fox2When I was in my twenties, I decided to take on a new persona of sorts. I didn’t want to be the girl who blended in anymore. I wanted to be what I referred to as a “vixen.” I wanted men to notice me for my looks and not just find out I was fun to talk to after giving me the benefit of the doubt. So I started dressing in more revealing clothing and wearing a little more make up when I went out. I discovered something about that vixeny greener grass; when I looked that way, I attracted men who didn’t care about much else. Lesson learned. I’m glad I got to hop the fence to find it.

Twenty years later, I have begun wondering about the other side again. Because most places I go, I blend in. Way in. Like invisible. And functionally it’s ok because I’m not looking for a partner or trying to impress anyone, but being invisible can feel a lot like being irrelevant. And that feels awful.

I go to bars with my friends, with my boyfriend. I look around at people. There is no eye contact. I may as well be a ghost. I guess this happens when you’re 40 and you’re not a vixen. I don’t get down about it but wish I knew what it would even take to be visible again.

This week, I was at work and by late afternoon, I found my car with a flat tire. I called my mechanic for help. He drove over to inflate it so I could make it to his shop and get it repaired. When I got to the shop, it was toward the end of the work day and one of his friends sauntered in. I think he was in his late 40’s. He was “old Chicago”, just like me. Born and raised here, Chicago accent, Chicago friendly. We tossed around old Chicago memories and reminisced about Jane Byrne and Chicago Fest. He was genuinely sweet and interested in both how I looked and what I had to say. He was all “It’s lovely to meet you” and “it’s not every day I get to hang out with a beautiful young lady” and “I hope to make your acquaintance again.”

After leaving the shop, I realized how flattering it was not just to have the compliments but to have the attention at all. My hair wasn’t washed. I wasn’t wearing make up. I made no fashion statements. And I was still visible.

The next day, I discussed the exchange with a coworker who is also in her 40’s. “Ya, I’m invisible too,” she shared. And she is tall and stunning and I felt so much better not to be alone under this cloak.

On Friday night when I went out, I took my new confidence as a semi-visible woman and did my hair, wore make up and put on an outfit that was both fun and authentic. While I didn’t stand out, I didn’t disappear. I drank. I danced. I enjoyed the company of my boyfriend and friends. Men asked my girlfriend and me to dance. Men talked to us at the bar. I wasn’t haughty or inappropriate. But I was there. Present, visible, relevant and without a fence in sight.