At the age of forty I became invisible. I’m not exactly sure when it occurred, though I’m sure it was gradual like wrinkles and loss of memory. But one day I found that flirting and making direct eye contact was something I didn’t want to do because no one wanted to do it with me.
The subtle embarrassment crept over me with the fact that I was now somehow ten years older and my reflection wasn’t something I wanted to examine for longer than a glance in the vanity mirror of the station wagon. My skin had fallen, cut in fourths by lines. Years of accumulated worry had let the avalanche loose. My face had simply fallen onto itself. I had simply fallen onto myself.
My twenties had been spent in indentured servitude – working feverously because that is what one did in Manhattan in your shoulder padded magenta suit with the shiny black buttons and the high heeled patent leather pumps. It didn’t matter that 1987 saw stock brokers trying to force open the sealed windows to jump, we were too ambitious, too poor and too centered on the other end of Manhattan. My thirties was still work that melted into motherhood which was more work only a slower numbing kind where the wheels were dulled by no sleep and the fact that every meal was swallowed standing and rocking. Communication with my once lover reduced to grunts and gropes in the dimly lit hallway. Those years full of pathos too keen to recall in mass. Only sharp memories – unwanted spinal tapes of three year olds, gushes of blood down the legs and loss, triumphs of companies being sold, oxygen depleting happiness and gnawing doubt as to worth. Like a stew that simmered, your face a centimeter from the fire. No perspective. Trench warfare.
Then forty arrived. And the door to mortality stood before you. People in bars become as old as your t-shirts. The choices you didn’t make, the choices you finally understood the repercussions of not choosing, became clearer. Tired, still tired, but you could gasp a breath like a man under water resurfacing through the depth. And now what?
There is something brewing, god forbid that you consider menopause as this tectonic plate shifting your desires. The word closes more doors to your ears. But something is crawling under the surface itching, burrowing farther; reticent, scared to be above ground and recognizable and answerable.
So you stifle about, flitting upon things, unable to commit with the level of ferocity you clawed into work early on, you feel untethered and your kisses to your loving, patient husband whisper the pleas to recognize this woman as vibrant as alive as worthy of notice. You aren’t ready to become that eccentric old woman that pals around with the stock boy or the green grocer. Like some awkward Sean Connery phase of the bad toupee and girdle, you pivot this way and that trying to align your direction, trying to matter in a society so focused on youth and beauty, as if infants would soon be given lipstick and curled hair, younger and younger till at birth everything for that little girl was decided, and no spark, no tenacity, no wit could deter her from her course.
At night, when you turn and drift up from sleep, from that cave where dreams lie in cubbyholes, when you can see the light from the street lamps filter around the edge of the drape, and you feel his breath warm with sleep, the depth of his weight next to you. And you reach out so that he will anchor you to this life, the lifeline to this world, apart from the dark unknown of what will come after.