The Joys of Aging: Power and Invisibiltiy Combined
Because of our recent discussion of the insecurities so many of us felt during adolescence, I thought it would be interesting to post from an entirely different perspective and time of life. The following post comes from a woman on a feminist Mormon email list I am on. I am in my late 20’s right now, and I was inspired to read some of the ways this woman feels aging has liberated her. Are any of you starting to feel a similar sense of liberation that comes with aging? Are you looking forward to a time of life when you may experience a similar mixture of power and invisibility?
At 53, I am experiencing an unexpected and joyful liberation from some aspects of femaleness. It occurs to me that this is just a taste of the freedoms that men have always enjoyed, but I am just beginning to appreciate. I’m wondering if some of the rest of you are enjoying a similar renaissance, and, if so, what are you noticing?
*I feel more powerful and less vulnerable than I have at any other time in my life. I simply don’t care as much about how I look or whether what I say is appropriate. I think it may even be possible, with a little more practice, to feel competent.
*When I was younger, I experienced frequent sexual harassment that ranged from groping by male supervisors to the usual catcalls or threatening stares and comments from strangers on the street. As I approached a group of white male “hard-hats” on the street the other day, I felt that familiar fear-clutch when they looked up from their digging and plumbing, but, instead of the usual leering and catcalls, one or two of them just nodded politely. I didn’t mind that one of
them called me “ma’am.” I walked on for several blocks, savoring the experience
of being nearly gender-neutral (I say “nearly,” because if I’d been a man they wouldn’t even have checked me out) and reflecting on what other implications this could have in terms of freedom and safety.
*About 7 years ago, I had uterine ablation to stop/decrease my periods, and even though the “meno” hasn’t paused altogether, it no longer gets in the way of travel plans, facilitating groups, giving presentations–being able to function every single day of the month. Although still coping with menstrual migraines, I have reclaimed days, even weeks of time. This has been indescribably wonderful. Also worthy of honorable mention in the liberation category is the jog bra.
I remember reading an interview with prolific author Joyce Carol Oates long ago, maybe in the Partisan Review, in which she said that being a mousy woman whose physical appearance didn’t merit a whole lot of attention was an advantage to her. She put on her big glasses and pretty much escaped notice. The public’s eyes just slid right over her. This gave her the ability to observe people relatively undetected.
The fifties seem to offer an odd mixture of power and invisibility that suits me just fine.