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Monday, December 15, 2008

Not to usurp yer wallowing in baby pictures of my overexposed puppeh, but tonight one of my essays published on the National Public Radio home page. It's about turning 50--and disappearing.

Please click the link. I'd love it if you'd leave a comment or recommend it if it speaks to you.
Thanks so much.


Julie, I'm not able to use this link.
I'll go to the NPR site directly.

Had to wave my wand a bit, but it works now, Nina. Thanks!

Just another benefit of being invisible...the slight of hand is without effort!

well said, i'll be 48 this month, but totally related to your essay!!

OMG Julie...! You are me, or I am you. Either way, you have articulated something I have felt for about the last 3 years (I'm 53). I, too, am invisible. Try being a single woman with no husband/significant other to see/love you no matter that you only vaguely resemble the beautiful woman they first knew; no children to whom you will always be Mom, no matter what. No more flirting your way out of a traffic ticket, no more extra attention from sales clerks, no more tolerant smiles from cabbies when you don't have quite enough for the tip. Shall I go on? Maybe this is why I've been in a bad mood for 3 years.


Oh yes, invisibility, it is all true. But here's a funny story, I was at a football game in Kansas City after Thanksgiving, and have been a grey haired 50 for a few years now, used to fading into the background. But this day was I have to say I have never been hugged by so many drunk men in my life. I remarked to my colleagues at work the next week how you become invisible in your 50's, but if you get em drunk....tee hee....

But on a birding note, I discovered blogs and found your blog just a few months ago and you're a must read! The story that got me hooked was when you left your Chet Baker with your friends, and his thoughts when you returned. I read it over and over again, because every word was perfect.

Julie, a friend and I were discussing this not too long ago. Not only are woman this age invisible, but very few people even want to hear what we have to say anymore.

That is the great thing about blogging. Usually it gives us a voice and at least a few people still show an interest in what we say.

From quite some distance on the other side of 50--let me attest to the fact that invisibility ain't all bad. Not only can you wear clashing color, chortle over desserts, etc., if you don't want to put on make-up, or fancy clothes, or whatever--you don't have to. No one expects you to.
By the way--my invisibility moment occurred with my daughter. I was 36 when she was born, so when she hit 14, I hit 50. And she was a mature 14. Waiters fell over themselves to serve her, to offer her wine (you read correctly), to hold doors, to whatever. So I just smiled. And reveled in the moment--hers waxing, mine waning.

I've found fifty very freeing. I dreaded it for a long time, then, poof I was fifty and loving it. So much of the struggles and pretentions of youth were burdensome. I like being able to come and go as I please (well, almost, there are still two men, one young gun and one old coot, left in my house), but I can take a class, try a new hobby, read a book, go out with friends and not have to worry about them starving to death. I like fifty. If it means I have to be invisible, then, I'm all for it.

I commented at NPR but wasn't able to listen.

Julie, you are more visible now than you think. Thousands embrace you every day. But, I do feel the same as you now that I'm near 54. I remember being carded when I was 31 and the flatter at the office and cat calls on jobsites in the city... But, now it's quiet. I've moved over to the invisible side, too. The younger crowd at the office are heard before my voice with years of experience. That's OK!

I like what Donna said, "So I just smiled. And reveled in the moment--hers waxing, mine waning." That's something to be happy about! Thinking of my daughter and beautiful Phoebe.


Egad, these comments are taking me apart. I was talking to a woman, mother of a teen-aged daughter, who I met at a reception the other night, and expressing just a bit of what this essay was about. She said she is learning to walk a few paces behind her daughter and fade away, because it's the girl's show now. "Maybe that's why I have so many bumper stickers now," she mused. Oh, how we laughed. My car looks like a sandwich board.

Donna, your waxing-waning line was so lovely that I took the liberty of using it in my comment on the NPR page. I hope you don't mind. Registering with NPR in order to comment is a bit of a pain, I know, and I really appreciate the fact that people are taking the time not only to read the piece but to register and comment. You all are the bombs. Bombshells. Beautiful old bombshells.

