To be an older woman is to experience increasing levels of invisibility. Although I still garner occasional attention, thanks to my sartorial choices and my tendency to talk a lot, I've noticed that things have gotten quieter with each passing decade.
Except sometimes I underestimate my anonymity.
On a bone-chilling night last winter, I trudged home from a grocery run. It was late, almost midnight. Behind me, in a little cart I bought at Office Max for $15, I hauled two bags of victuals I'd purchased at Lund's. Despite the shivery cold, my head was free of any covering: my parka hood had slipped down, but I felt too weary to pull it back up.
Suddenly I spotted movement in the shadows. As I peered into the gloom, I realized I was witnessing a young couple copulating against the side of a building.
My first impulse was to retreat and rethink my route, but that would have added extra time to my journey, and the night was very cold.
I decided to sneak past them.
Sneaking past represented a bit of a challenge. The margin of the sidewalk wending past the pair was cluttered with snow piles, construction signs, and other odds and ends of urban life. But as my therapist recently pointed out (in a good way): I like a challenge. I put my head down, kept my eyes on the ground, and adopted the demeanor of someone skirting a pair of lawn ornaments.
Just when I thought I'd cleared the scene and could make a break for my doorway, the lovers ceased moving. The woman called out, "I like your hair."
I glanced to confirm she was talking to me; both were looking my direction with happy grins. The man nodded approval; he also liked my hair.
"Thanks," I said.
And then they went back to what they were doing, and I went back to walking home, secure in the knowledge I haven't quite disappeared yet.