You're Not Invisible

There used to be a principal at our local middle school ("junior high" in some parts of the country) who coined the phrase, "You're not invisible."  It became a joke with all the young teens because he would say it repeatedly with every school announcement, at every school assembly, and at every opportunity he had.  He started this after the Columbine tragedy.  I believe his intentions were positive.  He wanted to make every student feel they were important, and noticed, regardless of their social clique at school.

So they wouldn't come blow up the school. 

The kids hated it, of course.  The number of "invisible" jokes they came up with staggered the mind.  In addition, the teens all said this particular administrator was a "perv" and before long the jokes ran along the lines of the Invisible Pervert.  Most of us know how kids are at the ages of 12-14, and it isn't ever always nice and/or respectful.  The kid rumors ran the gamut but basically said Mr. Principal spent way too much time with the attractive girls at the school.  Other kids noticed and many were telling their parents, "What?  Does the Perv think he's invisible?  We can all see how he acts with the girls!"

I doubt if the man really was a perv because surely a teacher would have reported it if he was.  (? "Mom logic" or denial ?)  However, I told TR I was writing about him today and her response was, "That guy was a creep and a perv."  She hasn't seen him in seven years and her opinion still seems strong and sure.   

Yesterday a girlfriend of mine told me she is invisible.  The resignation, sadness, and grief in her eyes showed as she said it.  The words,  "You're not invisible," were out of my mouth faster than you can say Perverted Principal.  I was going to write something funny and light today, but I can't shake her words.  I am haunted by them now, hours later.  I am stymied by my inability to prove to her that she is, in fact, the exact opposite of invisible.  She is vibrant.

I will call my friend Sue.  Sue is someone I met around nine months ago at physical therapy.  Like all the patients there, she has some health issues.  She has come and gone a few times, and is currently back at PT.  I am in my forties.  She is older than me, I would guess in her late sixties.  Sue looks better than most women do in their early fifties though.  I really mean that, she looks great.  She exudes energy, and joy, and her laughter fills the place every time she is there.  She has a fantastic sense of humor.

Selfishly, I admit, it is easier for me to go to PT when I know she'll be there.  We laugh together.  We give the technicians and The Torturer a hard time.  She is my partner in crime.  We are a comedy team.  Or so we think.  The Torturer repeatedly tells the secretaries to stop scheduling us at the same time because he "can't take it" when we're together.  He doesn't mean it.  He sees the smiles on our faces and we make him smile too.  It makes everything easier when Sue is there.

Sue has been one of my biggest cheerleaders.  No matter what she has gone through, she is constantly checking on me, my progress, and cheering me on.  She watched me go through some of my roughest days.  She actually went up and scolded The Torturer once when I was going through the worst of it.  Sue was irate.  She told him he'd "better not" make me cry "one more time" because she was DONE watching him hurt me.  How's that for a friend?  The Torturer looked shocked that he was being angrily chewed out by a patient on my behalf.  The memory makes me smile to this day.  I think that is the day we officially became friends.

Sue feels invisible.

She says you get "to an age" and no one even sees you anymore.  At all.  She was referring to life in general, but we also talked specifics.  She's not married and she said it would be nice "just to have a companion."  She thinks all the men are looking for young hard-bodies.  She said men don't even see her in front of them.  She laughed and said, of course, she is looking at all the young hard-body men too.  She's particularly fond of men with nice asses.  (Who isn't?)  In addition, "Give me someone pre-prostate problems," she said.  Yeah, she's nearly seventy and she wants a man who can deliver like a 30 year old in the bedroom.

Do you see why I love her? 

Sue and I also discussed how hard it is for a woman her age to get hired by anyone.  I mentioned my concern about getting back in the work force.  Who will hire me with one working arm?  (The answer is no one.)  She countered by saying employers find all sorts of reasons not to hire her.  "They're afraid I'll drop dead on the spot," she said.  She meant it.  Her disability runs out in a few months and she's afraid she'll never find another job.  Her fear is real.

Before we parted for the day, Sue was urging me to live my life to it's fullest.  The unspoken was, "before it's too late and you're invisible too."  She is one of the most alive, vibrant, funny people I know.  She carries a huge presence everywhere she goes.  She feels invisible.  I just can't get over it.


15 Responses to “You're Not Invisible”

  1. Helena

    I once met a lady who was in her early 50’s who said that as soon as she hit 50 she became invisible. She looked great, younger than 50, very pretty, she had quite a young dress-sense. I couldn’t believe she was “invisible”.
    Thanks for reminding me/us to live life to the fullest. I forget sometimes.

