My birthday is coming up really soon. It means a lovely dinner with my family. Probably a separate lovely dinner with a dear friend.
And as I anticipate blowing out the candles on my birthday cake, I will be reminded that I am sagging towards obscurity.
Truthfully, aging doesn’t much bother me. But in some ways it bothers me terribly. Because when you step back and look at our culture, it becomes clear that we women are all marching inexorably towards the sea of invisibility.
Marching towards old age. And eventually, of course, The End.
For women, long before The End, or even real old age, we face becoming invisible. Undesirable.
We women have, as comedian Amy Schumer puts it, a last f***able day. (Watch Schumer’s raunchy and brilliant comedy sketch here.)
And even as we face this drying up of our worth, especially in the media, we are simultaneously sold fake hope in a jar. Creams, anti-aging formulas, and highly diluted preparations of the deadliest toxin known to humankind delivered by injection. All wrapped up with a pink satin bow so we won’t notice that we are being simultaneously insulted and scammed.
In the meantime, we’re encouraged to dab on eye cream so we can look relatively good as we march towards The End… The End of [Marketers’ Definition of] Attractiveness.
Early in our adult lives, women’s bodies are overly valued for what they look like. Even if you are genetically lucky enough to have the coveted fashionable body type, it’s no protection against body hatred. Gather a group of dancers and fashion models together, and you’ll see.
Later in life, it won’t matter what your body looks like. Because you’ll become invisible. Most notably, women of a certain age are not to be found onscreen. God forbid a woman over 40 is lucky enough to grace the pages of a magazine… Let’s just say the graphic artist tasked with airbrushing is likely to develop carpal tunnel. Because women, unlike men, aren’t allowed to look their age in the media.
If they show up in the media at all.
George Clooney and Brad Pitt can have craggy faces (it shows “character”) and continue to have onscreen sex lives. But they sure as hell aren’t having onscreen sex with anyone close to their age. (For visual examples of how the age gap plays out for movie love-interests, check this out.)
No, the female actors of a comparable age are too busy playing grandmas in shapeless sweaters to have screen sex. They are, for all intents and purposes, inconsequential. Well past their last f***able day, for sure.
If I’m eventually going to be invisible, you know I’m going to go all Harry Potter. It will be like using Harry’s invisibility cloak to my advantage. You never know when I’ll sneak up on people and eavesdrop. Or scare them to death.
Because even if you can’t/won’t see me, you’ll still hear me use my voice. I’ll be singing Happy Birthday.
Sing with me.