There’s a certain amount of vanity that comes with being a woman.  You know, the primping, the prepping, the preening.  We don’t do it to get noticed, of course, because getting noticed is already part of the deal.  Women get noticed.

So it’s always jarring when we’re ignored, when we’re met with indifference.  This happened to me the other day when I was waiting in line for coffee.  There was a middle-aged man who should have glanced in my direction, should have furtively smelled my Flower Bomb (that’s not a dirty metaphor, it’s a perfume that doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves… hey look, there’s a theme here).  Instead, this man acted like I was another piece of café furniture.

I was temporarily thrown off balance.  It made me smile that I even noticed him not noticing me.  And then the navel-gazing started.  About the things I expected from the world, about youth and beauty and age and grace.  And then I remembered my friend’s mom, who had had a bit of plastic surgery done because she couldn’t stand being ignored by rooms full of men when, in her prime, she would have set their heads bobbling.

I thought of a short but distressing scene in a book (I think it was Sister, which you must read if you have one, and should read even if you don’t).  A mother was telling her daughter how difficult it was to cope with the fact that the postman lingered less and less at her door the older she got, until one day he didn’t even so much as doff his cap and call her ma’am.

What do you do when you stop being beautiful to the world?  What do you do when your rights as a woman are taken away from you by something as vindictive as time?  Why doesn’t anyone talk about this, much less offer useful advice, instead of telling you to be like the French?

My own family is useless on this front.  I have no choice but to venture into middle age with nothing to guide me but a mother who will be forever gorgeous and a sister who looks flawless without needing the small battalion of creams and exfoliants that clutter my bathroom cabinet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve still got it at thirty-two.  But how the hell do you make it last?  And once it goes, how do you stop caring?