Ellie — Opa and I are coming to see you the day after tomorrow. We can hardly wait.
In the meantime, we are living in the midst of a massive Austin festival called South by Southwest. Music, education, film, interactive sessions — you can get them all here, along with crowds, noise, enthusiasm, long lines, impatience, high spirits, trash, traffic, booze, you name it.
As usual, I got a film badge so I could go to all the movies I wanted to see. It’s funny, though, to go to a festival where most of the people are so much younger than I am. It makes me more conscious of my age than I usually am.
Here is how it often is for women: When you’re young and attractive, you get lots of attention — some or much of it unwanted. That can be exciting and fun, but it also can be intrusive and upsetting. It’s as if you “belong” to the rest of the world, which is loudly passing judgment on you.
It’s so different when you’re an older woman. Nobody pays much attention to you — you become almost invisible.
I usually don’t care. After all, what difference does it make?
Other times, it hurts. I can feel myself being dismissed with a quick, casual glance. I barely exist. I’m invisible.
(Every time this happens to me, I think about starting a gang of invisible older women who go on a crime spree, robbing banks or shoplifting or drug-smuggling. No one would ever suspect us of anything. We’d rule the world — or, anyway, the underworld. I should write a book about it!
(Unfortunately, I’d make the worst felon on earth: I automatically feel guilty about everything and would have to confess immediately and throw myself on the mercy of the court. When it comes to bad behavior, my worst crime is jaywalking. So much for the underworld. And who’d read a book on jaywalking?)
But, anyway, it’s odd to think of the arc of women’s lives. Much more than men, we’re judged by our appearance from youth to dotage. Judged on our faces and bodies — qualities that have nothing to do with who we really are, our hearts, our minds, our souls, our work.
You’ll be going into that world soon enough, Ellie. And, of course, you’ll care about being pretty and appealing; it’s impossible not to.
But try to remember that pretty girl isn’t you. You are so much more. Your passions, your compassion, your caring, your kindness, your values, the work you choose, the people you love: This is who you really are. This is what sustains you when you’re young and pretty and when you’re old and invisible.
Define yourself, know yourself. Don’t let the world do it for you.
I look into your big, blue eyes and see your strength and ebullience. I know you can do this. Love you, my darling girl, Coco
P.S. The last film I’m seeing today, before we leave for Seattle, is Ovarian Psycos. With a name like that, how could I resist?