Meanwhile in the background

Now I feel like I’ve been caught out:

Many older women complain about feeling invisible — no one turns a head when we walk into a room. As Linda Grant writes in The Thoughtful Dresser, “I have watched the eyes of men sweep a room and find that apart from the girl crossing her legs, over there, it is empty. After a certain age, women are invisible. Without a sexual stimulus, many men cannot process in the visual/conceptual portion of their brains that a woman is present.”

There is, I suspect, a reasonable chance that if the guy who just entered the room is actively searching for sexual stimuli, most of the women would just as soon not be noticed at all, at least by the likes of him. Then again, there are those who would argue that any man entering the room will first scan for eye candy before getting down to business, and I’m not in a position to offer myself as a counterexample, at least not honestly.

There exists a subversion of this trope in fiction, the most recent example I’ve seen being Jeanne Ray’s Calling Invisible Women (New York: Crown Publishers, 2012). In this novel, a fiftysomething woman literally vanishes, first piecemeal, then completely; but the men in her life — her husband, her son, the guys in the neighborhood — don’t even notice.


  1. Mike G. »

    19 July 2014 · 7:53 pm

    As you say, when I first walk into a room and look around, I will sometimes take an extended or second glance at an attractive woman, but that doesn’t mean that I ignore all the other women that might be in the room.

    What I really look for is the beauty inside. A homely looking woman with a good personality beats a hot chick with the personality of a wolverine in heat any day.

  2. CGHill »

    19 July 2014 · 9:37 pm

    Of course, this takes a little bit of time — or sometimes a lot of time — to ascertain, but the payoff is much greater when it succeeds.

  3. Mike G. »

    19 July 2014 · 9:46 pm

    A perceptive man can usually tell right away at first glance whether a woman is worth wasting time on or not. If they are looking at you when you slide your eyes around the room and scowl, they are probably not going to be inclined to give you the time of day.

    On the other hand, a smile means they are open to conversation and what possibly comes after.

  4. CGHill »

    19 July 2014 · 10:23 pm

    Well, no one will ever accuse me of being perceptive.

  5. McGehee »

    20 July 2014 · 9:33 am

    The visually attractive rightly merits a glance or two. Any woman more evolved than Victoria Chase will keep watching long enough to notice whom men talk to.

  6. Charles Pergiel »

    20 July 2014 · 1:12 pm

    Eyes pick up visual stimuli, older women are not visually stimulating. Ears pick up audible stimuli. If you are an older woman, and want to be noticed, say something, or make some kind of noise. Shrieks are pretty good attention-getters.

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