The Third Third

Are Older Women Invisible?

NPR has launched a new series called Invisibilia, which, I confess, I was listening to (1) because my radio is usually tuned to NPR and (2) because the particular program featured a young woman comedian, Maria Bamford,  riffing on her mother — and she was pretty entertaining.  I really began to pay attention, though, when her mother was interviewed about what it’s like to be the butt of so many of her daughter’s jokes.  Marilyn Bamford sounded very thoughtful and loving; she seemed to have used the funny stories told at her expense as a vehicle to communicate with her daughter and nurture their relationship. She didn’t sound at all defensive, and she said she would often discuss with her daughter the things she didn’t remember quite the way they were being portrayed, at least when it seemed worth making the point or when she had the energy to do so. But then she said this: “I think that many women my age, who are, you know, catching up with 70, you know, feel kind of invisible. So therefore, when you have your daughter doing these really wonderful and gifted impressions of you, it makes you kind of immortal in some way. And that's kind of a lovely thing to happen at this age because, you know, you're more seen.”

“You feel kind of invisible.”

“You’re more seen.”

Are older women invisible?  Do you feel “kind of” invisible?  What does that mean?  And do we really want to be “seen” only through another’s eyes, rather than on our own terms, with our own sense of meaning and purpose? I wonder.

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