Monday, November 7, 2011

Visible Monday

I am participating in Visible Monday, hosted by Patti at Not Dead Yet Style. And finally debuting my new spectator cloche from Wayne Wichern. A hat always makes me feel visible in the best possible sense of the word. I feel positively impossible to overlook in this hat.

Planning this post has lead me to give a lot of thought to my own experience of aging and the changes it has brought regarding how I'm perceived by the the world at large, and how I see myself. The Visible Monday project was created to help redress the loss of visibility and esteem that seem to inevitably accompany the aging process when you are female. (Kudos, Patti, and more power to you!)

"Common wisdom holds that at a certain age, women no longer garner the attention of men in public. We are still loved by our husbands and partners, and told we are beautiful, but the world at large no longer sees us as noteworthy."
The Invisible Woman, Patti @ Not Dead Yet Style. (Click here for the whole post.)

While I realize that, at forty-one, I'm only beginning to experience the effects of this pernicious phenomenon, I have to say that I'm finding my own decreased visibility very liberating. Perhaps I'll have changed my tune by the time I'm fifty, but right now I'm happy to have traded some of the unwelcome attention I used to receive for a few wrinkles and a couple of extra pounds. You've heard the crude expression about your mouth writing checks your ass can't cash? Well, for much of my life I felt trapped in a bizarre reversal of that phrase, with my body projecting completely fraudulent messages about my intentions and expectations, promising things I would never, ever, deliver.

I was once told by a gay male friend that my body was wasted on me. And maybe it was, because I certainly never enjoyed the ogling, or the not particularly complimentary compliments, or the sleazy propositions. I got a lot of them. And I wasn't especially attractive either. I just happened to have a large chest and a small waist and longish legs. And if I chose to wear anything that didn't completely obscure this then I had to be prepared to deal with a certain amount of ridiculous behavior. And, frankly, I didn't want to deal with any of it. So I mostly hid.

As a teenager I hid in enormous sweaters and punky haircuts. In my twenties, in quirky vintage clothing. In my thirties I attempted an arty layered look that just made me look fat when I wasn't. But fat seemed preferable to sexy, and it did the job of curtailing most of the leering.

Getting older has meant that I can come out of hiding. I can wear something that flatters my shape without feeling like I'm asking for trouble. Sure, my shape has changed quite a bit too. I have mixed feelings about that. But, over all, I'm much more comfortable being able to *dial up* my visibility when, and if, I choose to do so, than feeling constantly over exposed, as I did when I was younger.

I'm pleased that visibility as an *older* woman seems to have much more to do with style than with sex. I'm pretty happy with that trade off.


  1. I love your story of finding joy and enjoying the changes! I'm just 24 right now, but I've always been very self conscious and I hope that as I age, I'll lose some of that! And that hat is too fabulous. Love it!

  2. Very thoughtful post, and with a great hat.

  3. Interesting. I hid in my clothes as a kid (and even until quite recently), because I just wanted to hide. I didn't want to be visible. It meant that I would probably be the butt of jokes or be ridiculed, and who wanted that? It was easier to hide. Thanks for your post.

  4. I love this post and your courage for saying it. I am glad I was a little stick growing up because I would have hated dealing with the comments you suffered. I really like the idea of growing into style rather than sexiness. The older I get, the less I care what other people think and I am loving it. It just keeps getting better. I aspire to become like the ladies on the "advanced style" blog.

  5. The hat is smashing and totally suits you.

  6. Hello Margaret, it's wonderful to meet you, and thanks so much for coming over to Visible Monday. Your post is very thought-provoking. We are so much more than just the curves of our bodies!

  7. I love all these thoughts. People think I'm crazy and/or lying when I say I look forward to aging, but a lot of that has to do with the same sorts of things you mentioned - and a general desire to be able to command more respect from people up-front. It is a shame to feel like you need to hide some days. Keep standing out!

  8. Great post. I had alot of issues like you when I was younger. It was hard to have people take me seriously. Now, after many changes, I am experiencing the invisibility factor. I am so glad you particpated in VM. I love your hat and you look lovely in your outfit.

  9. Ooooh! Comments! I'm thrilled! Thanks to all of you for your compliments, they mean a great deal to me.

    I'm sorry to hear that you suffered also but glad to know I wasn't alone.

    I believe you! I used to long for the day when I could be considered and eccentric adult rather than a kooky kid. I'm finally there I think. Now I'm just waiting to get to the age when I can wear scarves without feeling like an idiot. I'm convinced that's a benefit of aging too. Any day now.

    Thanks for being such a terrific *host* and thanks especially for continuing to provide a place where we can meet and share like this. I truly believe that this constitutes the most positive kind of political action- taking control of how we are seen and reversing some of the damage done by mainstream media.

    Isn't it wonderful the boost deciding not to worry about what others think gives to your style? You'd think it would be the other way around but it seems that only when you begin to take those style risks do you really reap the rewards. I came to that realization about wearing hats recently. I always loved hats but used to always worry that maybe wearing a hat was *too much.* Then I realized that when I saw someone wearing a hat I always thought "cute hat" not "who does she think she is?" So I'm wearing more hats for me, and for the people who'll see me and think "cute hat!" And the people who might think something else don't really seem to matter anymore.

    I'm delighted we can all be a part of a project like this- this is surely the polar opposite of hiding!

    Style Crone,
    Getting a hat compliment from you is akin to having Tony Bennett tell you you've got a great voice. Thanks.

    To borrow a phrase from the anti-bullying campaign- It really does get better. They aren't joking when they say youth is wasted on the young. Most of us spend so much of our youth being so worried about the ways we might not measure up to some ideal or other that we can't ever enjoy ourselves. I look at pictures of my twenty year old self and wonder "why was I so hard on myself?" Since I can't go back in time to offer this advice to my young self, I'll tell you: You are wonderful now! And it's going to get easier and easier to appreciate how wonderful you are.