I recently read a quote that said, "Forty is the old age of youth and fifty is the youth of old age". I still feel young at 53 because I work with the geriatric population and still get appreciative compliments even without a purple hat ;-).

50 is the cocoon stage-hence the invisibility. It is the period where many women learn to shed the coils of expected social rules for young women and enter into the elderly power phase.

I lived for years in a tourist destination. We got lots of old folks. I'll let you in on something...the old ladies are terrifying. Never get between them and their food. Never put yourself in a position for them to express an opinion or put you in your place! The old men are pussy cats, but the old ladies are tigers! Society tries to curb them and make them conform by calling them nice little old ladies, but the invisible 50's taught them how to side step those cultural coils.

A simple yet moving, even courageous, NPR piece JZ. And no, in general, I don't think men feel the 'invisibility' you refer to, although there are different stages to their lives -- one of those long-standing inequalities between genders!
Frankly, I think men are conditioned to draw much of their self-esteem from their work and careers, whereas women are still conditioned to draw much of theirs from their relationships with men! -- when male attention wanes it carries an impact, even though (as Mary noted in your case), you are VERY VISIBLE and successful career-wise.
Anyway, in general if we have our health, I think most of us, do end up quite content with each season of life.

Obviously, you refer to only one particular kind of invisibility. Your wit, wisdom and good humor shine, I'm sure, as bright as ever. And, yours is probably the sexiest blog I read. (In an often under-the-radar kind of way.) This essay is just one more example of the breadth of your wisdom.

As an average-looking guy, I can understand what you're saying but can't actually relate to it...I've always been invisible and no one ever fell over themselves to curry favor. But now I can experience that invisibility with some level of detachment. I've come to expect people to ignore me, and sometimes even laugh at how rude and insensitive people can be. Pretty soon, maybe I won't even care anymore.

I've witnessed this phenomenon for men, too. I've known a few golden boys - those who get all the mentors and all the help, all the support and all the opportunities. They usually turn out to be the ones that get all the credit while the grunts do all the work.

I chuckle when I see other men ogling and jumping to help some hottie, making fools of themselves. Sure, I notice the beauty, but make a conscious effort to be no more or less polite than I would be with anyone. I guess that's my way of being silly too.

I love the vulnerability in Mojoman's comment!

Anyway... 50 still awaits me, but I'm coming to see the power that women of a certain age have; a certain something that escapes those of who are still noticed for our youth and beauty; the sort of wisdom and grace that's gained only through a lifetime of experience.

Happened to me last year (at 51), when I took my willowy blond 20 year-old niece to dinner in Philly. Although it seemed the attractive middle-aged guy at the adjacent table was fascinated by our sparkling conversation, I realized when his eyes bulged like a wolf in a Tex Avery cartoon as she walked to the back of the restaurant to use the loo that I had achieved the state of invisibility.

Frankly, though, I don't think you (or any of the other wonderful women who love you and your work) will ever need to resort to red hats and purple duds. Smarts, kindness, wit, and warmth burn much brighter than any garish garb.

(And I seriously doubt BOTB would agree that you're anything less than dazzling. And effervescent.)

Oh I can so relate Julie. I had a patient in Hand Clinic the other day who was asking "Where is Brandi today?" when I went in to get him registered. She is a young, pretty, flirty 30... not me. Then, when the MD came in, he was shellshocked. Dr. D is a stunner... probably early 30's too. When she left the room, he looked at frumpy me and said, "Wow, I just thought I was in love with Brandi... a man could drown in those eyes." I promptly laughed, left the room to let the girls know about their "fan club in room 1" and then found myself joking, "Boy, I'm glad I'm not young and hot anymore." After I said it and laughed, I realized the truth of it. Yep, passed that baton...

P.S. Then again, only I can have the "TAWANDA" bumper sticker on my car!

At 56 I have gotten used to being invisible. It is ok because I don't feel it on the inside. I have been rifling through old photos of late working on a project for my boys and looking at pictures of a younger me. they did spark the need to get a tread mill and start working out. Our winter weather makes it difficult to walk outside at a fast pace but hiking with my camera is a go especially in winter. Julie you still got it. your not disappearing.

