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Middle-aged and invisible? Celebrate!

London - The alluring and enigmatic Kristin Scott Thomas has a problem which many might find surprising. When she is out, going about her business, people often fail to see her. Worse, they behave as if she were not there at all.

It is the familiar problem of people as they reach a certain age. In a recent interview, actress Scott Thomas reported that, at the stage in her life she has now reached (she is 53), she was beginning to feel invisible.

In a recent interview, actress Scott Thomas reported that, at the stage in her life she has now reached (she is 53), she was beginning to feel invisible. Credit: Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

“When you're walking down the street, you get bumped into, people slam doors in your face - they just don't notice you. Somehow, you just vanish. It's a cliché, but men grow in gravitas as they get older, while women just disappear.”

Whether or not one entirely accepts the personal assault course described by Scott Thomas, her remarks touch on an important truth. There comes a moment in a person's life when she or he ceases, in the eyes of the world, to belong to the sexual game which is an instinctive part of our daily lives.

Only the purest or the dullest would deny that there is an element of low-level flirtation and mild erotic curiosity in the way we deal with other people. It has probably always been the case, and now, in an age twitching with unexpressed desire, it is so pervasive that it tends to be taken for granted.

Until it vanishes. One of life's cruellest tricks is that, quite without warning, behaviour which was once jolly and welcome can suddenly become grotesque and unattractive. It is as if, in the middle of a great game, someone has changed the rules so that you are disqualified - but no one has bothered to tell you. Some people get the message quite quickly; others play on, with disastrous results.

In a sexually unequal society, where female looks are more important to the culture than male looks, the moment when the game stops is bound to be more dramatic and painful for a woman.

Scott Thomas may feel she has vanished but her invisibility, we can be sure, will be rather less than that experienced by the rest of us, men in particular.

As a result of this insecurity, female ageing has become a bigger deal in the way our lives are reported back at us. Nothing gives the nastier middle-class tabloids more pleasure than to be able to publish a photograph revealing the slightly sagging flesh of a woman known for her youthful beauty.

As for men growing older with gravitas, that tends to happen only to those who were born middle-aged. The serious players of the game are usually sent clean round the bend. Think of the leering, lunging Dominique Strauss-Kahn or the more recent case of Bob Filner, the Mayor of San Diego who has just been revealed as a grizzled serial fondler.

Their problem is simple: they cannot believe that, while they still feel desire for others, those others now look on them with disgust.

They continue playing after the rules have changed. In a private life, that can be embarrassing; in a public one, where the groper has power, it can be unpleasant and frightening.

I am surprised that Scott Thomas cannot see the advantages of being (not that she is) de-eroticised in the eyes of the world. To be unnoticed is not such a terrible thing. It allows you to be truer to yourself, to return to a state of relative innocence and honesty, outside the games of flirtation and career advancement.

You may have vanished so far as the street-bumping, door-slamming world of strangers is concerned but, to those who matter, you are still there. - The Independent

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