Great Expectations

Everyone has entertained the question, “If you could have a super power, what would it be?”

I think I usually answered, “To fly.”.  And I have.  Maybe not on my own steam, but in enough planes and helicopters and roller coasters.  So I can’t complain.  But I know sometimes I answered, “Invisibility.”

I recently had a fairly detailed and intimate conversation with two complete strangers who also admitted to wishing, at some point, to be invisible.  Then we discussed how our wish has come true.  We are at the “age of invisibility”.  Only it’s not as fun as we expected.  It’s not anything like we expected.  And no one warned us.

It’s caused me to do a bit of soul searching.   I took my youth and my looks for granted.  I was irritated (mostly) by attention.  Unwanted (or so I thought) attention.  It was not flattering at the time.  What bizarre karmic fuckery happened in the past 5 years?

One of the women I spoke with had come across a set of boudoir pictures that her daughter had taken.  Instead of feeling angry, she became wistful.  She found herself wishing that she, too, had taken similar photos during her prime.  If for no other reason than to remember that at one time she really did shine.  And immediately after having that thought, she felt ashamed.

We have become more vain than ever, but only to appear as normal as possible.  Thank goodness for camera filters.  They can hide what no makeup can.  Pictures can only be taken at such an angle…  We both need and despise magnified vanity mirrors.

The sad reality is not so much that youth and beauty fades, but that everything else of substance seems to disappear with it.  When you become invisible, what you say doesn’t matter as much.  Your opinion doesn’t hold the same weight.  Your ideas aren’t as important.  And you are most certainly not a fragile flower, so it’s just tough cookies if your feelings get hurt.  When you are young and beautiful, there are always plenty of ears to listen and shoulders to cry on.  And the cuter you are, the harder you fall.  The whistles and catcalls disappear… almost overnight.  How did that happen?  We went from all to nothing.

As younger women drape themselves on older men, it becomes harder for older women to be taken seriously.  And when older women find themselves screaming to be heard, they are often dismissed entirely.   I want to ask the question, “Why should someone have to be young and beautiful to be taken seriously?”  But the scary part is the possible answer.  Perhaps the answer is that they were never taken seriously at all.  Maybe we mistook attention for *paying* attention.

I think if I could answer the super-power question again, my answer would be “Time Travel.”  Then I could go back to have a chat with my 16 year old self.  I would tell her to enjoy it while she can, and to know for certain that it will disappear suddenly and without warning.  To be confident in who she is on the inside.  To enjoy flattery, but not rely on it.  I would tell her to keep giving without expectation of return, because one day, there would be no return.  No expectations, no disappointment, right?

***I just finished reading what I wrote.  Three times.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that I am, at this moment, the whiniest sack of shit in Texas.  I mean really.  I took a look in the mirror.  Yes, stuff is lower than it used to be.  Fuck you gravity.  But my hair looks better than it did when I was a teenager.  I can afford to have great nails and cute toes.  My teeth are still pretty awesome.  I have great legs and a nice rack.  And none of that…I repeat…NONE of that matters.  I’m comfortable in my own skin.  And I’m surrounded by people who listen to me, and appreciate and love me.  And I am lucky enough to love them back.  I am finding skills I never knew I had.  I have rediscovered talent that has been playing possum for years, and I’m taking it out for a spin.  I have better taste in food. I can travel, eat sushi and go to concerts and stay up WAY past my bedtime.

And maybe I will enjoy invisibility as a super power.  It certainly would come in handy as I Twyla Tharp my way off a curb while holding a pizza and splat onto the pavement.  Or when I take a header down the stairs and over a row of seats during a metal concert.  I mean, no one really wants to see my middle-aged ass lying in a puddle of (what I hope was) Red Bull.  After I’m done choking on my own saliva, gargling mouthwash into my eyes, walking into poles and sliding off barstools… I will pull the cobwebs off and become visible again.  Anyone who doesn’t pay attention at that point never deserved my awesomeness to begin with.

Oh, and to all those girls who are draping themselves on older men.  It’s not karma you have to worry about.  It’s gravity.