Becoming invisible

Posted: January 23, 2012 in aging, beauty, discrimination

As I may have mentioned before, I do try to keep myself up, although it’s becoming a bit more challenging all the time. So a web coupon for a two-for-one microdermabrasion package sounded like just the thing for a post-New Year’s pick-me-up. Both Mother and her sister had serious age spots and other pigmentation issues with their faces, and I didn’t like what I was seeing in the mirror, despite my liberal use of some of the over-the-counter creams. So I did the deal and made the call.

The “spa” where I would receive my treatments was in a nearby town and, like many such services, was attached to a plastic surgeon’s practice. Walking in, I was impressed by the decor and vibe. It was very zen — all blonde wood and stainless steel, water fountains and cushions, with the requisite new age music playing gently in the background. I’ve had such treatments before, but this was probably the most chi-chi place I’d ever visited, and I made a mental note that, if I liked the service and the price was good, I’d probably return.

The receptionists were both occupied, so I stood for a moment and continued to survey the room. The nearest receptionist was young and attractive and pleasant, and she would eventually take me back to the “solarium” where I’d fill out my paper work and wait for my therapist. The other woman at the counter — well, she was my first clue that this would be a memorable experience.

Rail thin, she could have been anywhere from 25 to 50 (that was probably the point) and I have never seen anyone so whose face was so sculpted, all taut skin and protruding cheekbones and unruffled brow, except for her lips, which were double plumped. A generous application of makeup accentuated all the angles.

Now, I don’t think I’m a complete snob about such things, and I will allow that some women can benefit psychologically from “a little work” (like my middle-aged friend whose husband unceremoniously dumped her in the middle of her chemotherapy). This, however, was WAY beyond a little work, and was, for the right potential client, probably great advertising for the nearby plastic surgeon.

No, it wasn’t her appearance that was startling. I stood at the desk for several minutes, chatting with the other receptionist, and at some point, I realized that the well-sculpted woman wouldn’t look at me. No, she wouldn’t even acknowledge I was there. And by the time I left, neither would anyone else. My therapist was very competent, but I had expected at least a half-hour or more of pampering, and she had me out the door in 15 minutes. And, unlike every other day spa I’ve visited, no one tried to sell me anything or get me to return for other services, even though in my paperwork I had marked several procedures that I might be interested in. I was literally hustled in and hustled out.

Surprised, I mused about all this I sat in my car in the parking lot, and I came to two conclusions:

1. I wasn’t their kind of client. They wanted walking advertisements for their services, and no matter how much work I had done, I would never meet their mark.

2. At 60, I was the walking embodiment of a future they — in particular the well-sculpted woman — probably feared with all their souls, a future where they couldn’t depend on their looks to open doors and make their lives easier. If I hadn’t been standing in front of them with a paid-for voucher for services, I think they would have looked right past me.

I’ve never been able to cash in on my looks (which is why I became smart and funny), so I don’t understand that kind of dread. My fears about aging run along the lines of disability and penury. But I’ve never had anyone make me feel that invisible before, and I expect it will happen again. I’m 60, and most of the time I’m pretty okay about that. But I keep running into reminders that a lot of people aren’t okay about it, for themselves and for anyone else.

Are you okay about your age? I certainly hope so.

  1. Patti Winker says:

    I understand being invisible, I do more than understand it… I celebrate it! When I became invisible I used it as a training ground for old age. Because no one noticed me, I could do or say anything I wanted. I practiced being belligerent. I practiced re-asserting myself, much like a 2 year old does. I loved the freedom. I no longer cared what anyone thought about me because NO ONE THOUGHT ABOUT ME! Yippee!

    Now, I do think you’re onto something here. People may no longer see a person “of a certain age” because they fear the future. If that’s the case, then these people are gutless wimps! And, if that’s the case, then unleash the cantankerous old lady! I say hurray for us!

    On another note, I spent too many of my young years trying to fit into someone else’s opinion of how I should look and act. Now that I’m invisible, I’ve been able to see the futility and the waste of energy this took. Now, I feel confident that when the time comes to move from invisible (“some old lady”) to visible again (“cute little old lady”) I will have the strength I need to stand my ground.

    So, yeah. I’m more than okay with my age. I’m enjoying being invisible. I know that in the future I will move from being invisible to being visible again, only then as a cute little old lady. And when young people talk all baby talk and gushy to me as I stand there in my shriveled skin, shrunken body, and wild white hair, I can say with confidence the things that I am thinking because I got a chance to practice during my invisible years.

    Aside from all this, those people should all be fired for bad, rude, customer service. Terrible. You are a much nicer person than I am. I would have gotten in their face with one of those nasty “Excuse ME!” things. ewwww! I hate me when I do that. Wait. No. I love me when I do that. And besides… they wouldn’t even see me do it. It just feels good.

    Thanks for letting me rave on. It’s a subject I really enjoy!

  2. Insightful post. I find it troubling that you were made to feel this way. (Fear of physical pain would have prevented me having this procedure done. Pain to the psyche is not supposed to be part of it!)

    You nailed it, though — it is others who are not OK with aging. Their problem, not yours.

    • msmeta says:

      Absolutely. But it was still a little unsettling. Thanks for the comment. (And I will get my blog award up! Promise!)

  3. Donna says:

    It almost sounds like an episode from the Twilight Zone. You think you’re going to a day spa, but it’s really the mother ship for women who refuse to grow old, and they can’t acknowledge you because they’re pumped full of stuff and programmed to reject authenticity. Sorry. That was a bit much. Such a strange experience. Thanks for your insights!

  4. Wigi's World says:

    So, it appears that they are more interested in ‘beauty’ than making money? That makes no sense to me. But, I guess it’s better that you know now how you would be treated. (or not!)

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