What a treat to get up on a snowy morning and read your thoughts. I find myself shaking my head that we're all experiencing this same, thoughtlessly shallow sort of rejection, moreso because I feel I know you all, and consider you people of grace, wit, words and beauty. For the record, girls: I've never met Cyberthrush; he's a man of mystery, but he can write, oh can he write. I have met MojoMan, and I was the one doing the Tex Avery boing boing eyes (thanks for that perfect image, Catbird, you little minx!) when I met him. If that's average-looking, I'd like to live in a place where the men are all average!

Last night in the grocery line I looked up and saw Oprah on the cover of her own magazine, wearing a flubby purple jumpsuit, standing next to a three-year-old photo of herself, midriff exposed, radiant and probably 50 pounds lighter. The banner read, "How did I let this happen again?" I bought the magazine, added my $4.50 to the Harpo empire. I did it as much to support her in her vulnerability as to see how she turns that vulnerability into pure gold. She's no dummy--she knows that, for her demographic, the flubby purple jumpsuit shot is the money shot. There are a lot more of us who feel flubby than fabulous.

Excuse me, talking with y'all is lovely, but I have to grab a cup of tea, whomp up an Atkins breakfast, and start my DAILY FOOD DIARY while I can still imagine getting back to fighting weight. Love you all.

I, too, turned 50 this year. 1958 was a helluva year!

Being invisible can be an asset - it allows you to observe undisturbed. Enjoy.

Hmmm, very interesting….. I had a passing thought. I wonder if the “invisibility” women feel after a certain age is intensified based upon your “hotness” when younger. See, I’ve always been a shy possum girl that avoided and still avoids the limelight. I’ve never been one to turn heads so not turning them now at 49 is nothing new.

Personally, I feel getting older is quite liberating! I’m MUCH more comfortable in my own skin (even though there is WAY more of it now). I think this confidence is starting to show because I’m more and more amazed at how many times strangers feel comfortable to talk to me while I’m out and about. I also will no longer suffer fools. Instead of scurrying off to hide in some bushes like when I was younger, this middle-aged possumlady hisses and shows her teeth when the need warrants.

I fall into the 30-something category, and am almost always the one who disappears. Someone else mentioned the "hotness" factor as opposed simply to the age factor--I'm always the one who has had to take care of myself because I'm not the "hot" one in the group.

But, I'm not going to completely discount the age factor, either, because I think many people see a direct correlation between age and "hotness." It will also be nice to turn 50 and be able to say that I'm now invisible because I'm older rather than not "hot." :-)

Oh, yes. I can identify with invisibility. Great opinion piece. I tried to register and comment on NPR, but the link they returned in the email wouldn't work, even when I cut and pasted in my browser. I wanted to add another message for the NPR folks to let them know how much we appreciate your pieces. I'll try again.

Speaking as a guy squinting at 50 from the tail end of 46 I can say that the "hotness" factor of a woman (IMHO) has more to do with brains, personality, and vitality than with any of the Barbie qualities normally associated with beauty.

I've met plenty purty young things (PYTs) worthy of invisibility because they had nothing inside to match what was outside.

This post and all the insightful comments are like therapy. I celebrated 50 years December 1st. Like Karen said, for single women without kids or a significant other who loves you no matter what, it was an invisible celebration.

I knew I was ready to hibernate for the winter, but isolation has been wrapping itself around me too. I've not even written on my blog. Instead, I've been practicing contemplation. Oh, and Julie, I’ve also thought about starting that dreaded food diary. LOL! I'm sure I'll emerge from this self-imposed cocoon soon, but my Tilley will not be red.

Wal, Kathleen, my food diary lasted exactly one day. I decided not to insult myself by keeping track of every little thing by writing it down, but rather to ask the question, "Is this something I want to eat, something I should eat?" before putting it in the hatch. And red hats, nooo thanks.

Girls, before the NPR link closed down this afternoon (Tuesday) I got a comment from some woman who said, and I am not making this up:

"You have got to be kidding. You act as though 50 is a death sentence. This is the first time I have read your "opinion", it sure made made me feel a lot better at my 53 than you seem to be at 50. When I saw your picture, I was surprised you were not older..."

Ouch. My fan went on to say:

"I am proud to say that I take good care of myself and I am thankfull that I am not in my 20s these days. I don't wear elastized waistbands and I work out 3 - 5 (that could be a hike or a workout at the gym) and feel good about it. I don't do it to keep up with anyone, I do it to stay healthy. I lost 30 lbs last year, and my goal by 12/31/2008 is to run a 7 minute mile."

to which I replied,

"Good for you! I'm feeling better about my elastic all the time!"

What I wanted to say was, "Does your gym have equipment that you use to sharpen your tongue?"

So I stared out the window for awhile and then came back here to roll around in the luv. Pfft.

Geez, I read that comment on NPR and I tried to reply but couldn't. This is what I would have written:

"My, my at age 53 I guess you have forgotten your mother's words that you don't need to put someone else down to build yourself up."

Why would someone write something like that to someone they don't know? Or to someone they DO know for that matter. She probably didn't give it a second thought.

And neither should you!

(Word verification: catizedi...a new pasta dish for cats?)

Thanks, Christine! In a funny way, that comment was more illuminating, if not enlightened, than the kind and supportive comments. Hers was a thoughtless dismissal, precisely the prejudice I was talking about in the commentary.

Little wonder she took offense at the piece.

That commenter's snark brought to mind a line from 'The Lords of Flatbush' which goes something like this:

"Why don'tcha go out and run your teeth along the curb?"

Okay, time for a reality check. You are not invisible. You very definitely have a presence here, on NPR and with your art and writing. So maybe you don't get the personal attention you used to. Hey, the world is full of men who are looking for the next thing. That doesn't mean your sun is in eclipse.

I know, easy for me to say. I'm a man who is used to being invisible and actually enjoys being invisible. I prefer to have my work speak for me and hope it will be speaking long after I shuffle off.

Best wishes! thinks you have hit a nerve!
The comment on NPR by Robin:::
"I am proud to say that I take good care of myself and I am thankfull that I am not in my 20s these days. I don't wear elastized waistbands and I work out 3 - 5 (that could be a hike or a workout at the gym) and feel good about it. I don't do it to keep up with anyone, I do it to stay healthy. I lost 30 lbs last year, and my goal by 12/31/2008 is to run a 7 minute mile."

So she can't run a 7 min mile and she has been carrying around 30 extra pound. I think she may have proved your point..whether you are trying to regain it or hold on it-visibility is a real thing and it can go away. The question is has anyone loss anything valuable? I don't know. Can you lose something you did not know you had before you lost it?

You're still a young chick to me. The really young ones haven't had enough life experiences to be as interesting as a "mature" lady.

Rondeau "old fart" Ric

Happy belated birdday, Julie, and as one of my birdy heroes, you'll never be invisible to me.

I recently had to go to the Canadian border to retrieve a hunting knife which was confiscated from my oldest child. I had to cross into Canada, get the knife, cross back into the States, go elsewhere and cross back into Canada so as to deliver the knife to him before he went out into the backcountry for months.

Charlie asked me what I was going to do if the Canadian border guards asked me whether I had an illegal knife in the car on my return into Canada. I pointed out that the likelihood of such a thing was infinitesimal, but that if they asked, I would give it up.

He laughed and said that middle-aged mothers would make awesome smugglers. Too true.

LOVED your article! It's so true, though I never thought about it. I think I may be experiencing my own version of this, albeit 6 years later. You see, I turned 50 a week after my grandson was born, and his birth overshadowed anything negative I could have EVER IMAGINED feeling about turning 50! I have lived in his bright shining aura every day, and I am the center of his universe! (So of course I'd never notice or even care if I was invisible to the rest of the world!) So, I wouldn't say my invisibility really came about until the day I got out of their car at the Tucson airport, to head home, my grandson crying in the back seat, and I was suddenly no longer the young woman I once was, and also no longer basking in the bright shining grandson aura either...I suppose that's the day I became invisible. Sigh.

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