Ask any middle-aged woman what her superpower is and chances are you’ll get the same answer: invisibility. Our ability to go undetected during the normal course of our daily lives is quite amazing.
That dishwasher that mysteriously unloads itself; those towels that miraculously return to the airing cupboard, all clean and fluffy.
The food that suddenly appears in the fridge, the replacement loo roll in the bathroom. That stuff doesn’t just happen on its own, you know. You’re just so used to us doing it you can’t see us any more.
SARAH VINE: Ask any middle-aged woman what her superpower is and chances are you’ll get the same answer: invisibility. Our ability to go undetected during the normal course of our daily lives is quite amazing
Out in the wider world, our superpower is even greater. In the days when such things still existed, we could go for hours undetected in a bar or restaurant, frantically signalling various staff in a futile attempt to catch an eye across a room crowded with younger, more biologically enticing specimens.
At work, too, we struggle for visibility, our presence eclipsed by that of more visually stimulating, if not always more talented, colleagues.
We’d make perfect criminals: who would notice a group of dreary middle-aged women entering a bank, let alone leaving with their Bags For Life stuffed with loot?
Intriguing as such a notion may seem, the truth is that for most women who do not wish to pursue a life of crime, this lack of visibility presents a bit of a problem, particularly in the workplace.
Because like it or not — and despite the efforts of equality campaigners — human nature remains largely unchanged. Without the veneer of political correctness or the reforming framework of legislation, the world is still geared mostly towards men.
A case in point is struggling musician Annabel Bennett. At 50, she was suffering from classic middle-aged invisibility syndrome. A pianist and composer, she had been writing music since 2012. Despite having produced more than 350 original compositions, she hadn’t made much headway.
Had she been some nubile 20-something, she might have had better luck. But she wasn’t. She was a mother-of-two from Cornwall.
And so she did the sensible thing. Taking a leaf out of the My Fair Lady playbook — ‘Why can’t a woman be more like a man?’ — she changed her identity. Annabel became Arthur, and under the pseudonym Parker she uploaded her music to the BBC Introducing platform.
SARAH VINE: The food that suddenly appears in the fridge, the replacement loo roll in the bathroom. That stuff doesn’t just happen on its own, you know. You’re just so used to us doing it you can’t see us any more
Almost immediately her work started to get noticed. In fact, things went so well that Arthur Parker has recorded a whole album, which will be released later this month.
Of course, Annabel isn’t the first woman to assume a male persona in order to get ahead. ‘George Eliot’, the Bronte sisters, Virginia Woolf, Louisa May Alcott — all at some point passed themselves off as men in pursuit of greatness.
But that was the past, a time when women’s roles were so much more narrowly defined than they are today. Shouldn’t we be beyond such things?
Well, yes. But clearly we are not. J. K. Rowling’s publisher understood this, which is why they persuaded her to use her initials instead of her full name.
P. D. James is another who blurred those lines. Because the reality is, however much it may upset us, there is still a huge amount of ‘unconscious bias’ against women, which, in reality, just boils down to straightforward sexism.
Like it or not, it’s still a man’s world. Step outside the achingly correct confines of the BBC, politics and social media, and in real life far too many ordinary people with extraordinary talents remain invisible — for the simple crime of being women.
I trust Oprah Winfrey’s interview with the famously private Duke and Duchess of Sussex won’t reveal any indiscretions about their relationship with the Queen or the Royal Family. As the Duchess herself has said: ‘You cannot take somebody’s privacy and exploit it.’ Indeed.
Kendall, the living doll…
A survey has found that only 11 per cent of women feel happy with their bodies.
If you want to know why, look no further than the latest photoshoot featuring influencer extraordinaire Kendall Jenner promoting racy underwear.
The 25-year-old has been accused of posting digitally edited snaps, with suggestions that she looked like a Barbie doll.
Whether the claims are true or not, the fact that so many celebrities enhance their appearance beyond the realms of reality — making a good living out of doing so — is why almost 90 per cent of ordinary women, particularly young ones, hate themselves.
It’s false advertising, and there should be a law against it.
The 25-year-old Kendall Jenner has been accused of posting digitally edited snaps, with suggestions that she looked like a Barbie doll
I learned a new word in my Daily Mail yesterday. A ‘zetta’, that is to say a trillion-billion, or the number of planets thought to be capable of supporting life in the universe. Also, I fear, the size of the deficit if we don’t open up the economy soon.
How Harry put his foot in it
I was intrigued to read about the Duchess of Cornwall’s bunion-busting sneakers, specially designed to cater for those unsightly podiatric protrusions.
If the latest ‘intimate portrait’ from the famously private Sussexes is anything to go by, Prince Harry could also do with a pair. At £179 a pop, they’re not exactly a steal. But with his lucrative Hollywood contracts, he should just about be able to afford them.
Either that, or he can just plug them when he’s on Oprah — and they’ll probably send him a pair for free.
It certainly seems as though this hotel quarantine thing is not going exactly to plan. Wouldn’t it be cheaper — and easier — simply to place an electronic tag on all arrivals from so-called ‘red zones’ — and let them quarantine at home, having arranged for private transportation?
Admittedly they might feel as though they were being treated as criminals, but since Covid has deprived us of most of our liberties anyway, how would we tell the difference? Frankly, I’d rather that than be forced to spend two grand to be locked in some hermetically sealed dive at the end of a runway.
Please can the Government stop telling us about every new Covid strain that emerges? It just adds yet another layer to the millefeuille of misery that is life in 2021.
If it’s a serious threat, fine. But if it’s just a minor mutation, spare us the extra anguish.
An unhappy ending for Little Ms Woke
Royal Mail is marking 50 years of the Mr Men books with a set of commemorative coins. But not everyone is delighted . . .
Little Ms Woke was preparing for her unconscious bias training course when her phone rang. It was Mx PC, and he sounded very agitated.
‘Have you heard the news?’ he bellowed.
‘What news?’ asked Little Ms Woke.
‘Those nitwits Happy, Strong, Sunshine and Giggles have got their own Royal Mint Commemorative coins for their 50th anniversary.’ ‘What?!’ said Ms Woke, ‘But that’s outrageous. I thought we’d got rid of those outdated cliches once and for all. If anyone should get a commemorative coin, it’s us, for bravely leading the way in progressive non-biased thinking.’
‘I know!’ wailed Mx PC.
Just then, the doorbell went. It was Little Miss Giggles. ‘Hello, Little Ms Woke,’ she said with a nervous little giggle.
‘Me and the other Mr Men wanted to invite you and Mx PC to a party to celebrate our Royal Mint commemorative coins. Will you come?’
Little Ms Woke looked over Little Miss Giggles’s shoulder, and saw Mr Strong, Mr Happy and Little Miss Sunshine waiting in the car. They all waved cheerily. Little Ms Woke frowned.
‘We certainly will not!’ she said. ‘Only bigots and haters want to hang out with tired, patriarchal stereotypes like you.’
And she slammed the door in Little Miss Giggles’s face.