Everyone wants to be seen. But something happened to me one day that was dramatic. I became invisible.
I was clinging to the 50s demographic by the hair of my chinny chin chin (as the children’s tale says). Which there seems to be more hairs on my chinny chin chin getting older. It was at this age that it happened. (On the go? Listen to this post.)
All of a sudden, I wasn’t seen anymore. People didn’t always look me in the eye anymore. Especially younger people would ignore me at the checkout counter.
My Big Not Being Seen Moment
The first dramatic instance of this happening was when I was asked to speak and share my story that turned into The Freedom to Eat book. The event was a Mind, Body Spirit Expo in Fort Myers, Florida.
I went to dinner with a friend who was at least 15 years younger than I. I was wearing a pair of slim, black pants and a new, sleeveless top showing off my strong arms and a little bit of healthy tan. My hair looked good and I was standing tall and confident. Then the waiter and host came to seat us.
They were falling all over my friend, escorting us to our table. I received no eye contact, no smile, no recognition…. I was invisible.
Crossing Over the Line of Youth
I had crossed the line. I had moved from youth and beauty into older age. I wouldn’t even call it middle-age anymore, because I’m not in the middle! What prompted me to share this invisible subject was when I was sitting in the salon chair talking with Lori who does my hair.
I was born a redhead. For me, my red hair has been one of my most distinguishing characteristics. When I was little I hated having red hair. That’s because the kids teased me since I was different. I would hear calls like, “I’d rather be dead than red in the head.”
But a funny thing happened when I became older. Total strangers would tell me how beautiful my hair was and how they wished they could have red hair. A lot of glamorous movie stars were redheads like Ann-Margret, Susan Sarandon, and Lucille Ball (I love Lucy’s humor too).
As I got older my red began to fade. I hear it’s one of the hardest colors to maintain. Lori does a great job. It’s a little more subdued these days than when I was younger. And I swear to myself that I am not going to look like Ronald McDonald as I go into my 60s 70s 80s and, hopefully, 90s plus.
I also don’t want to look like a woman that has the bright red lipstick with cheeks to match and painted eyebrows that look like Groucho Marx. (I for sure won’t be invisible!) I’ve told my friends, please tell me if I look like that and make me return to the house immediately.
But this not being seen is really hard to take. Our society tends to dismiss women who are over 50. And forget about those who are over 70 or 80 men or women.
I’m Guilty of Not Seeing Others Too
This not being seen has brought to my awareness how I don’t always truly see and acknowledge others.
I was at the grocery store and saw an older man sitting in a lawn chair. He was wearing a veteran’s baseball cap. On his lap was a donation bucket. I hurried past him and into the store because I didn’t want to have a conversation by putting money in the bucket. He wasn’t invisible to me (although he was to the majority of others). But the sad truth is that I didn’t want to acknowledge him.
As I stepped in the store I said to myself, “Jackie, you have a ton of stuff to get. You are not going to be carrying all that in your arms. You need to go back out and get a cart. And you need to say hello to that gentleman.”
I went back outside and got the shopping cart and looked more closely at the hat on the top of his head. It said Korean war veteran. There were several pins on top too.
I said to him, “Hi, how are you today?”
He said, not very enthusiastically, “I’m okay.”
It was an authentic reply. He wasn’t one of those go-getter guys that was up and about and thrusting the bucket in front of people. I don’t know if he’d volunteered or somebody had volunteered him.
So, I dropped a donation into the bucket, looked him straight in the eye and said, “Thank you so much for serving our country.” He met my gaze a little startled, I think. And said, “You’re welcome.”
I went back into the store with my heart feeling a little lighter. As I left the store, I turned back around and gave him an enthusiastic wave and a smile and told him to take care.
Everyone Wants to Be Seen
This being invisible doesn’t only apply to aging. Robert and I were walking our dog Wilson one day. There was a young man about ten or so with a lemonade stand. We weren’t carrying any cash with us.
From across the street the young man yelled, “Hey, do you have any money!??!”
If I were still a radio sales manager, I would have taken down his name and number for a future job! Sales 101, make sure your prospects have the money to buy.
I really wanted to give him some money, but we had none. Then he said, “It’s okay if you don’t have any money. I just didn’t want to be ignored.”
That young man is going to go far! What words of wisdom. He made me think about all the people in stores or on the street trying to sell me something. I do my best to act as if they are invisible.
But they are doing their best to earn a living. The people doing fundraising are doing so for a cause they believe in. The least we can do is to acknowledge them, look them in the eye, smile and say, “No thank you,” if not interested.
Not Being Seen Opens You Up to Loneliness and Sadness
Part of our basic needs are for belonging, recognition, and friendship. In our fast-paced, ever increasing digital world, communication can be reduced to texts, emails, and emojis.
Without the human, face-to-face connection, we can open ourselves up to loneliness and sadness.
I mentioned this invisibility thing to someone else and they looked at me like I was speaking Chinese. But because Lori acknowledged this not being seen in her own life, I wanted to make this topic visible.
Robert and I were fortunate to have parents that lived to an advanced age. My mother died at 96 and Robert’s father died at 100! Imagine what they saw in their lifetimes. They lived through the Great Depression and World War II.
They saw the rise of technology in so many ways. While their bodies failed, the wisdom, experience, and will to live their lives to the fullest was so much deeper than what was visible on the outside.
Be Seen And See and Acknowledge Others
When you find that you may not be seen by some, know that you are a unique and powerful child of God. The outward appearance may fade, but inside, you are developing more inner wisdom, strength and peace. That can’t help but to shine through.
If you have been isolated, make it a point to get out and connect through a church, meetup of a particular hobby you enjoy, or contact a friend you haven’t talked with in a while. Don’t allow loneliness and sadness to creep in. We were made to connect with others.
As you shine the light within you, recognize the light in others. It may have turned dull due to life’s disappointments or hardships, but the light is still there.
Be mindful of others when you are out and about. Let them know that you see them and that they aren’t invisible.
So, have you ever had that moment of not being seen? Please share it in the comment section below.