(Don’t) Look, up in the sky!

What’s your superpower? Whenever the chatter (virtual or real) runs out of steam, someone is bound to ask; what would be the superpower you would choose? These days of course I would wish for time travel. Any day from the mid 1990s until late 2013 would do. If I must winnow, then it would be my wedding anniversary in 2013. That was a great day. But before my husband died I would’ve answered “invisibility”. Oh how I long for a cloak of invisibility. I don’t want to spy on people unnoticed, or roam bank vaults or jewelry counters. I just prefer not to be seen.

I know what you’re thinking…”aren’t you the woman who showed up to a fundraiser dressed in a snakeskin suit?!” Yes, that was me. I stand by that fabulous suit and the knowledge that I wore it because I loved it, not because I wanted to be noticed. The (very, very) few moments in my life when I knew all eyes would be on me I dressed as neutrally as possible. My wedding dress was a simple satin column with long sleeves, and even that pained me. I hated the idea of a gown (something I would never don in real life) AND of being the star of the show. I wore a knee-length, boat necked, long sleeved dark green dress at my husband’s service. Believe me, if there was a way I could have produced that event for the people who wanted and needed it and sat it out, I would have. Having to be at the center of that show was agony for me. The comments people made about my appearance still echo in my head. I have just never been comfortable with people’s asesment of my appearane.

Let me be exruciatingly clear, right now and right here: I am delighted with my own appearance. I think I’m pretty and have a lovely body and in my age class am at least a 9. So let’s not confuse other people’s unwelcomed attention with any insecurities or body image issues I may have…I don’t. For most of my life not being seen was not based on my appearance but rather by the fact that I’m actually an introvert, a closeted one, but one nonetheless. I lived in a small town for ten years and going to the grocery store was my Nam. I would keep my eyes down and push the cart with a force and determination usually associated with manual lawn mowers. The football field sized store was a small talk landmine. (Have you ever noticed that the lack of cultural opportunities of a town is reflected inversely by the size of its grocery store?) I would sneak a glance down an aisle, making a split second determination of where to turn my cart. It was exhausting. You may be wondering; “Good G-d woman, why didn’t your husband do the shopping?!” Oh he was there. He was standing at the entrance talking to any and everyone. What can I say; opposites attract.

I’ve lived in a city for almost 15 years now. Mercifully, forced social interaction is no longer a weekly occurance. However since my husband died, I’ve discovered what a lot of women have always known. We are really really really judged on appearance. Was I clueless when I was younger? Was I married to the last evolved straight man? I’ve no idea. My husband, and the world I inhabited as a married woman, never made me feel that my appearance was the most important part of me. My husband thought I was beautiful and would have prefered if I never put on clothes. However he was my biggest fan in all regards. I understand that online dating is a visual medium. Of course we judge potential dates on what they look like. When I was engaged in swiping, I would nudge right when his eyes looked kind, or he had the smile of a man who got the joke. As long as he appeared to be in good health, I had no interest in his body. I mean, they’re over 50 for crying out loud! If they have all their original parts that’s a win! It was the rare, really rare, okay, nonexistent man who felt the same as I. Whether in messages or face to face I have had the pleasure of hearing a stranger’s opinion of my appearance. How charming. How utterly romantic. Before we get all uppity about the superficialness of online dating, let’s me state that this has happened many times in real life as well. I’ve had less than a handful of relationships since my husband died and each one of these “gentlemen” talked at length about my body as well as voicing their preferences as how I groom or dress it. Ick. Seriously, ick.

I’m a middle-aged woman with interests, opinions, experiences, ideas, beliefs, and hopes who lives inside a body. Ninety percent of who I am is what’s inside. I am blessed with a strong vessel and the desire to keep it strong. I am lucky to be a late bloomer and have come into my prettiness after I was (almost) fully formed. To be valued for something that is the very least of who I am is offfensive and disheartening. Receiving compliments is not a problem, feeling like an accessory is. I want to be seen. Signed – Invisible Woman







I Don’t Like Her, You Can Have Her

At least once a day I am utterly gobsmacked. I have never made so many Scooby Do sounds as I have in the past 4 1/2 years. I have no idea if the world has changed while I wasn’t watching or I’ve simply had my head someplace it didn’t belong for 20 years. I’ll admit that while married my life was about my marriage. Yes, I worked and had scads of friends, but most of my “observing” was done in the context of my marriage (i.e., why does your family act that way?!) Now I’m exposed to many more new people and behaviors…daily. Of course, the world has changed since the mid 90s as well. It’s not just me.

The last time I was single people met in real life and ghosting hadn’t been invented. If you wanted to view porn you had to make an effort (or at least get off the toilet) to do so. The backlash to feminism hadn’t occurred yet and women weren’t being sold girdles, false eyelashes and hair extensions and encouraged to use upspeak. Now take those ingredients and slowly stir in my own naivet√© and cue the Scooby Do head tilt.

There are several specific boorish behaviors that send me ’round the bend. But the one that really flummoxes this feminist is a bit of a weighty issue. When did it become okay to mention a woman’s size and/or shame her for it? I have been on dates and even (gulp) in relationships with men who talk about overweight women with derision. Recently a date actually showed me a profile pic he had saved (and sent to friends) of a curvy woman. She was standing in front of a baby elephant and I suppose therein was the joke? She looked warm and lovely and perhaps was a size 14. Not that it would make any difference what size she was, it would never have been okay to save a photo and use it as a joke. But what was doubly icky is that she was utterly normal. I have been told by countless dates that women post photos of themselves that are “misleading”. Cue the Scooby Do head tilt; “misleading?”, I ask. Apparently there are people who post photos of their thinner (and younger) selves. Hmm, I wonder why? Could it be that you men (with your lack of head hair, abundance of ear hair, middle aged gut and better virility through chemistry) are a tad superficial? Could it be that you’ve watched too much porn or perhaps haven’t noticed that even R-rated actresses have body doubles? Is it that you feel that perfection is a reasonable and safe substitute for real connection?

I don’t know and I’m not even sure that I care. It’s just one more red flag as far as I’m concerned. I’m not entirely clueless, I know that obesity is a real and relatively new problem. All one needs to do is watch a television show from the 70s to see that was once considered “fat” wouldn’t even be noticed today. We are now big, very very big. But that isn’t what this little diatribe is about. What frosts my bum is that what I’ve been experiencing is a fat shaming that is utterly repulsive. I’m a relatively small person and perhaps that’s why men talk about this stuff to me. But you see the thing is, I’ve always found it easier to be outraged on others’ behalf. So now¬†this will have to be added to my teachable moment list. It’ll take pride of place right after; “No, I will not discuss my husband’s death with you…on a first date!” and “Sexual harassment has nothing to do with a woman’s appearance!” Fun date, eh? It pleases me none to have to do it, I assure you. I honest to goodness assumed that men (particularly of a certain age) were evolved, respectful and aware. I never ever expected to travel through my 50s with a constant Scooby Do crick in my neck.