A couple weeks ago I was in a Home Depot gardening center attempting to load a giant bag of potting soil into the bottom of my cart when a man approached and offered to help. I was a little embarrassed (one more second and I would have had it! Really!) but allowed him to gallantly step over and give me a hand.
As I thanked him, he said it was no problem. "Same thing happened the other day," he told me, shaking his head. "Pregnant lady was trying to lift something heavy and a bunch of guys were just standing around. I was like, 'Come ON, fellas!'"
I could feel that my face had frozen itself into a grimacing sort of smile, and as I shoved the cart toward the checkout line, the full impact of what had just happened hit me.
THAT GUY TOTALLY THOUGHT I WAS PREGNANT.
In his defense, I had a 3-year-old sitting in the seat of the cart, and my shirt was of the unfortunate billowing empire waist variety, so I guess I can't really blame him. Much.
It's just—oh god, this is going to seem so stupid, but that was probably the first time a man other than my husband has even looked at me in I don't know how long, and instead of approaching me because he was attracted or intrigued or anything like that, this guy looked over and saw a frazzled pregnant lady who couldn't even pick up a bag of dirt.
(Am NOT pregnant, by the way. Just to be clear.)
It's not that I wish strange dudes would come up and hit on me. I just feel like I've entered a life stage where I have completely lost any identity I had of being an attractive woman. When I'm out with my kids, I'm just some mom. When I'm by myself, I'm ... invisible.
That's how I feel, I guess. Totally invisible to anyone but my own family. I work from home, I don't have any nearby friends, I spend most of my time mired in kid-wrangling duties or running errands. I feel like wherever I go, I disappear into the background like a perfectly-thrown stone into a lake. No ripples.
I miss being noticed. I miss feeling attractive.
I know how that sounds—selfish and shallow, for starters, and maybe totally antifeminist to boot—but I can't help it. It's not even about being looked at, exactly, it's just about the feeling of having a presence of some kind. Does that make any sense whatsoever? I don't know how to explain it, really. Like somewhere along the line some unknown expiration date passed me by, and some small thing I always took for granted is gone.
My life has changed a lot in the past year; I went from someone who interacted with other adults all day to being home on my own with the kids. I suppose it's normal to feel like part of me has disappeared. Maybe it's not that I really care that I no longer attract lingering eye-crawls from strangers, it's more that I live a mostly isolated life now and that's not always easy.
Maybe the often-thankless tasks of parenthood can make a person long for validation, even in the form of a glance that says, yeah, you've still got it.
Do you ever feel this way?
Image via Flickr/jkohen