The invisible middle
Here are some of the things I’ve learnt since turning 40 (several years ago now):
- Headstands are no longer a party trick I can pull off without vomiting.
- Trampolining is only for those mums who bothered with their pelvic floor exercises.
- Everyone is fitter than me. Literally everyone I know is running, cycling, doing regular triathlons or competing at Tough Mudder. I’m in my little office with the curtains closed. Eating chocolate.
- Some styles of clothes suit me, some don’t. I have come to terms with this and it has set me free.
- A small group of close, supportive friends is more important than being popular.
- I would rather be happy than perfect.
- Life’s too short to worry about other people’s opinions.
- Comparison is the thief of joy. There’s no point comparing your beginning to someone else’s middle.
And here’s the biggie:
- I can become invisible.
My invisibility cloak
On my 40th birthday I was given an unexpected gift by the universe – an invisibility cloak that I would wear unwittingly for all eternity.*
*There is one exception. My invisibility cloak doesn’t work with doctors or nurses. Since having kids my body is public property to anyone in the healthcare profession.
My invisibility cloak is really powerful. It can do the following:
- Make my legitimate place in a queue null and void, allowing other queuers to take their place just in front of me, but not before they’ve stepped on my toes.
- Render me utterly undetectable in shops, clothes shops in particular. It matters not if the shop is full, or if I’m the only customer, I can browse to my heart’s content without anyone asking if they can assist me, or take my chosen items to the changing room to liberate my bingo wings.
- Allow buses and taxis to carry on their journeys, unburdened by the need to pick up a desperately waving traveller.
- Free up staff at cafes and restaurants to serve younger, as well as older clients, while ignoring the inconspicuous woman in the middle (both physically and metaphorically speaking), with the grumbling stomach and the raging thirst.
- Make me more conscious of my mortality, by rendering me imperceptible to cars approaching zebra crossings.
You may think I exaggerate, but the above examples all happened to me in just one day, compelling me to write this blog.
A shop assistant actually said to me “sorry, I didn’t see you there” and instead of smiling and buying the items in my basket, I just put my shopping down and walked out.
Ignored by mainstream media
Despite brilliant campaigns by the likes of Dove and Neal’s Yard Remedies, which feature a more diverse demographic, 70% of women in their 40s and 50s feel they are largely ignored by the mainstream media. I strongly believe that this lack of representation leads to older women becoming invisible in real life.
As we age, we have more to offer. Many of us will have experienced life changing adventures; absorbed different cultures; raised children; changed careers; seen the wonders of the world. We have stories to tell, opinions to contribute and expertise to share.
We live in a society that values youth over experience, beauty over wisdom. Yes, more mature women are being used to advertise ‘anti-ageing’ products, but they are airbrushed to look 20 years younger. And that ‘anti-ageing’ tag just promotes age shaming. Heaven forbid we should be seen with our real-women muffin tops, cellulite and wrinkles.
Imagine how different women would feel if magazines stopped peddling this toxic nonsense and started celebrating our our uniqueness and strengths.
Aspire to be happy, not perfect
One of the reasons I write my blog is to speak up for women in their 40s. None of the mainstream magazines speak to or for me anymore. But there are loads of us online, which is where I now choose to look for inspiration.
I have found a virtual tribe, mainly on Instagram, of supportive women in their 40s and 50s, who are unafraid to challenge society’s idea of perfection. They are standing up to be counted and shouting their opinions from the rooftops.
They share their challenges and their pain. They might occasionally post a beautiful outfit photo in front of an ‘instawall’, but it will be accompanied by a caption about how their partner is going through chemo and the dog just shat in the kitchen.
They don’t airbrush their photos. They are ageing proudly and authentically.
The mainstream media may not be champions of older women, but social media can be an inspirational place to hang out – if you aspire to be happy, not perfect.
I hope you’ll hang out with me there. My handle is @lifestylemavens on all channels.
Much love, Vx
[Disclosure: no brand partnerships to disclose here. This article is an update on a blog I wrote in 2016.]