Most women, when they hit their mid-forties or thereabouts, complain that they become invisible. Men no longer check them out when they walk into a room unless they're super beautiful or outrageously over the top in some way. For us normal women that invisibility goes hand in hand with being called ma'am. "Please, don't call me ma'am" I used to say to the waiter or barista. It made me feel so old.
Last fall I spent a couple months up in Portland. My friends all looked terrific. To me, they were locked in some sort of time capsule, looking exactly the same as when we'd met. Fit, lovely skin, great clothes. Not a botox needle or plastic surgeon's knife in sight. They were taking dance classes or music appreciation classes, traveling to Turkey or Italy, involved in book clubs where people actually read the books.
I felt so inadequate. My trailer trash life was taking its toll in the cultural department - no book clubs, movies, arts and lecture series. My finances put the kabash on fine clothes. In Portland, staying in real houses with real mirrors, I was shocked by my appearance. I looked terrible. I looked so old. Where had those puffy little red pouches under my eyes come from? Could my jowls sag any lower? My arms! Good grief. And then the coup de grace, baristas called me "sweetie."
Sweetie. A term reserved for little old ladies. I'd fallen into the sweetie camp. Partly due to my age and looks but also due to my height. At 4'11" I am the prototype for the little old lady.
Many years ago I sent my boyfriend a poem by a Chinese poet. It went something like this: When you are shocked by the image of the old man in the mirror, break the mirror.
I am happy to be in my little trailer with just the one bathroom mirror and the low lighting. My image is not screaming out for attention from hallway mirrors, bedroom mirrors, even kitchen mirrors. I can ignore the signs of aging. It's okay if you call me ma'am.