Lim: Invisible

Wide Awake

I had heard about it. But I never actually thought it would happen to me. It didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it happened gradually. But I was oblivious to it. Or perhaps, I was simply not ready. All I know is that one day, while walking in the mall, I suddenly realized I had become invisible.

They walk past you. Without a glance. Without a smile. Without a flicker of interest. Even when you glance at their direction, your gaze is met with a blank stare. There’s nothing there. Not a crumb of curiosity about you.

You’ve been written off as someone who couldn’t possibly have anything interesting to say—because you don’t look interesting anymore.

Yes, today, I am largely invisible, at least, to the majority of young people.

A friend lamented some five years ago, “You know, to my kids, I’m so old.” I remember looking at her and saying, “We are old.”

What she was trying to tell me was that while there’s no denying we’re old, we don’t need to be treated like we don’t matter, that our opinions can be dismissed as irrelevant and outdated, that the space we occupy on Earth could be better given to someone younger, better and hotter-looking.

I can’t blame them, though. Once upon a time, I was one of them.

I used to look upon the elderly as people with slow feet and foggy brains. That’s until I became one of them and realized that though my feet are not as nimble and my mind is not as sharp as before, I don’t think I should be written off. Not just yet.

I mean, I’m old. But I have a mind that can still incredibly perform a number of tasks, a heart that can still remarkably beat and bleed, a body that can still amazingly work in ways I never imagined possible (at this age). In short, I’m old. But I’m not dead. Yet.

Still, it’s like you’ve fallen off the grid. The young and firm body, the unlined face, the fearless heart have all disappeared without a trace. And in it’s place is a forgettable woman with a tired face, a worn-out body and a heart that’s wry and wary.

This didn’t happen overnight. But I was not yet ready.

The reality is that as women age, the male gaze dies out. I don’t think it is the same with men. For as long as women are valued for their appearance—youth and beauty will reign supreme. For as long as men are valued for their power—wealth and privilege will be sovereign.

I overhear tons of conversations every day from young people. They talk around me. They talk like I’m not there. Or if they actually know I’m there, they don’t care. To them, I am invisible.

When I was young, whenever I was asked which superpower I wanted, I always answered, “invisibility.” Isn’t it ironic that the day my wish is finally granted, it strangely feels like bittersweet victory?

My mother always warned me, “Be careful what you wish for.”


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