At some point in your menopausal odyssey, you may start feeling less visible. As much as we might want other people to go away sometimes, we probably don’t want to feel invisible to them either. The fear of invisibility alone can be debilitating.
Invisibility you experience may be sexual or romantic invisibility or other kinds of worries about erotic or romantic capital. You may feel your visibility waning in your work or community.
You can feel it at home, in your own family. It can show up, or show up more than it already has, in daily life when you’re trying to get an idea heard, order a drink, keep your place in line at the market, or just in asking for help, which was already hard enough to do, for fuck’s sake.
Omisade Burney-Scott said,
I feel like as black folk are ageing, there’s already different levels of invisibility that we, like, contend with on a daily basis, like not being seen as human, not being seen as valuable, not being seen as lovable, not being seen as deserving of a good life.
With ageing, that gets exacerbated. How will - and will - I be seen or perceived at this stage of my life? Is it possible for my authentic self to continue to become more fully actualised? Who are the folks who are going to hold that with me? How can I talk about what that feels like for me?
If you already felt invisible, if you’re losing visibility with something or someone that mattered to you and your sense of yourself deeply, or if you’re suffering in plain sight without anyone seeming to notice, it can be just awful.
There’s little to say about that in brief that won’t sound glib or dismissive, so the best I can do is to tell you to think of yourself like a boat in the fog and start by anchoring yourself.
Find the people and places who see you and the ways you still see yourself and who will, like Omisade says, hold who you are with you. Maybe you stay holding on once the fog lifts; maybe you don’t - that’s up to you. But (if you even want it to in the first place) you can trust that fog will lift at least some if you can just wait it out.
There aren’t only downsides, anger or sadness, to invisibility. Sometimes, it can be a literal cloak of invisibility, in the good ways.
I’ve heard people report a range of benefits from their newfound menopausal or middle-age invisibility: less catcalling and other street harassment, feeling safer or freer to do things in public, more freedom to experiment with gender expression or other kinds of presentation, a greater sense of privacy, being able to get away with things they’d get in trouble for if they were younger (yes, that is our weed you’ve been smelling in the park), feeling like less of a walking target.
Having less care about what you look like to others; less care about how, or even if, others perceive you, period.
The benefits, like everything else with this, aren’t universal, of course. Some of us will get some that someone else doesn’t, and we may be afforded some benefits only in specific places or circumstances.
This is an edited extract from What Fresh Hell Is This?: Perimenopause, Menopause, Other Indignities And You by Heather Corinna, $38. Published by Hachette