And so I came across this post from the Daily Beast offering an apologia as to why the unfortunately named Mr. Weiner could not keep same off of the internet. And it’s this: Men feel invisible after a certain age. To wit, once they hit that gray zone, they can no longer go into a cafe and get the twenty-something server to give them the eye. And so they have to compensate.
Before this post ends in a sputter, let’s check what the writer, Christopher Dickey, Paris bureau chief and Middle East editor for Newsweek Magazine and The Daily Beast, had to say:
I had lunch recently with a good friend who is a veteran of the CIA and one of those spies who is a study in grays—handsome enough, but always in the background; never the first person you’d notice in a crowded room, and very possibly the last. Given his profession, I thought he wanted to be that way. So I was surprised when, early in the conversation as a college student served us iced tea in the diner, he said to me that one of the worst things about getting older is that you become “invisible to women.” It’s not just that they aren’t interested in you, he said, “it’s that they don’t see you.”Not many men admit this, I think, although I am sure that many men in their 50s and older, and not a few in their 40s, must feel it. And I suspect that it is this sensation of invisibility that makes some men—especially politicians and actors who have made careers trying to be loved in public–make ridiculous spectacles of themselves as they get older.
For Rep. Anthony Weiner , 46, the fear of invisibility would seem to be so profound that he took to tweeting pictures of his depilated chest and distended crotch to complete strangers on Twitter and Facebook. (The congressman may have worried all his life that nobody would see him, and he’s such a geek he’d be pitiful if he weren’t so arrogant. One wonders, is Rick Moranis too old to play him in “Weiner: The Movie”?)
Similar concerns about invisibility, articulated or not, probably lurked in the head of 62-year-old Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was director of the International Monetary Fund and the leading contender to be the next president of France until he allegedly forced himself on a 32-year-old African immigrant hotel maid in New York City. “Do you know who I am?” he kept asking her, according to several reports. “Do you know who I am?” And by every indication she did not. Strauss-Kahn, now awaiting trial on criminal sexual assault and related charges, has denied any wrongdoing, but he can’t very well deny looking like a fool.
And then there was California’s actor-politician governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was pushing 50 when he fathered a child with his not-so-hot-looking housekeeper in 1997. After news of this broke last month, the tabloids told us Schwarzenegger, now almost 64, preferred women who thought he was more beautiful than they, or that he thought might think so; women, that is, who saw him as he wanted to be seen.
Blah, blah and effing blah.
Yes, I get it that men might feel that twinge when they’re suddenly the wallflowers at the orgy (Wish that were my phrase. It’s not. Credit Nora Ephron) But let’s face it. Men of a certain age can still be powerful politicians. They can be CEOs. They can run states and they can run Wall Street. They can be new fathers, for the love of God. And when their hair goes gray — to refer to the metaphor Dickey used above — they are considered distinguished. They have gravitas.
Women? Right. Not so much. We’re not only invisible when the gray starts to sprout — but in many careers, we’re looked upon as redundant when it comes to our professions. We come to be defined by our age in ways that have little to do with our sexual capital.
Case in point, a drop-dead gorgeous friend who let her short hair go natural after a bout of chemo. Steely gray, and with her clear blue eyes, killer gorgeous. And yet. What she found was that she was treated differently. And it had nothing to do with catching the eye of anyone serving her iced tea or the bagboy at Safeway.
Case in another point. Some years back, when I used myself as a guinea pig to teach my j. students interviewing techniques, I encouraged them to suck it up and ask my age. One courageous soul always did. And when I gave my answer, there was always an intake of breath. As if to say: how can you still be relevant? (I’ve since chucked that part of the exercise.)
The truth is that women are defined by externals in all-pervasive ways that men are not, and age is one of the worst markers of all. Frankly, I don’t know how it feels for former studs to feel that they’ve lost their mojo. But what I do know is this: college-aged servers aside, what they haven’t lost is their ability to take charge. To be taken seriously. To be considered relevant. To continue their ascent into the world. To be the boss. Or, God forbid, to marry women half their age, without being met by a roomful of snickers. (Well, okay. I tend to think that nothing makes a man look more like a jackass than having a woman the age of his daughter who isn’t his daughter on his arm, but that’s just me.) All you have to do is go to the movies, where more often than not, you’ll see the old guy paired happily with the smiling ingenue. But what about the reverse?
Think about it. Okay, done.
But, because I play fair, I will include a bit more from Mr. Dickey’s post, which redeems him somewhat:
In truth, invisibility is inevitable. And women have always known that, and felt it, and feared it and discussed. I have rarely spoken about this question with women friends over 40 who didn’t understand immediately what I was talking about. Yet the most beautiful and painful expression of invisibility’s tragedy that I know is actually a poem written in the 1960s by Randall Jarrell, a man who was then approaching his 50s and who was writing about a woman more or less the same age. Her only wish is that “the boy putting groceries in my car/See me. It bewilders me he doesn’t see me.”
Welcome to the club, guys. Times ten.