I swear I had only closed my eyes for one second when a policeman started poking me with his billy stick.
“Excuse me, Miss, you’re going to have to get up and move,” he commanded. What? Can’t a person sit on a park bench and close her eyes for a minute? I had worked out for two hours earlier that morning and was exhausted. The officer went on to explain with the new vagrancy laws you’re not allowed to sleep on a bench. First, I wasn’t sleeping and second, vagrancy laws?
Are you misjudged by your appearance?
As I ran my fingers through my hair plastered with dried sweat and I looked down at my outfit of mixed sweats and an old swim team t-shirt, it started to dawn on me: He thinks I’m a vagrant, a homeless person. As I was trying to come up with an articulate response to explain that I most definitely was NOT a vagrant, he asked if I needed help or somewhere to go. Somewhere to go? I started sputtering how I wasn’t homeless, I went to Harvard, goddammit, and that I was going to kill my mother for dragging me down to the Smithsonian when I told her that I wanted to just stay home and eat Thanksgiving leftovers. He then knew I was just another crazy homeless person muttering nonsensical things to herself.
I tell this story to establish that I am not a Fashion Icon and that I know what it’s like to be completely misjudged by your appearance.
Do you sometimes feel invisible?
Many older women tell me they are often misjudged by their appearance: People think they are invisible. At least that’s the way it feels to them. Store clerks, maitre d’s, and people in general don’t seem to notice them. They bemoan the fact that they got lots of attention when they were Sweet Young Things and now they are fading into invisibility.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. How do I know? Because I am one of the few women who is more visible now than I was in my 20s. While not dressing in sweats that Goodwill would reject is a start, it’s got a lot more to do with attitude, body language, and carrying a lot of ones in your pocket (more on that). Here are my secrets for women on how not to become invisible as they get older.
12 ways not to become the invisible woman after 40
1. Get some male friends. At least one has to be straight. Watch when a man approaches a maitre d’, a manager, or his other guy friends. His whole body language says I expect to be noticed and taken seriously. Hanging around male friends will help you correct your own invisible body language.
2. Get some younger, older, different-than-you friends. Expand your friendship circle beyond your normal tribe and you will become much more at ease when talking to new people.
3. Wear dresses more often.
4. Stop waiting to be invited. If you want to dance, be in the photo, or talk to someone at a party, then stop complaining that no one asks you and take the initiative yourself.
5. Take boxing, karate, or some other self-defense class. By learning to push your body much farther than you thought possible and learning self-defense skills, you will move with a whole new kind of body confidence.
6. Spend 30 seconds on your make-up before you go out the door. Filling in your eyebrows, adding a touch of mascara and putting a bit of lipstick or gloss on can make a huge difference and it all takes is less than a minute. I think 50% is that it makes you look better and 50% is that it makes you feel more social.
7. Stop dressing solely for comfort. Comfort and fashion are not mutually exclusive. There are comfortable clothes that are flattering on you and do not scream, “I have totally given up.” Get a fashionable friend or a stylist to help you out.
9. Speak up. It’s easier to be seen when people can hear you. So don’t be a low talker.
10. Embrace your grownup-ness. Remember when you were a kid and when something wasn’t right at a restaurant, your dad would summon the manager? He wasn’t invisible because he was a grownup. And they thought he would tip. Which leads us to…
11. Always carry cash in several denominations and tip generously. Women, especially older women, can be terrible about this. They seem to assume men will take care of it or it’s not that important. If you want to be visible around anyone in the service industry, tip generously.
12. Lift weights and work out much harder than you thought possible. (Use a certified personal trainer initially). Nothing gets you in shape faster than lifting real weights. And when you feel physically strong, you will move and act a lot stronger, and more visible, too.
I ended the list with a tip on getting your body in shape because there is no getting around that being overweight can definitely make you invisible. It’s ironic that the bigger you are, the less people see you.
While this post is primarily for women, next week will be for men.
What tips do you have for not being invisible? Add them to the comments.
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