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I've Been Thinking...

Women Invisible After 50?

Summer, 1999

Has this happened to you?
I've noticed books and magazine articles mentioning that as a woman once you reach the age of 50, you become invisible. The authors give examples like -- you don't get waited on in stores, get ignored by servers in restaurants, people cut in front of you in line, they don't hand you the door, but let it slam in your face.

Could it be that we've changed more than just to get older?

One night I watched a segment on TV in which balding men were sent to a bar once with a hair piece on and once without. It seemed that the men themselves acted differently when they were wearing the hair pieces and that the difference in attitudes of others towards them wasn't entirely due to whether or not they had more hair. Perhaps the same is true of women under 50 and over 50. Maybe it is partly due to our own actions that we are ignored.

Try some of these ideas

Here are some tips to try next time you are in public. See if these help you receive better service.

Take special care with your appearance. Be sure your clothes are appropriate, clean, and pressed, your hair fixed, and makeup expertly applied. When I taught in high school, we occasionally had "Dress-up Day" for the students. We teachers thought that the students were more dignified and well-mannered on these days. Clothes changed the students. You may find that it changes your attitude too.

Make a specific positive comment to your server in a resturant. Make her/his day. This is something I learned from my father. "You look cheerful this morning." or "That color brings out the blue in your eyes." or, if the restaurant is crowded and you had to wait, rather than complaining, "I'll bet you've been busy today." or a comment on how well s/he does her/his job "That tray looks heavy and you handle it with such ease." That person will remember you. Make special note to remember which server is your waiting your table. If you don't remember which one is your waitress, how can you expect her to think you are special. Respond to others as people.

I remember attending one of Zig Ziglar's seminars in which he made a big point of saying "The more you help others get what they want, the more you will get what you want." You want to be noticed. Notice others.

Specific examples

Some examples are in order. It's a cold wintry afternoon. You are waiting in the checkout lane and notice that every time someone leaves the store, a blast of cold air comes into the building. You might say to the checkout clerk "I'll bet you get cold standing here all day."

Six o'clock in the evening you're walking from the parking lot to the grocery store and someone comes out looking sharp and perky like it's 9 a.m. "How do you do it? Looking so good?" It's a rhetorical question, you aren't expecting an answer, but be prepared for one. Maybe she works nights, but it doesn't matter.

One day I was in a cafeteria line with my brother, Jake. He had a nice word for each of the servers behind the counter. He wasn't invisible. Maybe we need to learn something from the men. You may call it flirting, but maybe it's just being friendly.

One time I was in Morrocco with a tour group of people who complained about everything. This particular morning certain memberscomplained that the breakfast didn't include bacon and eggs, and the coffee wasn't to their liking, and the water wasn't cold enough. However, the rolls served with the continental breakfast were fresh and good. I called the waiter to our table to tell him how good the rolls were. One of the complainers in the group said, "Why tell him? He didn't make them." I just said "To whom would you complain if you didn't like them?" As we were leaving the restaurant, the waiter stopped me and handed me a bag with two rolls "For you to eat on the bus." He noticed me. I was not invisible to him.

As women, we realize how hard servers in restaurants work and we usually tip well. Instead of leaving the tip at the table, look at your server, hand the tip to him or her and say "Thank you."


We don't want to be invisible. Other people don't want to be invisible either. Let's treat others as we would like to be treated.

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