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I've Become Invisible To Men. Here's How I Lost My Mojo

But while I may not be looked at, I am noticing this.

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illustration of various young women surrounding an older woman
Jackie Ferrentino
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Whether it was a slow fade or I went “poof” like a cartoon character is unclear. But at some point in my late 40s, I became invisible to men.

What I do know, unfortunately, is that my disappearance coincided with the end of my 10-year marriage. As if it wasn’t hard enough to upcycle myself as a “Back by Popular Demand!” commodity, there was zero demand for me on the dating market. Young men, old men and even construction workers failed to notice my presence.

“It’s because you’re in the suburbs,” said my New Yorker friend, Rebecca. “There’s no street life there.”

Nice try. I live in Washington, D.C., an urban haven for bachelors.

“I see guys everywhere,” I countered. “Cute dads in CVS aisles, bikers on the trail and dudes walking their dogs. Men have ample opportunity to check me out, but I might as well be Saran Wrap.”

I’ve never been a beauty queen in the traditional Marcia Brady/Barbie/Farrah Fawcett sense I long desired. Back in the day, I channeled my inner Cher and did get some looks. Tall, dark and curvy, I found my “rizz” as a 20-something professional living in New York City. I made myself attractive by shopping sample sales for slimming designer cuts in flattering colors, cutting carbs, taking spin classes and taming my frizz. I felt good about myself, and it resonated. Men of all ages made eye contact as I passed them on the sidewalk. I was sent drinks in bars. Once, a bus driver yelled that he loved my long purple coat as I strode past his Madison Avenue stop.

Something started to shift in my early 30s when I moved to Washington, D.C. There was now a wedding ring on my hand, for one thing, followed by back-to-back pregnancies 17 months apart. My corporate job required me to dress more Lady Boss and less va-va-voom. Then, there was the end of my marriage, with the accompanying cloud of misery that shadowed me like Pigpen’s dirt miasma. Sad, downcast eyes are not attractive. For a long time, I didn’t want to be looked at, and I wasn’t, which worked out nicely.

After a few years, when I was in my late 40s, I decided to rally for the male gaze once again. Last call, I told myself. In fact, I felt pretty good about the way that I looked. My chronically demoralizing weight swings were less pendulous. Like Oprah hauling out the wagon of lard replicating the pounds of lost fat, I felt like I could conquer the world when I lost weight. Keeping it off was another matter. Emotional eating was my coping mechanism. But the Ben and Jerry’s and Pepperidge Farms self-soothers had a nasty chaser of self-loathing. Whether it was the too-tight jeans or the nasty voice in my head murmuring that if you were thinner, you might have a boyfriend, romantic prospects were held at bay.

Was I being hard on myself? Sure. Was I off-base that beauty was rewarded? Hardly. It’s a scientific fact that humans are hard-wired to be attracted to it. Even the National Institute of Health agrees, stating that sex hormones largely drive the body and facial features that define attractiveness and also reshape the brain to detect and value these features.

Various studies confirm the beauty bias. In childhood, cuter kids are often treated more favorably. Professionally, people who are considered attractive may be perceived as more self-confident, leading to praise, raises and promotions. Good-looking people are even less likely to be found guilty in legal and courtroom settings.

I lost that mojo, and I missed it. Aside from brief interludes, I was single for a decade. I got used to going to parties solo, dragging the Christmas tree home by myself, and spending my weekends rom-coming with Netflix.

I told myself, so what if my days of seduction were over? I refocused on being grateful for what I did have in my life, which was a job where I was being promoted, two kids who were growing up before my eyes, and fabulous girlfriends to socialize and travel with.

While I may not have been looked at, I noticed I was being listened to. Colleagues were receptive to my ideas in meetings, and I was invited to brainstorming meetings beyond my department. My high-school kids would heed my motherly advice instead of rolling their eyes. My girlfriends, dealing with marital problems or family members with substance abuse issues, were flocking to me for advice. Paying it forward with lessons I had learned the hard way in my 50s is just as rewarding as the double-takes I used to get on those city streets in my 20s. Would I have savored a compliment from someone, not of the female persuasion? Sure. But it was fun while it lasted.

Then, one night, I went to a neighborhood holiday party with a girlfriend.

“Some hot guy is looking at you,” she said.

And he was. He eventually came over and introduced himself, and just like a cartoon character, I “poofed” back into visibility. The superficial attraction launched a deep conversation about family, heartbreak and growth. We spoke all night. Two years later, we’re still at it.

Construction workers may not notice me, but the attention of one quality man who sees me for who I really am more than makes up for it.

Have any of you started to feel invisible? What do you think about it? Let us know in the comments below.

Follow Article Topics: Relationships