Once I could feel the appreciative eyes on me as I walked across the room. Once men, attractive and not, singled me out from a crowd. Now I have to fight to get the attention of the produce guy in the grocery store.
I am middle-aged and I am invisible.
Neither here nor there. Too old for the wolf whistles that used to make my skin crawl but now can make my week. Too young to be the sassy, redheaded version of Betty White. I am mother, I am wife. But am I woman still?
On one thing I could always rely, even when I questioned my intelligence, my talent, my worldliness and my compassion: male attention. A smile, a tilt of the head and doors opened. Not always, but enough that I notice they don’t really anymore.
My mirror tells me lies, alleging that I look better than I do one day and worse than I do another. Fading in and out of the person I thought I’d become.
I am respected for my mind. My intelligence. My talent. My 25-year old self rejoices, at last vindicated. My 45-year-old self envies the easy beauty and sexuality of those years, all the while knowing that what remains will ever be with me.
But I long to be seen. To be appreciated for the whole package, the me I’ve worked hard to be. Ironic that the skin I’ve finally become comfortable in isn’t as luminous as the one I wore when my self-esteem was tenuous and gossamer, a thin thread, delicate and easily broken. I always thought the light of self-acceptance would shine brighter.
Maybe you just have to look harder.
I am invisible.
Perhaps this is a temporary condition, a necessary wiping away, a clearing of the slate for who will come next. When I return, if I return, will I be surer and stronger and more beautiful than I have ever been?
I am invisible, but I am still here.