When feminists used to say that older women were invisible to society, I didn't think they meant it literally. After all, I could see them. I was listening. Nodding my head to what they said because I thought they just meant that advertising was not aimed at them, and that there weren't a lot of people their age being portrayed in magazines, or on TV, for that matter. In short, they were not spenders and therefore irrelevant to the media. That didn't sound altogether bad.
As I said, I didn't think they meant it literally. Now I know better. Going shopping and getting bumped into by people who don't realise they've bumped against anything, holding my breath while getting squeezed between the people pushing prams and trolleys past me and those coming towards me who take no notice of the fact that the space they are rushing to is already occupied. Any one who saw me would surely think I was big enough to be noticed. But they don't see me.
Clearly I'm not one of those larger than life people who used to colour the world: A friend's mother who ran out into the street and yelled, "Oi! Get back here, I was talking to you," to the youths who were stealing her car. Or my grandmother, calling out to the doctor, "Get back here, I was talking to you," when what he had to talk about was too much for him.
When you're invisible, it's hard to make yourself heard. The youths zoom off in their stolen car, and the doctor is busy. Teenage children, locked in their own journey, reduce their answers to grunts. I try repeating the question. "Earth calling your planet!" They don't answer.
There is a growing silence wrapping itself around invisibility. Remembering those older women of my youth, I tried asking others.
"Is it like that for you?" I asked.
But there was no answer at all.
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"But there was no answer" copyright by Morva Shepley 2008