  2. Gina

    this is very sad, i wish i could give this “Sue” woman a hug ( im sure you did allready though)

  3. Jan

    In our youth-oriented society? I have no doubt she feels that way. It’s so sad how Americans, as a society, have decided that once people become “of an age” they’re no longer needed. There ARE “senior-oriented” dating sites…at least, if the mail that ends up in my junk mail folder is any indication. Perhaps she should try one.
    As for the teachers not knowing the guy is a perv? It’s possible. When I was in high school, the civics teacher was the biggest lecher I’d ever met. Every girl who had to take his class learned to stay far, far away from his Russian hands and Roman fingers. Finally, the year after I graduated, a couple of girls reported him and he was fired. He probably got away with it for so long because his classes consisted mostly of seniors.
    And middle schoolers? There’s a perfectly lovely teacher at his school named Mrs. Weikopf – the kids have been calling her Mrs. Wack Off for years.
    Have you noticed I’ve decided to start every paragraph with a sentence? I thought so.

  4. jo

    What a moving story. It made my heart heavy. Loneliness is everywhere, even in such a connected world.
    First of all, on a lighter note, my kids had a middle school prinicpal who drilled “make it a good day or not….the choice is yours” into the kids with every freakin’ announcement (he was also perv-ish). We still joke about it. Must be a middle school principal thing.
    Aging with a young mind carries its own set of problems. I just know there’s Mr. Studley, 50ish out there for “Sue”. And as far as jobs go, there are some sensible employers who know that experience and the work ethic of her generation is much more beneficial than hiring some cocky 20-year old fresh out of college. My husband was hired by a company who hires “mature” workers because they work!
    How wonderful that you and “Sue” can be each other’s cheerleaders.

  5. amyz5

    there is no reality only perception. (a very wise person turned my head to thinking this way).
    i think that what your friend sue does not see is the place that she is least invisible is the most important place of all. the one where she makes her impact. hard to see past that when you are stuck in the scary place that she is now.

  6. kelly

    I’ve heard people talking about this concept. Sad. I bet it means a lot to her to know she’s not invisible to YOU.

  7. Donna in VA

    That is truly sad that she feels that way, but I’m a firm believer in the fact that our life is what we make it, no matter the adversities – aging being one of those. Heck, my whole blog is built around aging. . . what now?
    I, too, am afraid though to start over in the workforce. I have a job currently, but with the economy sucking a$$ like it is, my job is in jeopardy. I’m 47 years old, smart, and a damn hard worker, but I know that the reality is that a younger version of me is much more likely to get the job. So I’m trying to figure out how to employee myself and still make a decent living. . . cuz I’D hire me. And I’d hire Sue. And I’d hire you. Us old girls gotta stick together. **and I use the work ‘old’ with much affection – not in the Perv kind of way**

  8. Emmy

    Oh, why do you always have to write posts that make me worry about my mom? That sound like her exactly!

  9. goodfather

    My son and his girlfriends (friends that are girls) got to talking about one of their highschool teachers that they identified as a ‘perv’. I was shocked at the stories the girls told about more-than-obvious ogling. Kids KNOW.
    Your friend wouldn’t be invisible to me. I might be over the age of 30 (by a long shot), and may not have had my prostrate checked recently, and might also be very married and not in the position to employ anyone, but I’m age-blind, and tend to make for a very loyal friend :).

  10. goodfather

    Oops, I meant ‘prostate’, not ‘prostrate’. Nothing wrong with my ability to prostrate, I still have my current job (for now).

  11. thistle

    I completely understand the ‘invisible’ comment…it doesn’t matter if it is only perception…if you are single and over 40…you do feel invisible re: the dating scene….and as i am about to start looking for a different job because i have a 39 yr old underqualified boss who is a complete horror show to work for…i am praying that i won’t be ‘invisible’ there too…yikes

  12. Midlife Mama

    One of the most difficult lessons to learn, and I am still learning it, is to not define ourselves by other people’s opinions; or our perception of others’ opinions, which often is incorrect. Women in particular are prone to this type of thinking, as we are generally pleasers by nature and tend to worry about how others see us, and thus define ourselves from external cues. Men, generally, aren’t so likely to do this.
    And putting on my HR hat? There are laws against age and disability discrimination, just so you know. 🙂
    Sounds like a little depression going on in your friend, and understandable given her situation. Just a slippery slope, and I hope she doesn’t slide down into clinical depression.

  13. X

    My mom had the same problem when she found herself having to job hunt a few years back. Broke my heart. I hope Sue finds something.

  14. SSG

    Just wanted to say, i really liked this post. The lady you’ve written about isn’t invisible to me, you’ve made her alive in your writing, and many people are now thinking of her. Hope things improve for her


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