Which super power would you pick? Invisibility or flight?” It was a useful first date question, if conversation had stalled. If a guy played along, and had a thoughtful or funny answer to the question, a second date might happen. I always chose invisibility, until I learned invisibility sucks when you can’t turn it off.
I was 42 when I noticed I was no longer noticed. On the street, in passing cars, at a bar or restaurant, suddenly I stopped warranting even a casual once over. Not that I was copiously checked out in my 20s and 30s-which makes me a more reliable informant on invisibility- since I do not flatter myself when admitting at my peak, maybe three times a week I noticed people noticing me.
As a 42 year old single woman with zero prospects and a very casual-dress job, my style would best be described as “Not Trying As Hard As I Can So I Don’t Appear To Be Trying Too Hard”, which always felt sadder to me than trying too hard ( see Angelyne). Basically, I wrapped my tender self up in a big old cardigan to swaddle myself through a hungover day of hired errands.
I probably had 15 to 20 encounters with professional strangers, work professionals and actual friends. Not a single person, from the grocery dude, to the valet to the dry cleaner to the client I worked closely with for six hours mentioned or noticed that my cardigan was not only inside out but upside down. Not even the friends I met for dinner and drinks after work. I didn’t even realize it until I was getting undressed for bed. After I was finished being embarrassed I was furious, because no one told me because no one actually noticed. In that moment felt truly, utterly and deeply invisible. And the upside down inside out cardigan was my official cloak of invisibility.
Since I’ve always looked (and behaved) younger than I am, I never cared about age until I aged. Even as I aged and my mother fretted about my eggs getting dusty, I saw no need to freeze my eggs for my hopeful future father of my imaginary children. My last major relationship ended when I was 40. I was single for maybe two minutes, but when you’re 40 and your mom is Jewish, time is multiplied in space-miles and my mother forced an EHarmony membership on me.
Since I’m an Irish Catholic-German Jew, which means I’m a knee-jerk obedient, polite, rule- follower, I believed the minister-shrink-doctor-matchmaker Neil Clark Warren when he explained each match was made scientifically and chemically, on a multitude of levels. So, I treated my EHarmony profile like it was the SATs of me and worked on it for two weeks. That’s how much of a Virgo I am. And since I believed age is just a number, I was honest about my age.
And a very strange thing happened. All my scientifically proven and emotionally hand-picked matches were grandfathers in their 60s or older. That’s not true. One age appropriate guy was a funeral director slash talent booker and even that didn’t turn me off. It was his photo, which was his funeral director portrait, since he was pondering something mysterious, a hand grasping his chin, looking off in the ether. He was decent looking but his fingers were so meaty they made me nervous. He had the fat ravioli hands of a strangler. The other guy who wasn’t a grandfather was a resident manager of an apartment complex and made his own monster costumes in his spare time. Monster costumes. For himself. Not a job. Monster costumes for himself and his dog was not just his hobby, it was his passion.Fascinated by people, I completely stopped dating, because I was much more happy studying the insanity EHarmony tossed my way. My favorite grandfather was a firm, unapologetic member of the OTK club. A wiry sixty-five, he looked like a high school principal but was deeply passionate about consensual spanking, and would not entertain even meeting a woman for tea if she wasn’t excited or curious or even better, a committed passionate spankee. OTK stands for Over The Knee, as in I’m going to bend you over my knee and roger your bottom with your Mason Pearson brush. I didn’t want to join a club that would not only have me as a member but also would mean that inclusion prevented me from ever being able to sit down without wincing.
As my membership wore on I was beginning to find EHarmony a clearinghouse for observing people at their worst but eagerly trying to appear at their gleaming, hopeful best. Chin up, quavering, eyes brimming with tears of joy and sadness and loving life even as it repeatedly kicks you in the shins. Everyone was beginning to seem like Liza Minelli.
Cut to: I’m in my apartment laundry room with a neighbor dude who’s funny and chatty and taken because he’s folding bras and panties along with his boxers. He and his girlfriend were planning their wedding. Since I was a wedding planner (yes, I was a single wedding planner on EHarmony) I gave him my best tips on where to find cheap and sturdy flowers.
I asked him how they met and he said, “EHarmony”.
I hit his arm and said, “Shut up! I’m on EHarmony! It really does work?!” He rubbed his arm and said, “No, we met working at EHarmony. It was our job.”
Much more intrigued, I blocked his exit so he couldn’t leave until I was completely satisfied. “OK, congrats on getting married, whatever but what’s the deal with EHarmony? Is it really as scientific and spiritual and cosmic as Father Doctor Warren says?”
And my neighbor eyed me carefully. He was deciding how much truth I could take. And even better, I comprehended his conundrum and cut him off at the pass.
“Oh, don’t worry, my mom paid for it and I’m just enjoying the parade of crazy. Although it’s getting so depressing I think I’d prefer going to an animal shelter and look at sad dogs in damp cages.”
He nodded. I could tell he could tell I could handle the truth.
“We were data entry. Like maybe ten bucks an hour. Maybe eight.”
“We were the matchmakers.”
“Wow! Were there like weeks of training to become matchmakers?”
“Hm. It was more like, if you say in your profile that you like walking, talking and eating and then there’s some dude who also like walking, talking and eating. Boom. Match made. As long as the age preferences line up.”
I perked up on the word ‘age.’ Despite the fact that we were both power sweating in a janky basement laundry room with midcentury modern cobwebs, I continued to block his exit.
“OK, glad you brought age up. I’m getting all these men in their 60s and 70s! I’m 40, and still want to have a family. What the eff?”
“You gave your real age?” Now he looked at me like he judged me all wrong. Like I was stupider than I initially appeared. Since I now felt stupid too, I just nodded. He squinted at me.
“You realize you live in Los Angeles, right? And that you look maybe 33. Why aren’t you lying? Everyone else is.”
I thought about unloading my feminist manifesto about how I was urged to lie (from women, mind you) about my age as a writer and how much it outraged me. But I knew that righteous indignation about telling the truth when no one else cared was wasting precious emotions.
So, newly informed and newly outraged about how ‘scientific’ EHarmony actually was, I decided to fuck with EHarmony. I deleted my account. Then I opened exactly the same account, with the same photos, and exactly the same profile. Favorite book? A tie between Howards End by EM Forster, A Time To Be Born by Dawn Powell, and The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer. Favorite motto? Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead! Adm. David Glasgow Farragut. The only difference was my age – I was now 38, which apparently is LA-code for women (and men) aged 40-45.
And magically, my perfect, scientific matches became men in their forties and one wacky dude in his thirties, who liked my profile and had a hilarious profile of his own. We met and connected. He was smart and funny enough for me to not care that he lived in Marina del Rey. Over a romantic dinner I had one too many glasses of truth serum, and told him my age. He ended it right then and there, over the appetizers. We kept drinking, then I grabbed him and made out with him over our entrees. Very excited about first time sex-breakup sex, as we walked back to his house, he casually mentioned that he had herpes, but everyone has herpes, right? No big deal.
On his front stoop I made sure he had a stubborn stiffie, then I told him that not only was he not going to have sex with this 40 year old vagina, it was a completely STD-free 40 year old vagina. “ I don’t agree that your herpes is more socially acceptable than me being 40.”
I walked away, proud but still alone, still invisible. And I remained invisible for another three years until I met my beautiful (younger and STD-free) husband, father of our daughter, at the age of 45, in a garage sale in the middle of a heat wave, thanks to Craigslist. And I didn’t have to lie about my age.
The Internet might take away but the Internet can also give back.