I recently read about researchers at Duke University who have been busting brain cells to come up with an “invisibility cloak”. Well, an acoustic one, anyway. I don’t know how many sleepless nights they’ve spent calculating angles and sound waves but I do know that I could have saved them a lot of trouble.
You want to become invisible? I’ve got that covered: just be a woman and turn 50.
A recent New Zealand study of 2,000 women found that half over age 45 “felt ‘left on the shelf’ and judged negatively simply because of their age.” Actress Kristin Scott Thomas sums up the dubious rite of passage saying “Somehow, you just vanish.” Actress/author Annabelle Gurwitch, who has written a book about aging, claims she could easily get away with criminal activity “because as a woman over 50 in L.A., I’m invisible.”
For those of us who were never great beauties or in the public eye, it is admittedly easier. And hey, in some ways, 60 is actually the new 20, if judged by the mystifying parade of zits on my chin competing for attention with all my facial wrinkles. But, God’s honest truth, sometimes when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I shake my head and fight the impulse to apologize to everyone I meet for showing this face in public. Is there any hope of bringing veils back into fashion?
The cover-up begins when you notice that your knees have somehow begun to look like knots in an ancient oak tree. And then the inexorable creep of crepe progresses – scarves to cover your neck, cap sleeves to cover your upper arms, then long sleeves to cover all of your arms. I get it; I’m happy to don a drop cloth if necessary so as not to offend.
But no one told me that all this time I should have been sitting on my hands. In a recent Wall Street Journal column, a reader queried fashion columnist Teri Agins as to best nail shades of “older” hands. Until now, I had no idea that showing my hands in public was a punishable offense.
I should have seen it coming. The gossip mills have been sniping away at Madonna for some time now about her hands. She has apparently nipped and tucked every other inch of her body but the ever-vigilant Daily Mail had a field day when they caught her sans the gloves she she has lately taken to wearing.
So this is where I put my foot – er, hand – down. Things have officially gone too far if I have to be ashamed of my hands. For one thing, I’m rather “attached” to them. Can’t exactly leave them at home. But it’s more than that. I look at these hands, wrinkles, furrows and all, and, dare I say it – I don’t hate them. I’ve held newborn babies in these hands. Once upon a time these hands wiped away tears, baked chocolate-chip cookies and planted daffodil bulbs. They applauded at countless school plays and waved aching goodbyes when my boys went away to college. Admittedly, these hands have written some bad poetry in their day, but they’ve also played some decent Chopin. True, my hands have never done anything heroic, but they have embroidered samplers, held a violin bow, tied countless pairs of children’s shoes and made interminable numbers of school lunches. And yes, those kids are all grown now, but the hands are not idle: there is still plenty of hand-wringing to be done!
So I give a thumbs-up to Ms. Agins for, while acknowledging that nude shades of polish avoid drawing attention to the hands, encouraging her reader to go ahead and wear “vibrant” shades if she wants. Permission granted for a show of hands!
As children, the adage went that we were to be seen and not heard. But women of a certain age apparently have to be careful even about being seen. I promise to go away when those Duke researchers perfect that “invisibility cloak”. But in the meantime, I’m going to reach for the red nail polish. These hands aren’t going down without a fight!