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Please Step Aside, Ma’am

I recently started reading “29” by Adena Halpern. It’s the story of Ellie, who, on her 75th birthday, wished while blowing out the candles on her cake to be 29 years old again – and was magically granted the wish.

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I’ve so far enjoyed the amusing story of the cantankerous grandma made young again and her exploits with her 29-year-old granddaughter and 55-year-old daughter.

Ellie’s desire to be young and attractive like her granddaughter reminded me of the pivotal incident that led me to realize I was getting old. Or at least deemed an older woman in the eyes of others and involuntarily required to step back as a female garnering male attention and watch as my daughters moved forward.

Yes, it was one incident, several years ago, during what would have been an otherwise ordinary trip to the grocery store.

Now, let me first say that I would never claim to be ravishing, a head turner, one hot mama, or any one of a million adjectives describing a gorgeous woman. However, I do admit to getting a fair share of looks from males throughout the years, as most females of a certain age do. It was never a big deal, nothing I put much stock in. Until I was no longer that certain age, until I witnessed in one fell swoop the move of male attention from me to my daughters and remain that way going forward.

On the day of which I write, one of my teen daughters and I ran into the grocery store to pick up a few things. As we reached the register, I expected cheerful banter with the cashier, a man in his mid-30s. So I opened my mouth, about to say, “How are you today?” But he looked right past me … and started up the “Did you find everything you need?” conversation with my daughter. It was as if I wasn’t even there, except for a cursory glance my way when it was time to pay.

The cashier, clearly closer to my age than my daughter’s, didn’t talk to her in any smarmy way that had me pegging him a pedophile and wanting to rush my little girl out of there. No, he was simply interacting with who he apparently considered the most vibrant, most conversational of the two customers before him. My daughter pleasantly rose to the occasion; I stepped aside.

It was the first time I’d experienced such an obvious shift – outside of the times I’d watched boys in their teens and early 20s fumble to impress one daughter or another while conducting business with mother and daughter(s), times that don’t count. But from then on, it was the norm when in public together, be it dining out at a restaurant, attending performances, shopping in the mall. No matter which daughter was with me, my daughter was the one males smiled at, struck up conversation with, held a gleam in their eyes for. Eyes that dulled when they turned to me to take my order, my ticket, my money. No matter the male’s age, no matter the reason for interaction.

I didn’t cry over the matter, harbor ill will or animosity. I honestly was okay with the transition from front and center to a supporting role. My lovely, vivacious daughters were coming into their own, and the attention, well,most of the attention wasn’t sexual or predatory in any way. (There are always a few creeps outside the norm, of course.) So I didn’t mind stepping aside, didn’t mind watching my daughters shine. I just found it interesting. And surprising. I always thought age crept up on you, as is the case with crow’s feet, hot flashes, and inability to read past 9 p.m. at night without falling asleep. This, though, was sudden, immediate. And it caught me off guard.

I was – and am – completely and wholeheartedly accepting of my age, of the need to step aside. Funny thing, though: Now, years later, I’ve started noticing more and more looks coming my way. It’s surely – and thankfully – not because I’m some cougar in the making.

No, I’m pretty much chalking up the increased attention to the ever-increasing, ever-impossible-to-conceal collection of age spots unattractively converging across my face. It’s understandably difficult to tear one’s gaze away from the artful display.

Just one more aspect of aging that has caught me off guard. One more I’ll surely, eventually, come to terms with.

Read more from Lisa Carpenter on her blog Grandma’s Briefs

Lisa Carpenter

Lisa Carpenter publishes the Grandma’s Briefs website , where she shares bits on life’s second act and strives to smash the outdated "grandma" stereotype. Lisa also is a freelance writer, with credits including Grandparents.com, The Huffington Post, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop and more. She and her husband live in Colorado. They have three adult daughters and two grandsons — plus their brother, scheduled to arrive June 2014 — courtesy the middle daughter and her husband. Instagram: grandmasbriefs

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Claudia Schmidt

Friday 11th of April 2014

I clearly remember the first time I went to the mall with my daughter and realized when we were at the cash register that the guy behind the counter was totally checking her out and barely even noticed me. She was about 13, but has always been really tall and looks older and he was smitten. It really threw me, because I still thought of her as a little 8th grader. It's very annoying to feel invisible to men these days :)

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