Old, Invisible and Incandescent

I never thought about getting old when I was younger. That was something that happened to other people. It’s hard to imagine the unimaginable, but here many of us are, segueing into seniority.

When I was sixteen, my mother confessed to me (with a haunted look): ‘I realised I was getting old when I noticed men were no longer looking at me.’ My mum – a formidable, independent  woman who was also gifted with more than her fair share of radiant looks –  could, at times, come out with some real doozies. Built into that comment are so many uncomfortable truths – not only about the objectification of women and how our self-esteem is tied to the approval of men – but also enculturation and revulsion over that objectionable and incapacitated condition called old age.

Despite my mum’s occasional doozies, she was an impressive role model. Once she got over that shock of no longer being an object of men’s desires, she transformed into a formidable businesswoman and – well into her eighties – used to say defiantly:  ‘I’m no little old lady!’  Indeed. Woe betide any tradesman who tried to diddle her, including the plumber who, after telling her the roof needed replacement, watched her climb his ladder, inspect the roof and then fire him for dishonesty. She was an incandescent example of age bringing the gifts of experience, confidence and authority.

The Age of Transformation

As women fade from being objects of desire, our invisibility offers up an opportunity for transformation. We can finally shed society’s tight-fitting, expectation-riddled clothes. Here is our chance to shapeshift, transition into our true selves and forge new connections with society, the world, nature, and the cosmos.

It’s time to boldly embrace our new bodies: those sags, shrinkages and swellings, those lines of wisdom, experience and beauty, those mood swings that echo the natural world, those bodily gasses and mental fogs that intermittently catch us off guard, those hairs that proliferate in some places and vanish in others, those backsides that defy all conventions of proportion and balance and migrate frontside, those radiant moments of insight and outrage, love, indignation, compassion and understanding. These changes are telling us: we are no longer beholden to our hormones, reproductive roles and societal expectations. Our inner goddesses are finally breaking free. We are transforming into powerful beings.

A friend once told me: ‘Men get more attractive as they get older.’ Yes. Well. Up to a point. To engage in further generalisations, women get more independent. They are less inclined, particularly after raising children and perhaps tolerating less than perfect marriages, to put up with the shenanigans of those purportedly more attractive males.

That’s another of Mother Nature’s finely tuned balancing acts.

They may be old and wrinkled, but they’ve still got light and rhythm.

Forces of Nature

Regardless of Mother Nature’s ultimate, mysterious agenda, we all – men and women – eventually  succumb to invisibility.  

Even apparently invincible, ugly, rude, murderous (and usually male) autocrats and despots, who use taxpayer’s funds and testosterone-infused prowess to foment paranoias, finance weaponry and wage pointless wars; those corporate narcissists and sociopaths (usually male) and their greedy cronies enriched through power games, conflict, planetary rape and ecocide, will eventually age, grow ill, turn feeble and die. We all return to the nature some have treated with contempt.

And, as anyone who has indulged in those clickbait sites that lead us past celebrity ‘Then and Now’ pictures on to advertisements for laxatives and weight loss powders, knows: even the most breathtakingly beautiful succumb to age’s implacable hand, blend into their surroundings, decompose and eventually turn invisible. There’s no escape for anyone. There’s some exquisite poetic justice in this knowledge. No one gets out of this business Instagram-pretty or alive. Mother Nature reclaims us all.

In all of this, there’s so much that’s wonderful about being older. By our fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond, we’ve seen and experienced a fair share of life’s cycles of absurdities, sorrows, injustices, insults, glories and inspirations. We’ve survived intoxicating and eviscerating love affairs, embarrassing moments, crushing moments and ecstatic moments. We’ve experienced life’s most ridiculous, infuriating, inspiring and heart-touching moments.  Our reactions may be slower, but our reflections are deeper. We see life’s big picture in all its nutty, paradoxical and baffling beauty.

And, by the way, to have reached this grand age, navigated our way through life’s minefields, survived those ailments and accidents that rob some far too early of this adventure of existence, is a triumph.

As we move into that sublime realm of natural, poetic justice it’s also worth remembering that some of the greatest forces in nature are invisible to the naked eye: gravity, electromagnetism, radio waves, x-rays, dark matter. Love. So don’t believe all that sexist, ageist, propaganda. We are emerging from that chrysalis of invisibility as butterflies. This is our mature and magnificent prime.

We – the aged and aging – are glowing with an incandescent and invisible light.

Finally, here’s  wonderful article shared by a dear and long-time friend (old, wise friends – another advantage of seniority). It’s got a few free articles before you hit the pay wall.


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