In Praise of Invisible and Brave Women by
(149 Stories)

Prompted By Ageism

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Foreword: How fitting that in trying to find images for this story, I came up with almost none except the one here. In searching “older women,” I found homeless women and those from the developing world. Not that these images are bad in any way, they just don’t fit. Here’s the actual story.

We were aware that it was bound to happen someday, but it sneaked up on us unexpectedly.

We were aware that it was bound to happen someday, but it sneaked up on us unexpectedly. About 10 years ago, when we were in our mid-50s, my woman friend Marcia and I agreed to catch up with each other by meeting for a drink. There was a newer bar attached to a fancy steakhouse in downtown San Jose, and they supposedly made great cocktails to suit Marcia and creative mocktails to suit me.

We enjoyed going up to the bar, sitting at a table in the middle of the room, and the time we spent chatting, until about 90 minutes after we arrived, when we looked at each other and stopped cold. The bar was full of men, all around us, and yet for that 90 minutes, none had approach us, none had bothered us, none had spoken to us at all. We had made the transition to being invisible.

I remembered being in my 40s and divorced, and being in social clubs that threw the women out once they turned 50. Bad for business. Now it was my turn to feel obsolete. However, after a few months of being disturbed about this, I started noticing the advantages. I didn’t have to ask restaurant hostesses if I could wait near the door instead of in the bar if I didn’t want to be disturbed. At work, when a younger woman asked, “Ken has been hitting on a bunch of us. Has he tried to hit on you?”, I could say no, with some relief. The men at work would talk to me as a colleague. Professionally, I was no longer a threat. In many scenarios, people simply didn’t see me, and I could go where I wanted and do what I wanted.

Ten years after the bar incident, life is more nuanced. I still enjoy the freedom of invisibility–when I want to navigate the world on my terms. And, older women, and men as well, now have more options. There are a lot of dating websites for women my age (I’ve never used them so I don’t know if they are any good). This afternoon I saw Jane Fonda being interviewed by Judy Woodruff, and I love watching Helen Mirren in anything. They are out there doing what they do and saying what they want to say. I take inspiration from them and my many brave, active friends from 60 to 90 who are learning new things and engaging with the world.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.

Characterizations: been there, right on!, well written


  1. Brava Marian! If I get out to San Jose let’s have a drink!

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    Perhaps we should think of our invisibility as a superpower, Marian. I like to see it as some kind of power at any rate.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    I have a close college friend whose husband dropped dead about 18 months ago. She was (and in some ways, still is) beside herself, but still came to Martha’s Vineyard both summers by herself, sees friends, goes out. After a while, she decided to go on some dating websites. We were all shocked, but she amused us with some stories, until last week (she lives in LA). She said the guys either want to get physical right away, which doesn’t interest her, or some are scam artists, preying on what they perceive to be a rich widow, so she tells them about her son who is in the DOJ and prosecutes fraud. She said those types quickly disappear.

    So even if we don’t want to be invisible, the alternative isn’t great either. It is a weird place to be.

    • Marian says:

      That’s disappointing, Betsy, but I’m not surprised, given the way the internet is. Definitely a weird place to be, and I feel for your friend. If it’s any consolation, when I dated in my late 40s I found that, when I met men (not on the internet), many said that they would not have dated me if they’d known my age, but when they saw me, they changed their minds. Maybe it’s still best to meet people the old fashioned way!

  4. Suzy says:

    Marian, this story is perfect! I wish that I had written it, and that’s the highest compliment I can give. You describe invisibility so well, and how at first it is disconcerting, but then it turns out to be delightful, because no guys are hitting on you. I guess if you were so invisible that the bartender never took your order, then it would be a problem. I’ve had that happen, on the rare occasion that I have gone to crowded bars. Thanks for the story, and yay for our superpower of invisibility (just like Harry Potter).

    • Marian says:

      Thank you, Suzy, that’s indeed a high compliment. It’s touched a nerve with most of the female Retrospect-ers, and John described so well the male version of this phenomenon. I am enjoying being a crone, in the older, positive sense of the word.

  5. I too like this process of becoming invisible. I love that it doesn’t matter whether I put on makeup and a cute outfit or run off to do an errand with no makeup wearing the clothes I’ve been lounging in, because no one will notice. Except my husband, he notices. And me. I notice. That makes two of us. So I put on the makeup, and the cute outfit.

  6. Very well done, Marian. Yes, invisibility can have its advantages. But a word about online dating sites. Yes, there are bad actors out there and many horror stories. But they can be useful and they can work. I know from experience – seven years ago, now. There are at least a few of us who have successfully negotiated the course: in our twenties we thought we were God’s gift to women. In our forties we wondered if we were still were. And in our sixties we realized that we never were in the first place, which makes it so much better for all concerned.

    • Marian says:

      Didn’t mean to imply that all online dating sites were bad or ineffective, Tom. Several couples I know met that way. Years ago I had a relationship that came out of meeting someone via telephone personals, where we left voice recordings for each other. For me it seemed like a numbers game involving strategy and a little luck.

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