Well, they’ve ruined my physical therapy now. All us old and lame had bonded and developed a sense of community as fellow sufferers who all now come in generous sizes and slightly lumpy shapes. Yesterday they started testing young male job applicants’ physical fitness for a local industry. So, here we old folks are gasping and sweating (and making inappropriate noises), while struggling to bend over two inches below waist level and these young hunks are flat handing the floor. I think I was two the last time I could flat hand the floor. If I was able to be invisible, I might actually enjoy watching them. (Little old ladies should get to have fun too.) But realizing that I might be the cause of someone never marrying, because they were prematurely exposed to what a prospective wife might look and “sound” like in old age, is too much guilt to bear. So I deny myself the pleasure of the debate between pecs and buns and do my exercises with my eyes closed, pretending if I can’t see them, they can’t see me.
Breathes there a woman, from age so dead, who never to herself has said, “Now, there goes a nice set of buns.”
I was asked recently, “When did you realize you were getting old?”
Realizing and feeling are two very different things. At seventy-eight I still don’t feel old, because all the people I’ve been at different ages are still part of me. Remembering is not like imagining. Remembering takes me back. I don’t have to imagine what it feels like to be young, because I’ve been there, done that.
But, I also remember clearly the day in my fifties, when I first realized I had reached the age of invisibility. I went into an auto repair shop for some help and though several men glanced my way, no one came forward to ask what I wanted. It was a wake-up call leading me to notice that men’s heads didn’t turn anymore when I came into a room or passed them on the street.
That was a traumatic entrance into an angst filled change of life.
Rites of Passage
Grieve with us for youthful beauty lost,
remembering our vibrant gracefulness
bright’ning eyes and turning manly heads.
Mourn it with us. Keen our woman’s loss.
A strange invisibility is now our aging fate,
like graying ghosts, unseen, we walk.
Beat your breast. Shred your public garment.
The maggot of our egocentricity
leaves a hollowness of empty vanity.
Wail. Keen. Howl. Beat the ritual drum.
Celebrate the death of youth until it can be borne.
However, as I moved into my sixties, I discovered there actually was an upside to becoming invisible. This stage of my life involved a lot of travel, so I was spending many hours waiting in airports. There I discovered the fun of watching the young men walk by. I worried that someone would notice and consider me a dirty little old lady, until I remembered that I had on my invisibility of age cloak. After that, I spent many enjoyable hours comparing buns and deciding whether I was a pecs or buns woman. Someone needs to write a ‘Pecs and Buns’ song, similar to ‘Tits and Ass’ from the musical, Chorus Line.