On Becoming Invisible

Hidden Mothers/Betty Herbert

From ‘Hidden Mothers in Victorian Photographs’ at the Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

It’s been a bad week for my basic assumption that I’m young and vital.

Exhibit A: Aqua Aerobics.

There is something fundamentally devastating about attending one’s first Aqua class, only to find that (a) you’re the youngest person in the room by about 30 years, and (b) despite this, everybody else is significantly fitter than you.

There’s also a (c), which is that the most unimaginably beautiful specimen of manhood was sitting in the lifeguard’s chair throughout the whole ordeal.

What gives, evil leisure centre overlords? Did you really want the revelation that I lack the fitness of a 70-year-old to coincide with the revelation that young men like that will never, ever look at me again, unless it’s because they’re mates with my son, and are hungry? Is this the way that you shift gym memberships?

Moving on.

Exhibit B: The Hairdresser.

At what point did I cross the line that makes hairdressers default to blow-drying my hair into a weird 90s helmet, regardless of what I ask them to do?

There is suddenly a great deal of talk about ‘softening’ lines and making the cut more ‘forgiving.’ Forgiveness, my friend, is something I may choose exercise after being made to look like Madge from Neighbours; it is not a principle to guide the cutting of hair. I use a facial serum, dammit! It’s supposed to protect me against the need for naff feathering and and the wielding dreaded barrel-brush.

I am reminded, uncomfortably, of the time that, aged 6, I asked my best friend’s mother if she was born in Victorian times. The poor woman was about 25, and it was 1983. Oh, the bitter irony of being able to do the maths now!

Because clearly that hairdresser, and – I’m extrapolating here – that lifeguard look at me and just think ‘old’. They don’t take the trouble to inspect my CV first, or strike up a conversation. They already know I’m not interesting. To them, I just seamlessly blend in with my mother’s age group. I am totally invisible, and totally irrelevant.

Is there a moral to this story, a take-home to make us all feel better? No, not really. Except that I wonder how much I play a part in that gradual surrender to boringness?

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2 Responses to On Becoming Invisible

  1. Jess 01/02/2013 at 10:04 #

    Oh god, helmet hair? Why, hairdressers, why?? I inevitably leave them looking like a drag queen, no matter what I ask for. What is their obsession with volume? I spend most of my time straightening and trying to de-fluff my hair – they do the opposite and I walk out feeling like a cross between RuPaul and Miss America. Though not as cute as either…

    • Betty Herbert 04/02/2013 at 10:37 #

      There seems to be an odd disjoint between how hairdressers think hair should be, and how normal people want it.

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