuality, while maintaining our attractiveness. It is a delicate dance that is impossible to negotiate error-free.
But now that I am invisible, I can wear what I want. I can dress for myself, I wear makeup if I feel like it and decide how I wish to look. It is liberating.
I believe that I have been somewhat radicalized from the relentless sexual harassment that I suffered being a pioneer. I learned to dress modestly and keep my head down so that I wouldn’t notice the leering. I learned to walk quickly, I made sure that I never wore anything revealing. I desperately wanted men to listen to me and not imagine what my body parts would look like when exposed.
I have many stories, but one anecdote will help you understand my world. One scientist made it a habit of staring at women’s breasts for the entire conversation. A sympathetic male colleague reproached him privately about his behavior. He expressed surprise that we were aware of it. “How did they know?” he asked.
Now that I am invisible, I can be assured that people who talk to me are talking to me and not my body. Admittedly, there are a lot fewer men who are interested in talking to me, but I don’t mourn the deprivation.
Since my invisibility cloak is now permanently attached, I can wear a low-cut dress tonight. I can wear comfortable shoes, I can wear as much or little makeup as I desire.
See what I mean?