Wendyl Nissen
Wendyl Nissen on being 'The Supportive Wife'

Wendyl Nissen: Still hot or whistling in the dark?


Cat calls and lustful leers from men in hard hats and middle-aged perverts? I prefer being invisible, says Wendyl Nissen.

'I found that being on the receiving end of whistles from men in hard hats ... did nothing at all to put me in a good mood.' Photo/ Thinkstock
'I found that being on the receiving end of whistles from men in hard hats ... did nothing at all to put me in a good mood.' Photo/ Thinkstock

I've been reading a lot about menopause lately. Please don't turn the page. I'm not about to bore you rigid with tales of hot flushes and hormonal temper tantrums.

While picking through the writings of women giving advice on the "change of life" I came across this comment on ageing: "I was walking down the street with my daughter and it took me a while to realise that the admiring glances from men heading our way were for my daughter, not me. I've never felt so invisible," said one of them mournfully.

"And the problem is?" I said to the book.

"I still felt attractive to men, but they had other ideas," the writer continued.

"If women spent their days rating their attractiveness and therefore their level of self-esteem on the number of hungry looks they received from podgy old pervs waddling down the street we would be in a very sorry state indeed," I said.

I've walked down the street and had men glance hungrily at all my adult daughters, and my sons for that matter. And each time the man looks like something you would find encased in a slight sweat in an economy class seat, glaze-eyed with anticipation headed for Bangkok. I was happy to be invisible and felt sorry for my beautiful children that they were not.

This week I read a column by Sunday Times writer India Knight (who's 45) about how a good wolf whistle from the builders in her neighbourhood made her feel wonderful.

"Wolf-whistling is extremely useful if you're feeling plain: all you do is saunter past and, whammo, instant good mood," she gushed.

Her readers agreed with her: "After turning 40, I've become invisible. If only there were mischievous builders in my lane - I'd be delighted to hear a much-missed compliment," said one reacting to the column.

"What's wrong with invisible?" I shouted at my iPad.

"Did you realise you have begun to talk to yourself?" said my husband, who is coming to terms with his change-of-life wife.

"It's these writers, it's like feminism never happened!" I muttered, taking off my cardigan to cool down on a 10C day.

When I was much younger and had a penchant for wearing short skirts, I spent much of my time walking past building sites on Queen St as the 80s whim for tearing down anything old and beautiful and replacing it with sheet glass monuments to rich men took hold.

The wolf whistles started before I had even crossed the road and did not stop until I had turned the corner. I have never wanted to be more invisible but saw no reason to stop wearing the skirts. It was the 80s - women could do anything.

At the age of 20 I found that being on the receiving end of whistles from men in hard hats with fags hanging out of their mouths and their arse crack showing did nothing at all to put me in an India Knight good mood.

So one day I just stopped. I put my hands on my hips, stared up into the scaffolding and let rip. I used some colourful language, I suggested that they should do things to themselves or their mothers they might not have thought of before and told them to pull their pants up so I didn't have to see what they had for lunch.

I was never whistled at again, my skirts remained and my self-esteem reached an all-time high.

As I head toward 50 I am relieved to be invisible. To walk down a road, wander through a supermarket and walk around my park without sensing that the Neanderthal who just passed me found me attractive.

I look in the mirror and I see a woman who has shouted at builders and curls up at night with a man she is growing old with. Whammo, instant good mood.

- Herald on Sunday

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