Career Reinvention Over 60: Confront Invisibility Head On

Invisibility is one of those topics often discussed throughout midlife social media.  When I was working as a high school teacher, I never experienced feeling invisible…although there were times I wished I was!

I realize the publisher of the magazines I am now editor over took a big risk placing a 63 year old at the helm while other publications are retiring editors and hiring much,much younger professionals to edit their publications.  In a communications world dominated by the younger generation, I get it.  I understand why I would be a risky move.  I am thankful and humble to hold the new position I now have. 

However, I was surprised when I began to become invisible to some of the magazine’s suppliers.  After all, it did not make sense to me, for anyone to discount my position.  But, it has happened.  My favorite story so far is a “supplier” (trying not to be too specific) who came in to pitch us.  He sat with me not six inches away, and spoke only to my boss the entire time.  He did not look me in the eye when introduced, nor welcome me to the position, nor respond to me when I spoke in the meeting.  My chair was empty to him…I was invisible.  And he is about the same age!

Two days later, we both sat at an event media table.  A local blogger sat down and began to congratulate me for my new magazine position.  The same man looked up and actually said,  “Oh really, what magazine are you with?”

I could have played along and simply answered the question.  But, I believe when faced with invisibility to confront it head on.  I am not going to give anyone permission to make me feel invisible.  So, I smiled and said, “Well I believe my boss is kind of cute and can certainly understand why you might speak only to him in a meeting, but two days ago I sat right next to you through an entire meeting and I believe if you think about it, you will know what magazine I am with.”

When the light dawned, the look on his face was as if a haunted house zombie had jumped out unexpectedly from behind a post….absolute horror.

He called a few days later to apologize.  I am not going to be one of those who waste time railing against invisibility…of course, it is rude, of course it should not happen, and of course, it can make us feel insignificant.  But, life is short…I am going to stand up to those who are that way…one at a time…and not give their actions a second thought.

Take control…don’t let them take it from you!

Keep Smiling!

27 Comments

  1. AMEN!!! I am middle 50s and curvy and as a consumer, I've noticed invisibility in retail (not just clothing). So, I turn around and take my (ample) spendable income to establishments where I am NOT ONLY greeted at the door but checked on as I browse. I also let them know why I am shopping at their stores to help them remember that all of us – young, mature, men, women – matter. Young 20s may have the looks, but baby, I've got the cash!!

  2. You go, girl! I'm impressed! Not sure I would've been that brave. Thank you for sharing this with all of us. It gives me more strength and courage to take a stand when something like this occurs. Bravo!!

  3. Way to go, Pam! That was an awesome come-back and I would have loved to have seen the look on his face. Well done on standing up for yourself and giving him that "slap"! You're an inspiration!

  4. As I read your post, I felt the sinking pull inside that I get when confronted with put downs because of my gender…Yup, sexism is definitely alive and well in this society…You were simply looked down on because you are a woman…I hope he got your message…My patience has all but given out at such…

  5. YES! I love that somewhere after 50 we gain confidence to say it like it is! Kudos! This article made my day! Rock on!

  6. Perfect timing, Pamela. I'm currently at a blogger event and twice already have been treated as though I'm invisible. Not by brands at the event but rather, by representatives of the PR Agency who invited me to the event to begin with. I'm rather offended, truth be told, and am trying to figure out how I will deal with it post the event. So thank you, for taking the time to share your experience.

  7. Wonderful reaction from you. I can't help wondering what his reason was – did he even try and explain?
    I hope he was grateful you called him up on it – I'd be ashamed if I unknowingly did that and would want to be told. Knowingly doing it on the other hand equals a need to be educated!

  8. Pam, you are pure class. You handled that so well, in a tactful, professional way. Not only will he think twice again on how to handle himself (hopefully) but you gained confidence to speak up again when the situation is needed.

  9. Oh Pam, you really handled it so superbly well: many congratulations! Coupled with our current political climate it really shows the age and sex factor is still alive. I only hope we could all handle it so well.

  10. I have been exactly in the same spot. Through a whole meeting a sales representative spoke only to the owner of the company I worked for and even calling me the "little lady". I do have to give cudos to the owner of my company as when it came time for a response to his presentation, he chuckled and told the rep that he greatly appreciated his presentation but all final decisions were to be made by me and he wish him luck since he very much alienated everyone in the room.

  11. Wow, those are the moments that most of us just dream about: being able to right a wrong with the perfect choice of words, delivered in a way that leaves no doubt regarding the message. Classy, to-the-point, and unflinching. Good for you!

  12. I feel my buttons being pushed like crazy when this happens to me – and more often than not, it's by men. I can't even tell you how many times this has happened to me, and I look much younger than my age. When I'm in meetings with women, even very high-level women, they rarely ignore me. It's really a mystery why it happens, but I think it's more gender-related than age-related.

    It's awkward to call people out in meetings, and I always feel my confidence slide away as soon as I'm aware of it. But thank you for bringing attention to this. I don't hear it talked about very often and will think about how to become less invisible next time!

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