Friday, 17 June 2011


I had a funny conversation with one of my daughters recently when I told her that during my first pregnancy I went from my office to the local shop each day and bought myself a pork pie and a tomato for my lunch – and that in fact on some days I went more than once (pork pies didn’t have quite such a reputation as a “bad food” in those days). She was surprised that I didn’t find it embarrassing that the shop staff would notice my heavy consumption of pork pies, but in fact it had never occurred to me that anyone would have noticed. I just made my transaction and left without any conversation to draw attention to myself, so assumed that I was invisible. I have suffered from this sense of invisibility all my life. I never expect people to recognise me when I meet them again.

It’s a commonly held view that after a certain age women become “invisible” and in some respects this may be true, but I have noticed over recent years that people in the street are much more likely to greet me with a smile. I think this has a lot to do with me looking more approachable as I get older. As an intensely shy young woman I think I probably gave the impression of being rather aloof and unfriendly, as I walked briskly along trying to look “cool” with my cheeks sucked in, my nose in the air and afraid to make eye contact with anyone. These days I wander around with a slightly bemused half smile and am reaping the benefit in smiles from strangers. I have started consciously allowing myself to make eye contact with people because I no longer fear that it will be misunderstood as anything except friendliness.
I even have conversations with people in shops! It's always possible that I'm creating a new impression as a crazy person (and my increasing deafness can certainly lead to some odd non sequiturs), but actually I'm enjoying the human contact, so I don't much care.

Er, that's Ruth my oldest daughter, not some random stranger!