Remember Etch A Sketch, the popular sketching toy where you could turn the dials and draw anything you wanted and then just shake the thing to make it magically disappear? And that cardboard pad with the plastic sheet on top where you could draw with a stick, then lift the plastic sheet, and once again, make it all vanish? My guess is that these toys came from the mind of a frustrated mother who had one too many “masterpieces” taped to her refrigerator (in the days before kitchen magnets).
The strangest thing has started happening to me recently. I, too, have started to disappear. Actually, I have started becoming invisible. It is a disconcerting phenomenon, to say the least. Perhaps you have been finding yourself becoming invisible, too. I don’t mean the kind of invisible like Harry Potter and his invisibility cloak. I mean the kind that seems to occur anywhere you turn once you have passed a certain birthday involving a 4 and a 9. One day you’re here, the next day, well, who really cares?
It starts with our faces. One day you wake up and notice that your lips seem to have blended seamlessly into your face. No longer do they have that dewy youthful rosy glow to them. Now they are just pasty, pale spacers for our teeth. And what about our eyelashes? Remember eyelashes? Long, dark, sensual eyelashes that made our eyes seem alluring and captivating? Well, where did they suddenly disappear to? Once you pass that birthday with the 4 and 9 in it you suddenly need a highlighter delineating exactly where the eyes and the lips on your face used to be.
It’s bad enough that we find ourselves becoming invisible. But when it comes to the media, where have all the 49+ women gone? Don’t ask the advertising agencies. Take a look at the commercials for cars, clothing, restaurants – you’ve got the idea. Everything has to do with sex. We try to discourage our teens from having sex, but when you look at the barely clad nymphs staring poutily back at you in magazine and TV ads, what do you want to bet that most of them aren’t a day over 21? Exactly what kind of message are we sending to our kids? We want you to abstain, you are too young for this, but look at these clothes you can wear just like the rock stars and actresses who bare everything and then proclaim their virginity. Yeah, right.
And let’s talk about TV shows. Once a woman is creeping up near the range of the decade beginning with a 5, she has lost her luster. She is banished to the role of wise/sarcastic/pitiful (take your choice here) friend/mother/desperate single person. Her hip/trendy children/neighbors/co-workers are cast as young and exciting and yes, sexy. She might as well be wearing a paper bag over her head. For the most part, make-up companies have discarded beautiful, mature actresses to replace them with 20-something barely-out-of-school stars in ads for make-up for older women! And the logic to that is….?
We are pegged into little categorical boxes by our age. Once we pass 35, we enter a whole new box. And if we pass 49, we are shipped off into geriatric land where we no longer have any hope of being seen as a human being at all. While most women in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond are active, youthful and often feeling the best about themselves that they have ever felt in their lives, outside forces are conspiring to tear down that wall of self-esteem in order to make them feel that they must do everything they can to look young again or they are of no use to the rest of society. They are commanded to buy make-up, moisturizers, vitamins, join a fitness club, do botox, spend every dime they have in order to try to re-capture the pre-pubescent angst of their youth. Ponce de Leon never did find the fountain of youth here in America, so instead we look for it in a jar or a pill. Having discussed this very subject with many of my wise and mature female friends, I could not find one of them who would trade the wisdom and experience of their years to return to the cliques, insecurities and pressures of their teenage years. So why are we being made to feel like we should? Who exactly is running the show here?
I find it liberating to go grocery shopping wearing a T-shirt and sweat pants and not feel that I have to fling myself behind the endcap display to hide from someone I know. I am now able to give a speech in front of a large group and not have my heart do a ratatatat in dire fear that I might somehow embarrass myself and be banished from the rest of humanity for life. I enjoy not feeling compelled to update my wardrobe every five minutes so that I won’t be the broken-hearted recipient of looks of disdain and pity from my peers.
Women, unite! Stand up for yourselves. We are beautiful, vibrant, and yes, sexy. I’ll be right out there to join you as soon as I can get my mascara and lipstick on, OK?
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved.