A tragic reality occurs when women reach the age of 60. Suddenly we become invisible and irrelevant to the rest of the world.
We could ride a musical neon unicycle through a crowded banquet with our hair on fire and water balloons erupting from our cleavage while juggling live crowing roosters, but no one would notice. Trust me. I’ve tried several times, and the nice officers always escort me home.
To retain some dignity and purpose, it’s only appropriate to forget the crowing roosters and establish some Rules for Relevancy before we’re cast aside as useless relics of yesterday. We need to prove we’re not done yet. This will prevent society from consigning us to the dusty shelves of antique stores in summer resort towns.
For a miserable example of just how awful it is for women our age, consider this recent account of trying to get the attention of a sales clerk. My friend Nancy and I were waiting patiently to exchange the bling-covered, thigh-high boots we bought in a moment of unbridled foolishness. Despite our eager attempt at eye contact, the young male employee continued to ignore us.
“If this wait goes any longer, I’ll have to chew these boots for my dinner,” Nancy said.
“Tell me when cobwebs begin to drape from my ears,” I retorted. “That kid will be wearing bifocals before we get some help.”
Then a young woman with a plastic face and noisy bangles came skittering up on her six-inch heels. She shoved her assets in front of us, and received immediate attention from the animated sales clerk. He treated her with adoration usually reserved for the Prize Patrol from the Publishers Clearing House. After being overlooked, once again, we disregarded our childhood instructions to be nice and began to channel our dormant inner sorcerer.
“We could curse her until she spontaneously bursts into flames,” I said.
“No, if we have that much power, let’s turn her into a woman older than we are,” said Nancy.
We cackled like possessed magicians. Nancy felt emboldened and moved closer to the counter.
“You must be so much more important than I am,” she said. “My mama told me not to be pushy like you, so I’ll just continue to wait here looking at your beautiful professionally-enhanced backside.”
She added a toothy smile, raised her eyebrows, and tilted her head ever so slightly. The intruder turned around. She noticed two wild women who were hungry, breathing their last breath of tolerance, and in need of a bathroom. She stammered an apology and slinked away before the sales clerk could call for security.
We high-fived like silly school girls and pushed toward the counter. Nancy and I managed to exchange the boots and meander to a nearby wine bar to create some “Rules for Relevancy for Women over 60.” This list was short because we didn’t know how much time we had before our eyesight failed and our memory couldn’t retain more than five guidelines.
That martyr act may have worked thirty years ago when you were easy to manipulate. Now it’s time to stop acquiescing to various demands that diminish your existence. Being confident and assertive are not character flaws.
If the receptionist continues to ignore you, stand up and sing the long version of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” while playing the air guitar. This delightful distraction is guaranteed to get action. The technique also works with snooty waiters, impassive family members, and bored lovers.
If you’re being discounted, try to be lavishly pleasant until doors magically open, sales people roll out the red carpet, and butterflies flutter over the rainbow. If that daydream doesn’t work, use your outside voice and demand attention. Talk, walk, and stand like the Queen of the Universe and attract respect. All you want is acknowledgement that you still matter.
Think of all the technological, historical, global, and social changes you have witnessed! Encourage others to ask about your stories, anecdotes, and memories. Or write them in a memoir. You grew up during a time when television was new and one of the most popular shows included a mother named June Cleaver who wore pearls and called her son Beaver. You survived!
There are millions of women over age 60, and many of them are lonely, marginalized, and tired. Find these friends, share your crown, and join forces to create a strong, vibrant coalition of self-reliant women who are getting mad as hell about being ignored and they aren’t going to take it anymore.
Together, we can shake our age-spotted fists in the air and holler, “I’m still here, and I’m not going to ride a musical neon unicycle to prove it!”
As the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz told Dorothy: “You’ve always had the power.” So click those ruby red slippers, grab a little dog or a partner or a carload of friends, and celebrate what remains of your journey.
Start singing your own song about the road less traveled, or the long and winding road, or goodbye yellow brick road, or how you just can’t wait to get on the road again. Don’t forget sunscreen.
Have you ever felt that you were invisible? What is your personal technique for getting attention when someone is ignoring you? Please join the conversation below.