|megpie71 (megpie71) wrote,|
@ 2015-05-15 17:44:00
An Open Letter To Helen Garner, on Ageing, Invisibility, and Thing-dom
Dear Ms Garner,
Forgive me for my profound lack of sympathy.
You see, I'm a 44 year old woman (part of good old Generation X; the one which is seeing all the advantages the Baby Boomers had snatched out of our reach; the one which didn't and isn't experiencing better conditions than our parents; and the one which is being largely expected to pay for the excesses of the Baby Boomers; while also getting out of the way of Generation Y and the Millennials so they can do all the things we've only dreamed of doing) who had NEVER, as far as I can recall, been the focus of an "erotic gaze".
Or at least, not in the sense of having men actively interested in pursuing time with me. See, I'm a plain woman, and a fat woman, which means I am invisible by default. I have to put in effort to become visible (and even then, I only really become visible to the lowest common denominator - the hoons cruising with their mates and yelling out at anything female-shaped on the footpath). I've never been regarded by the world as a sexual being - indeed, most of the comments I've received from the world at large about my sex life have been fervent hopes I don't have one.
I can appreciate your enjoyment of the freedom I have in scads - the freedom to wear whatever I want, secure in the knowledge that public opinion of my appearance isn't going to matter (in my case, because it's been almost universally poor from the word go - after a while, in order to have any hope of retaining a bit of self-esteem, you learn to give as much of a damn for the opinion of the public as they have for yours. Or in other words, none whatsoever). Of course, it comes at a cost - you have to learn to be assertive, and get people to notice you're waiting to be served. You have to buy your own drinks, rather than having interested menfolk shell out for them. Heck, you have to pay for your own meals too.
Ms Garner, have you considered you're being treated like an over-sized toddler by people because you're damn well acting like one? Age isn't a license to assault teen-aged girls, or snap at service staff, or complain about every single damn thing which annoys you. Frankly, you're behaving like a bad-tempered old biddy, and the next time I see one of your ilk snapping and snarling at the world around you, I'm going to have a pretty good old guess at why: insulted privilege.
Yes, privilege. You've had the privilege of being noticeable. Now you're not. Welcome to the world at least half the female population experiences by default (because we're "below-average" in appearance), the world women of colour experience, the world women with disabilities experience (really, if you want to experience invisibility, try breaking your ankle sometime and then making a trans-continental flight; or don't because quite frankly I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy), the world fat women experience, the world anyone (regardless of race, gender or orientation) working a service-oriented job experiences on a regular basis.
You complain you're being made invisible, and turned into an inconvenient thing by this. But you're doing a damn good job of objectifying the poor unfortunate cocktail waiter whose only fault was trying out lines, which worked for him on just about any other elderly female customer, on you. You did a brilliant job of treating him like a thing, of dismissing him down into thing-dom so you didn't have to pretend he was another human being. Oh, but of course, you gave him a big tip, so he doesn't think of you as a vicious old bitch in future (or at least, he'll think of you as a vicious old bitch who tips well, as though the money can erase the behaviour). You've treated other service staff like things, too, and you're proudly announcing your determination to continue to do so.
I'll be honest: if I were working in a service capacity in the city you live in, I'd be looking up your photo, so I knew to run if I saw you coming. Because quite frankly, for minimum wage, putting up with a bad-mannered, bad-tempered old trout like you just wouldn't be worth it.
Here's a game for you: notice five things about each person who serves you the next time you're going anywhere. Five things about them that have nothing to do with their job, their workplace performance, or their perceived social status as someone performing that job. Five things which recognise their unique humanity. If you want the blood tech to meet your gaze, you meet theirs first (oh, and don't expect them to stop and give you a long chat when they're working flat out to try and get through the early-morning backlog. That's disrespectful too). If you want the schoolchildren to treat you with respect, how about treating them with respect as well?
You may find if your presence is anticipated rather than dreaded, these later stages of life will be a bit easier to get through.
This entry was originally posted at http://megpie71.dreamwidth.org/53244.htm