In Western society when women start to age, they begin to disappear. It's slow at first but, in time, the invisibility becomes a comfortable cloak.
Men stop looking at you in that old, familiar way — if they ever did — and the young mostly look right through you. Your history starts to be viewed as old hat. Your experience begins to count for nothing.
Weirdly, when I talk to other women about this phase of life, to a person, they say it's a relief. With the children out of the way, and the menopause too, they admit to a sense of joy previously unattainable. You could call it contentment, or you could call it a time of less physical and hormonal distractions. But one thing you know for sure, something's changed.
If you were lucky enough to have once enjoyed credence for your ideas and opinions before, now the hill of credibility just got that much steeper. Despite that, the view is better.
For me, having had a child-free and man-free life, the reality of my mid-fifties is not affecting me as much as some. But I am noticing the tone shift towards me from the young. Basically, they blatantly start treating you as redundant. As a historical artefact of some sort.
Recently on Twitter, one of the know-it-all dudebros attempted to define exactly what kind of feminist I am to his fellow dudebro mates. Said man suggested I was a bad feminist because he believed me to be fossilised. The thirty-somethings chuckled among themselves, secure in the knowledge of their collective genius and deep understanding of feminist history. Whatever.
He was basically saying I'm outdated, irrelevant, with hairy armpits. I'll leave it to you to guess which of these statements is emphatically true. But for all that, he did get me thinking about why it is that today's "feminists" generally leave me underwhelmed, and him quite contented.
Unquestionably, the latest incarnation of feminism seems to involve loads of makeup, overt coquettishness and, consequently, an element of man-pleasing. It doesn't appear, to my un-mascara-ed eye, to be much of a threat to the patriarchy, and nary a hint of a body hair is anywhere to be seen.
There's also much bolshy bluster from young women on social media about intersectionality, the marginalised, the oppressed, inequality, et al — all worthy causes — because that's what social media does. After a time, you find an online bubble to hang out in, and you get to bounce each other off the soft, cushy walls in an endless circle jerk of smug consensus. Yawn.
It mistakenly empowers many of us to utter things we normally wouldn't say to strangers. It's ultimately akin to mocking a snorting bull on the other side of the fence. Only done when the gate is firmly shut.
And, look, far be it from me to diss my sisters. I mean, feminism is all about being who you want to be. Except, the "waves" do tend to follow a pattern, and the current fourth wave revels in a "call-out" culture where anyone is fair game — only online, of course — if they do or say anything that doesn't fit their agreed view of what feminism actually is.
But, to be fair, what's even worse than today's fledgling feminists tottering about with their smartphones in hand, is the young woman who scathingly spits, "I'm not a feminist" while expecting equal pay on her career ladder to the stars. How does she think that happens? Via men's largesse?
Because, like the Suffragettes, second-wave feminists went out and made a fuss. They got off their jacksy and marched, burned bras, wrote epic books, got truly angry, took the heat, and took the hits. I wasn't one of them, but being born in 1962 meant I was surrounded by them and took it all in by osmosis.
By the time, at age 11, I went to school in 1974 San Francisco, I was well imbued with a sense of empowerment because of these staunch women. Ten years later, and back in New Zealand, I fought to become a train driver. I shouldn't have had to fight, but that's what it took. So, I did.
My feminism has always been a quiet affair. I understood very early on that the world is geared towards men, so I set about achieving whatever I put my mind to. I also refused to blame men for a system that doesn't, in many ways, work for them either.
So, Mr Twitter man. I've a suggestion for you, and all the other young "woke" beards out there who feel they've the right to tell women who they are. You're the reason feminism was invented, and some feminists don't wear high heels.
We wear metaphorical guns on our hips, and issue trigger warnings.