Men stopped noticing me at 50, and I couldn't be happier.

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I didn’t notice at first. It’s hard to miss something, like when you don’t realize your headache is gone until an hour after it starts to subside.

It’s not like I’ve already turned my head. Reasonably attractive, I never stood out in ways that made people excited or uncomfortable. But I was nice enough (and pleasant enough) to muster smiles and stares.

But somewhere in my early 50s, people just stopped noticing me.

I started having to say “Hello?” at the cashier to get the cashier’s attention. As I repeated my order for coffee, I could see his eyes flick past me, landing on younger, bolder, more interesting people.

“That’s it,” I thought. “I became invisible.”

I used to be visible. The attention I received from men ranged from appreciative smiles to flirting and boos that often turned to anger when I didn’t react the way they wanted. It could be good, until it wasn’t, and it was hard to see the line until it was crossed.

Some guys flirted, and it was sweet and sexy and fun. Others just gave me the creeps. The same behavior from different men can look very different, which made navigating these encounters tricky. Constant vigilance is exhausting.

And sometimes I just didn’t want to be bothered. I wanted to go about my business without being scrutinized by powerful men who act like you were put on earth to please them. And that you should be grateful when they deign to notice you.

Google “women”, “50” and “invisible” and you will get two types of results. The first will tell you that yes, it’s true, women stop being noticed in middle age. The next one will give you all kinds of advice for beating the odds while staying relevant. Not surprisingly, this means staying relevant to men, arbiters of power and good luck givers.

I grew up with casual sexism, just like all other isms. I learned early on that I was expected to smile, prevaricate, and laugh along with misogynistic jokes. My intrinsic pleasure warred with my inner rebel. I blinked, I raged.

I wanted the masculine look and hated it. I was ready for love, ready for sex, and I wanted boys to notice me. But to be seen, I had to face the challenge of male cruelty. I’ve had big breasts since I was 16. “Healthy set of…lungs!” Paul said. “I like your shirt – especially the front,” Blaine said.

Jokes about my period, comments about my body, the razor-thin line to walk between being a prude and a slut; Honestly, I wouldn’t wish female adolescence on anyone. In fact, this is a lie. There are many men who would benefit from being forced into a “Freaky Friday” situation with a teenage girl.

I remember sitting in my freshman dorm with the guy who would become my first serious boyfriend. We were listening to music – my music. Lou Reed showed up and my future boyfriend asked, “Do you know who that is?”

And I replied then how would i do it now? “Hmm yea – I recorded this tape.”

I paused, shy, and suddenly worried that 🇧🇷Walk on the Wild Side🇧🇷 it may in fact be sung by someone I couldn’t identify.

At 19, I was constantly second-guessing myself, worrying about how I was perceived. And that’s the dark heart of it: these kids could shake my self-confidence with one word. How did they do it? They seemed endowed by their creator with a sense of self-confidence I couldn’t muster. That must be walking the earth like a man.

It’s so tiring to be a woman in the world. And it can still be scary, it still requires vigilance. But I no longer feel like I’m being constantly evaluated, and it’s a huge relief.

I have a lot more space in my head. Other people’s opinions have become less important over time in general. But when you’re not being watched, you have a little more space to watch. And what I saw was a huge number of people whose opinions don’t matter one bit.

Here’s what I learned: People who love you think you’re beautiful. They care about your feelings. They are interested in what you have to say. Those who ignore me, I don’t care. Your opinions don’t count. I decide if I’m relevant, interesting or valuable, not them.

So I’m embracing middle age, with its pains and surprises. Would I like to look the way I did at 30? Well, of course, I’m human. But that doesn’t bother me. It’s the mirror I want to please, not the market.

A few years ago, I bought T-shirts for my teenage daughters that said, “Women don’t owe you anything.” It’s everything I wanted to tell the world when I was 17, only the world didn’t want to hear it from me.

At 57, I just stopped caring. Right, there’s a bit of a letdown in feeling like I’m not interesting anymore. But overall, it’s a great relief to walk down the street carelessly. I’m not prepared to receive unwanted attention. No one invades my personal space.

No one has told me to smile in at least a decade.

turns out that I like to fly under the radar. There are many other extremely nice women hanging out with me here, all of us equally invisible. AND This one, anyway, it’s a group whose opinions really interest me.

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