A couple of weeks ago, we were at the high school awards ceremony, and for some reason it struck me as clearly as ever that there is real power in being a young and attractive woman. Maybe it was the sexy blonde girl who kept winning awards for tennis and scholarships for academics who was wearing a mini-dress like Marsha Brady would have worn, showing off perfectly tanned legs. Maybe it was the way even the older men presented her awards with big smiles and hugs with thinly veiled admiration. I remember being young and beautiful, having power over men with my very presence. I remember how I could make guys say and do things. It was a different feeling than being a beautiful middle-aged woman. (Which, by the way, I am working hard at remembering I am– both beautiful and middle-aged!)
My sister, Martha, was an absolutely gorgeous woman. She was 15 years older than me, so when she began talking about being ‘invisible’ I didn’t really get it. She explained that when she was younger and out in public, people would look at her, watch her walk by. At a certain point, that stopped happening. She could be in a public place and nobody would look at her. If we were together, people would look at me, the younger one. She felt invisible. I have been noticing invisibility happening to me.
One time in the ‘80’s, my ex-husband was attending culinary school in San Francisco. He told me a story about how he was walking to school downtown behind this gorgeous woman. She had beautiful legs, long, gorgeous hair, a great figure. He was busy checking her out when she turned around and he realized she was about 80 years old! He was shocked! I still look young from behind. Still have a cute butt and relatively youthful figure, good hair, thanks to dye. I know when I walk to work, I will catch a guy slowing down to look at me, only to glimpse that I am actually older than they thought and I would be dismissed. I really hope I am not the subject of a story like that one, where the guy goes home and says, “Honey! You’re not going to believe what I just saw!” I can only hope I still look great from behind in 30 years!
Jolie and I were in a mall not long ago. I was feeling pretty confident in how I looked– not frumpy, definitely didn’t feel like a 50- year- old. Jolie is a gorgeous, and more importantly, confident 16- year- old. So when a really handsome young man in a suit reached out with a sample of something, Jolie instinctively reached for it. He said, in a very sexy French accent, “Well, you can have that if you want it, but I meant it for her (meaning me).” When he gave me a shiny gold sample packet, he asked, “So what do you do about those lines?” He indicated the area around my eyes as he said it. He was asking me what I do for wrinkles! Keeping my natural reaction in check, I proudly stated that I use coconut oil. I half expected him to tell me how well that seems to be working, but of course he didn’t. Instead, he (I kid you NOT!) put his hand on my elbow– you know, like you do with a disoriented dementia patient– and said, “Come in here and let me show you something that will make those lines fade away.” Please know that I was fully aware that my 16- year- old daughter was witnessing this entire scene. Please also know that I have taken seriously my responsibility to give this daughter a good example of body image, and it has not been easy. I had one of those slow motion sequences when I immediately knew what I had to do. In slooooooowwww mooootioooonnnn…. “WHAT???? NO!!!!! I think I am BEAUTIFUL! How dare you try to tell me I’m not! Get your hand OFF of me!” He argued tenaciously, but I stuck to my guns and told him to go away. Jolie and I then walked to Victoria’s Secret, where another, wholly separate hell awaited, but that’s another story.
How did Jolie react? I can tell you with certainty how I would have reacted as a teenager in her situation. I would have been mortified at my mom making such a scene. I would have died of embarrassment. I actually would probably have cried a little. But my Jolie. My kick-ass- confident, amazing Jolie laughed. She has a great belly-laugh that resonates joy. She was proud of me! She thought I was brilliant and hilarious! Man, that just makes a woman think she can do anything in the world… Like write a blog. Climb a fourteener (that’s a Colorado term for a mountain that is at least 14.000 feet high). Sky dive. Hang glide. Lose ten pounds but be fine if not.
On the way back from Victoria’s Secret Hell, we passed the same store. Frenchie’s colleague saw us and at first didn’t realize we had already been by. He started his spiel to me, and I stopped in my tracks, held up my hand in a ‘stop’ gesture and said, ‘No.’ He tried again, saying something about how beautiful I am, of course, but Jolie stopped him with, “Dude. She said, ‘No.'” That’s my girl. She will never let herself feel invisible. She is way too powerful, and her power is not dependent upon her looks.