By: Connie Travelling – A boomer, sometimes a lady, Connie Jamieson enjoys travel, outdoor recreation, family times – and grandchildren.
Behind five cars stopping for the construction flagperson, I braked my Chevy and turned off the ignition to spare the engine. Even with windows open to coax a breeze, I felt sweat beading my upper lip and mentally cursed both the faulty air conditioner and my bad luck in finding this fifteen-kilometer stretch of road construction. I adjusted my sunglasses on the damp bridge of my nose, then lifted and held my chin-length hair off the nape of my neck with both hands as heat flamed my cheeks.
At the unmistakable sound of a wolf whistle, I glanced over my left shoulder at the worker leaning against a gnarled maple in his temporary respite of shade, and met his eyes with the shocking realization that it was me he was noticing. I didn’t try to stop the automatic smile that curved my lips. He lifted his water bottle in salute, and then took a long drink.
I sat in stunned silence, thinking it’s been years since I’ve been the recipient of a whistle! Then – this young man obviously has a vision problem; I’m old enough to be his mother, even his grandmother. And that’s not platinum blonde hair he’s seeing, it’s platinum gray, now that I’ve stopped colouring it. But maybe my wraparound Senior Shade does resemble Jackie O’s fashion sunglasses…
As cars began to move through the blocked road, I restarted the engine and rolled on, glancing left to receive his parting wave. I waved back, smiling. And as I continued my journey, I wondered why it was possible that a stranger’s regard made any difference to my outlook.
Over the distance of a few kilometers, I realized that it was because he saw me, and I appreciated being seen. He recognized that I was there and confirmed my identity as a woman.
Years ago, as a leggy blonde, I learned to expect the notice, take that recognition for granted, know that a construction worker’s whistle was directed at me before I even looked; this changed when I became a “woman of a certain age,” yet I don’t remember sensing any loss at the time. I don’t even recall the year I realized that in our society, middle-aged women become invisible.
So, it was uplifting, if only for a moment, to experience that return to a state of presence. And that set me to thinking – how mature am I really if I still need the notice of a stranger to remind me of my identity?