At a dinner, a friend was sat next to a very important mature-aged man, head of a major religious organisation in this country, whose version of conversation was a monologue about himself.
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Eventually, my friend, a female executive at a large bank, stopped him in his tracks with: “So now, is there anything you would like to hear about me?”
Bang! Shazam! A middle-aged woman had just made herself visible.
Becoming invisible at middle age is an enduring frustration for many women, who sometimes feel that they have only just recovered from the unwanted attention they attracted as young women.
And the reader reaction to a recent WYZA article on the “Invisibility Syndrome” shows that I am not the only one who feels this way.
However, there are some women in my social networks who have this thing all figured out. They make sure they are seen and heard, they have a bit of fun … and get revenge.
1. Be annoying
Says Odette: “I was waiting in queue at a clothing store to pay. In front of me were several young women. The two young female shop assistants served all of them immediately. When it came my turn, I suddenly became invisible. Both assistants decided to ignore me and have a nice chat.
“When they finally decided to serve me, they kept chatting, while the one using the cash register barely glancing my way. So I let her ring up my several items. When she held out her hand for my payment, while still looking at and talking to the other assistant, I walked away.”
When the woman called out that she hadn’t paid, Odette replied: “You were rude and dismissive, simply because, according to you I'm old, so you don't deserve my money”.
I read about another woman in an electronics store who went around turning off the TVs, one by one, until she was “seen”. Another fun tactic is, if someone can’t be bothered looking at you while serving and taking your money, drop your cash to the side of their hand so they have to bend down and pick it up.
2. Use humour
Teacher Corinna says she uses humour or finds a point of common interest to engage people and start a conversation.
“I think the trick is to always have fun with people. Whether it is for mutual benefit or just for yours,” she messaged me with a wicked winking emoji. “But obviously not to their detriment.”
“They never know what you are truly thinking and, when they don't know you, you can put on whatever persona you desire.”
Corinna channels her “teacher” voice for an air of “senior authority” and becomes demanding. This reminds me of the time I had to MC an awards night and, when people would not listen, borrowed the childcare workers’ refrain “One, two, three, eyes to me”. Worked a treat, room went silent.
3. Dress up
There is no doubt that many of us women have noticed we get more attention when we wear lipstick. It is sad, but it appears we have to paint a face on and dress fashionably in order to be taken seriously by many people. Bronia mentions that she gets better service when she wears her “edgier” style of glasses.
Performance coach, Louise Mahler, attracts attention by moving (walking, for instance) and then being still — a tactic that draws the eye. Her other suggestions are: “Wear red. Cry. Sing”. This may not work for all of us.
4. Vary your volume
I tend to lower my voice to project an air of authority, a technique effective for the late Margaret Thatcher. Madeleine has a friend whose mother just started bellowing from the back of the queue. “Maybe it's a South African thing, not sure that would go down well in Australia,” she notes.
Nicole, a business owner, was dining with her man in a top Sydney restaurant and found that the waiter continually deferred to her partner in tasting the wine, assuming he would have the steak and giving him the bill. All the while, the waiter made comments about what “the woman” would want. A polite email to the TV star/owner resulted in an abject personal apology by phone, offer of a free meal and an assurance that it would not happen again.
“I think it is important to always address both sexist and ageist slights — even though many think them trivial. Always politely, always with a smile,” says Nicole.
6. Don’t give them your money
Nicole and Sue both were belittled by different car dealers (selling the same brand of car) and, as a result, bought elsewhere.
Says Nicole: “Negotiating with the arrogant salesman, I told him I was going to give it some more thought before committing and he replied ‘Why don't you go home and discuss it with your husband and then have him come in and talk to me’.”
Given that she was single at the time, perhaps she should have sent her cat in for the test drive.
Sue was told she was not allowed to take a test drive because she had taken one a year earlier (and had, therefore, wasted their time). Then, when she responded to the salesman’s phone calls by coming in, she had a hard time finding him.
“The young male salesperson was actually hiding from me and sending out a young female salesperson [selling another brand of car] because he didn’t want to waste his time with me. I overheard the conversation between the two of them when she was laughing at him because she was busy and so he would be forced to go out to me.”
7. Have fun and seek revenge
One of my favourite tales of revenge was the grandmother who was “run over” in the pool by one of those aggressive lap swimmers. She just flopped face down in the water and pretended to be dead, while, out of the corner of her eye, she watched him slink out of the pool to the change rooms.
What are your favourite tactics to be seen and heard? Let us know below.