In conversations among women of a certain age, we sometimes reveal when we became invisible, usually due to age, weight gain or the absence of time to focus on our appearance. But at some point, in every woman’s life, she will become invisible; it even has a name Invisibility Syndrome.
Women feel differently about it, but most that I have met are happy about it.
It took awhile for me to realize when I first became invisible, but it noticed it when I was walking past a construction site and was not verbally abused. It surprised me, as I learned to wear loose fitting clothing and walking authoritatively to avoid the unwelcome comments. That day, I walked past the construction site unimpeded.
It took about 5 minutes to get over the life that I had known. The life where career women balance attractiveness and being taken seriously. The life where we are programmed by social norms, fashion, glamour magazines, and peer pressure to look attractive, but in the workforce, required to dress down our sexuality. It is a delicate dance.
I have been somewhat radicalized from the sexual harassment that I suffered as a pioneer. I learned to dress modestly and keep my head down so that I wouldn’t notice the leering. I wanted to be listened to.
I have many stories, but one anecdote will help you understand my world. One scientist made it a habit of staring at women’s breasts during any discussion. A sympathetic male colleague reproached him privately about his behavior. He expressed surprise that it made women uncomfortable.
Now that I am invisible, I can be assured that people who talk to me are talking to me. Admittedly, there are a fewer young men who approach me, but I don’t mourn the deprivation.
Since my invisibility cloak is now permanently attached, I can wear a low-cut dress tonight. I can wear comfortable shoes, I can wear as much or little makeup as I desire.
See what I mean?
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.