Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Are You Ready to Go Incognito?


I've made the transition.

It wasn't easy because I really enjoy attention.

But somewhere mid-life, I had to adjust.

You know what I'm talking about, don't you? The disappearing act that comes over us in middle age.

Initially, there was a creeping invisibility exaggerated by the presence of my super-model beautiful daughter.

I noticed that when we were in public together, I became virtually invisible. I promise you, I could have committed crimes in her presence and bystanders would have said, "Well, there may have been another person with her -  some older lady - but we just noticed the tall, leggy brunette with the amazing eyes."

Back then, my ego took an understandable hit.

A boy in a drive-thru window once caught sight of Hannah in my passenger seat and crushed her iced coffee- splattering it all over me. Then, he apologized profusely to her as he tossed me a single napkin.

Another time, a waiter refilled her water glass so often you'd have thought we were dining on the Sahara while my glass stood empty throughout our meal. (Invisible people don't require refills.)

At the checkout counter at the drugstore, a clerk focused entirely on her throughout the transaction, where she stood beside me, as I handed over my purchases and my cash. When he failed to hand me my bag, I cleared my throat. He looked at me, startled, as though I was rudely interrupting. He apparently hadn't noticed my presence until that moment.

A woman could be crushed by such assaults on her self-esteem.

But, before long, I saw the freedom in it. I decided it could be an advantage. Because, while every day, I look more and more like someone you might discount, write off, or ignore

inside, I am still the bright, capable, skilled person I always have been - only now with years of confidence and experience.

I learned that I like being underestimated.

It worked for me when I started karate at age 40. I may not have had the agility and speed of some of my younger classmates but you couldn't beat me for mental strategy and knowing how to maximize my assets.

At 44, getting ready to test for my black belt, I had to spar a much younger woman and heard her giggling to a friend that this would be "cake." I decided to use that in my favor. As we bowed, I asked her to please take it easy on me since my skills would obviously be inferior to hers.

She never even saw my first kick coming.

I won the round and the match - I believe, before she even entered the ring - all because she'd underestimated me.

I liked that. I wanted more.

That's when I realized invisibility could be repurposed into incognito - and that's fun.

Plus, it's only fair. After decades of suffering under other people's expectations, surprising people with lower expectations is a thrill ride!

Now in my fifties, the more I look my age, the more I revel in the freedom this earns me. The freedom to be unexpected. The freedom to surprise. The freedom to catch others off guard. The freedom to become "a character."

One of the teens with whom I work recently said to me, "Sometimes I feel sad that other teens look at you and just see an older lady and they miss out on how cool you are. But then I feel special that you let me in on your secret."

Oh yeah, I make it work for me.

How about you? Are you ready to go incognito? Don't fade away - just go undercover and rediscover fun.

Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians continually late for dinner. She authors the blog, Deeper with Jesus in Rhode Island . Lori’s seeking a publisher for her speculative Celtic adventure, The Overcomers. Back in the dark ages, Lori earned degrees in Psychology and Biblical Studies and more recently, a black belt in karate. She’s a wife, mom, crisis counselor, and part-time dragon slayer.


Deborah Dee Harper said...

Love it, love it, love it!! I went through the same thing with my daughters and at first, I wanted to say, "Hey there! I'm here too--and in my day, I was pretty." What happened? Time happened. But Lori, you're so right. Now we don't have to worry about whether or not we look picture perfect because chances are, no one's noticing us, anyway. I find that a smile goes further than make-up, anyway! Great post. I shared it on FB.


Edith Edwards said...

Wow! this blog brought back some great memories. I learned to turn over this fact when I had my beautiful, blonde, willowy teen-age daughter in the grocery store with me. No matter how large my order was, a bag boy, sometimes two, was always there to push our groceries to the car.
This same child once had a boy on the telephone, one sitting in the den, and another waiting in our driveway in his car. I NEVER had a problem like that! On top of that, she always kept the boys as friends.
Great post! Edith

gail Kittleson said...

Enjoyed reading this, Lori. Made me think maybe there are some things I can change, even though I'm a bit older than you. It's all perception/expectations turned around, and you wrote it so well.


Nancy Lynn Jarvis said...

This is a terrific post. It took a little longer with me because I'm six feet tall and, therefore, harder to overlook, (LOL) but it does happen, even to men, although I think they have a few more years than women before they become invisible.

I had great fun with this idea in Mags and the AARP Gang, a book I've written about octogenarian bank robbers. They get away with quite a bit because, as seniors, they are invisible, and after the successful robbery---where they disguise themselves as old people, I might add---no one believes people their age would or could do such a thing.

Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

Ahh, so wonderful to hear from others who've shared my transition. You know what, life is better on this side of all the attention! Thanks for weighing in, ladies!

Nancy Lynn Jarvis said...

It took longer with me because I don't have daughters and because I'm six feet tall and harder to overlook, LOL, but I know what you mean. Men go through the same thing, too, but they have a few more years than we women do.
Senior invisibility is such a universal fact that I used it in Mags and the AARP Gang. The octogenarian bank robbers were able to do the heist because no one paid attention to them on the way in and no one believed people their age would or could pull off a robbery.

Liz Flaherty said...

Lol. Great post. I love the whole incognito thing, too.

Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

Thanks, Liz!

Caroline said...

Great post, and fun too. It's fun sometimes to get away w/stuff 'cause "they" think we're invisible. Ha. Better watch out!