Becoming Invisible

Before this life, I had another life. And before that, another. In fact, I can say with certainty I’ve had at least five lives during my 55 years. I didn’t realise – while leading these lives – that the day would come when I’d look back in wonderment – but mostly bewilderment – and think: who was that? Little did I know one day I’d see my past lives with such clarity and revelation that I’d wish with all my 55 birthday candles I could turn back time just so I could slap my idiot previous self really hard. I’d do more than that. I’d tell myself some home truths about the things I now think are priorities and what really matters. Living in the moment was a buzzword to me back then. What other moment was there? Ridiculous concept, I thought.

Before my current life of being a full-time writer, a self-published author, a third wife, a grandmother twice over, and a semi-hermit who sometimes doesn’t say a word for an entire day, I was a time management business coach. I wore suits and high heels – never less than four-inches. I’d visit CEOs in their plush corporate offices, sit with them and tell them all the ways they could manage their time better, and how to master Outlook more effectively. They would hang on my every word – lots of words – and thank me profusely for ‘saving them’ as they shook my hand and walked me out. I exuded the confidence of an expert because I was one.

Was that really me?

Today I can’t even get my tasks working properly in Outlook. I can’t remember. After years of living and breathing and dreaming in Outlook, my brain has retained none of it. How is that possible? Thank God for Google. And my precious heels — all gone. Given away to younger legs who can still walk in them and give them the respect they deserve.

Not my actual point.

This is just one example of the stark contrasts of my lives. I led a double life for a time. It lasted about five years. By day — weekdays — I was a devoted mother and wife who ran a household like a drill sergeant. I baked, and cooked delicious meals that were the envy of all the school mums. By night — weekends — I was a Diva, a Queen of Sydney’s gay dance party scene. My weekends consisted of elaborate dinner parties, rubbing shoulders with A-list celebrities at A-list events, and I was infamous for my fabulous outfits and chameleon persona.

(Possibly the cover of my next book)

Now that’s a book worth writing. And a life I barely recognise now. Surely that wasn’t me? I’d best hurry up and write it before my mind is permanently blank.

I’ve said it before. I’ve written about it and read about it. Something happens to a woman when she turns 50. More accurately, when she hits menopause. I find the whole topic tedious and boring, frustrating and melancholy, yet I keep talking about it. Because if I don’t, I might fade away completely into oblivion, vanishing without a trace.

I remember years ago – very pre-menopause – watching Oprah interview Cher. They were on the topic of growing older and what it means to each of them. Oprah asked Cher with warm content: “Don’t you just love the wisdom that comes with getting older?” Cher hesitated, looked at Oprah pokerfaced and replied: “Fuck wisdom, I’ll take young.”

Oprah laughed. So did I. Oh come on! Cher, you are ageless I thought. What’s your problem? But now I understand what she meant. No amount of money or fame can save you from the hell of menopause.

It’s all relative.

Which brings me to my point.

Recently I went to a 50th birthday dinner. It was a friend of my husband’s; they had been to school together. Besides one couple, I didn’t know any of the other 40 or so guests. The restaurant was more like a venue. I could imagine a lavish wedding reception taking place. Long, immaculately set tables filled the room, and each table was full of people. I was taken aback by the size of it — and so busy for a Sunday night. I hadn’t expected anything so grand. I was grateful I’d had my hair done that day, because my outfit felt lame in comparison to every other woman in the room. With my 20-plus-kilo, post-diva body, I take little joy in getting dressed these days. Functions make me anxious. It’s hard getting ready when you’re allergic to mirrors.

As I took my seat, I did my best to exhale my self-consciousness away. At least I wasn’t the oldest woman at the table — possibly — or the biggest — maybe… Introductions were made and pleasant conversations ensued. Everyone was lovely of course, and it wasn’t long before I relaxed. I had a flashback — one of several that night, like an LSD trip that lasted way too long. Another story for another time…

I thought about my 20s, when I was married to my first husband. I would have full-blown panic attacks if I knew a function was imminent. It was hell in the leadup to the actual event — so bad at times I’d cancel altogether. When I did make it, I’d relax soon enough and shake my head at my stupidity, wasting so much time for nothing — only to do it all over again when the next invitation arrived.

I’m so glad those days are gone.

Hours later I’m sitting at the table alone. Everyone was mingling, talking to their friends, including my husband. Most of them had known each other for years. I’d done my share of mingling, so it wasn’t like I was being a wallflower — just observing for a while, taking it all in. And then the revelation: not one person that night had asked me the obvious: “So Marcia, what do you do? What’s your story?” Questions I always ask when I meet someone new.

I was asked two questions that night, by two different women. If I had children — yes ­— and how I knew the birthday boy — through my husband. ­Then they smiled and turned away. End of questions.

I’d never felt more invisible.

I bet when Michelle Obama wrote Becoming, she wasn’t thinking about ‘invisible’. Let’s face it, a woman like that could never be invisible, but that’s not to say she doesn’t feel it some days. We are roughly the same age. She may write a sequel. I’d read that too.

These days I can smile during my flashbacks. That’s progress. I thought about my other life. How, in my diva days, I would have owned that room. Every man’s eyes would have been on me, and every wife would have been cursing me. I’d be surrounded, telling stories of adventures and shenanigans, making people belly laugh as they hung on my every word for all the right reasons – living life. Certainly not managing time!

Lost in images of my former fabulous self wearing a ravishing purple corset I once owned and loved more than any other piece of clothing that would no longer fit my thigh let alone my waist, I glanced up to see my husband staring at me. Engulfed in a group of people way down the other end of the room, his smile reached his eyes as it always does when he looks at me, the love in them as obvious as the glasses he wears. Sometimes it shocks me, the love I feel from him, for him.

Invisible I am not. To him. And they are the only eyes I need on me now.

I snap back into the present as he motions for me to join him. I secretly hope he’s ready to leave, so I can at last take off my bra. It’s late — way past my bedtime. I’m excited about the next day because it’s school holidays and my granddaughter is coming for a sleepover.

Is this really my life?

Yes, it is. And I’ve never felt happier.

I just hope that in 20 years I won’t be looking back on this life wanting to slap myself for all the daydreaming… if I remember!


This post is dedicated to my best man friend,
John Scott
I know you get me, despite being a man!

Marcia Abboud