real life

'I'm in my early forties, and I'm terrified of becoming invisible.'

There’s a word for the fear of aging: Gerascophobia. People with this phobia have a fear of the biological downfall of their bodies and death.

There’s no word that I can find for "the fear of being invisible because you look old". What I suffer from isn’t getting old, it’s looking old. 

I’m in my early forties and began my obsession when I was roughly 37. Thirty-seven. That’s the bomb-dropping year where youth genes decide to say "eff it all!" and start bailing out.

Watch: The things mums never hear. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

Becoming invisible from age isn’t limited by gender. While we hold doors open for the elderly, we don’t actually look at them. We don’t notice their clothes, shoes, or jewellery. We don’t look at someone geriatric and think, "Damn... that guy is super hot!"

Unfortunately, invisibility happens sooner for women.

Evolution-wise, it makes sense. Men need to spread their manly man seed in as many fertile vessels as possible. 

Age displays a woman’s fertility. Since men can impregnate a woman until he’s on his deathbed, his age is almost irrelevant. Men can get older but women’s ages must stay the same.

This. Absolutely. Terrifies. Me.

I first noticed my invisibility after the birth of my first child. No guy is looking at a woman holding an infant.

Especially when she still has a nursing cover around her neck, she hasn’t showered, and if you hand her flavoured lip gloss, she’d sooner eat it than wear it. 

It was subtle, but I noticed it (regardless if I held a child or not). Waiters didn’t pay as much attention. Guys didn’t pause to hold open doors. The invisibility process had already begun.

I didn't clue in until I read an article written by a former soap opera actress. She explained how roles dried up as she approached 50 and how people stopped seeing her. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The actress then went on a spiel about how she accepted it and how freeing it is to not worry anymore.

I don’t buy it. While there are days I don’t want to be seen, I want it to be my choice. Turning invisible feels like I’m being violated; I’m not choosing what others are doing to my person.

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, Mamamia’s podcast with what women are talking about this week. Post continues below.

There’s an episode of Black Mirror with Jon Hamm where technology exists to "block" people from seeing each other. 

Spoiler alert: he is punished by becoming blocked by everyone. (If you haven’t seen it, fast forward to the seven-minute mark of this YouTube video.

This is my biggest fear. Not just that one day we might never see the outrageously handsome Jon Hamm, but that I’ll walk outside and be hidden from others around me.

Is this vanity? Shouldn’t we push for attention based on our merits, personality, and behaviours? That’s the stuff I tell my kids, but I know that attractiveness is a currency.

There are science-backed reasons why good-looking people are more successful in life. Aging is like nature’s cock block to success.

I’m not an Instagram-type with huge lips, oversized cheekbones, blonde hair, eyelash extensions, and huge fake breasts. (Okay, I have fake breasts but they’re barely 34C and they were to fix the damage from breastfeeding). 

If you saw me, you really wouldn’t think anything much if I wasn’t dolled up. I don’t get cosmetic treatments to look good; I get them to gear up for war against aging.

Last week I went to a spa and dropped $1,380 to prepay for two vials of Sculptra to fatten up my face. 

We also discussed injecting the filler Restylane into the two lines on my neck that magically showed up overnight, but for $575 I’ll shelve that until next year.

We also discussed buying packages of three YAG laser peels for $2,100, not including the $80 pre-treatment cream. 

I’m declining that for this year; I’ve already spent $400 towards a $1,200 package of three treatments to lighten my sunspots.

That’s just what I did last week. I’m not wealthy by any stretch. I don’t buy new clothes and I can subsist on generic brand granola bars to save money for these procedures. Next year I might only be able to afford hairspray for vanity.

ADVERTISEMENT

This isn’t plastic surgery addiction. My procedures aren’t permanent. They’re enough to kick the can down the road of physical aging. Although that can is starting to look pretty tore up.

I’m exhausted and cash-strapped from this battle. I’m barely keeping up.

Typically in an article, this is where the author inspires hope of change. I should tell you that I’m overcoming this fear through therapy or self-reflection. You, the reader, should have a takeaway that will help you if you suffer from the title affliction.

Sorry to disappoint you. This isn’t a team sport. This is a personal war and we all have our own weapons. Mine are exercise, injectables, and prescription wrinkle creams. I can’t quit the fight and I can’t advise anyone else to stop.

However...

I just came back from an appointment in an office near a retirement community. I'm pretty sure I was the only patient in that building under the age of 70.

Instead of looking at my phone to kill time, I looked at the other patients. Really looked at them. I took note of their outfits, their hats, and even the rings on their fingers.

It hit me: the piece of the self-actualisation puzzle isn’t about me stopping my fears or my desperate acts of vanity. 

It’s not about my fear of invisibility. It’s about making sure others don’t feel invisible. I need to look at them and treat them like visible humans, not invisible ghosts of their younger selves.

I then chatted with the elderly man across from me in the waiting room about online scheduling. 

I struck up a conversation with a senior citizen while walking out of the office. An older woman shared an elevator with me and I complimented her on her snazzy dress. Would I wear that dress? Hell no. But it looked fun, and she deserved to have someone notice her in it.

It felt good to finally put perspective around my phobia. 

For me, it’s almost debilitating how terrified I am of aging. But now I have a new mission: making sure I don’t contribute to others feeling invisible.

This story originally appeared on Medium and has been republished with full permission.

You can read more from Jennifer M. Wilson on Medium

Feature Image: Getty. The feature image used is a stock image.

00:00 / ???