Have I told you about the night I spent at an inner-city Melbourne backpackers? Probably not. Given that it was an experience I’d rather forget, I doubt I’ve told anyone – until now.
Call it one of those crazy mid-life crisis events, but I decided to ditch the rellies I was visiting in the ’burbs, and head into town to mix with other travellers.
It didn’t start well. The young man on reception was so busy chatting up the gorgeous 20-something French woman checking in that he actually managed my check-in without actually looking at, or even speaking to, me! That night, in the hostel lounge (it was 11pm and I’d just come back from a movie), I made the mistake of saying ‘sweet dreams’ to a couple of pyjama-clad girls sitting on a sofa… The looked pityingly at me and said they’d just got out of bed and were heading into town to go clubbing. In the bustling breakfast room next morning, not a soul spoke to me – which was when I did a stock take of my fellow backpackers and discovered I was the only one who was over 50. Go figure!
The way I see it, if you’re not going to become bitter and twisted about mid-life ‘invisibility’ it needs to be treated as a fret-or-forget situation. Either you get yourself in a futile tangle of resentment over the fact you’re no longer grabbing the attention of younger men and women or you step into their shoes and see yourself the way they do. No, you absolutely should not be ignored by them, and if you are, you’ve every right to be furious. But analyse the situation a little further and you’ll probably discover the attention you’re seeking from younger people is an acknowledgement of your own sexual attractiveness. And when, in your own youth, did you find someone 25 years older than yourself attractive?
If you want to be less invisible to younger people, forget about fluttering your eyelashes or making some gawky admiring comment. Be yourself and engage them at a real level. Exude confidence with a smile, a laugh, and bright, lively voice. I should have asked the guy at the backpacker’s reception a few engaging questions instead of accepting his on-going conversation with the French backpacker. I should have laughed when the girls in PJs told me they were heading out clubbing at midnight – and joked that I come along as their chaperone (who knows, they might have invited me!). Sitting in a corner in the breakfast room was asking to be ignored. There were tables where travellers were studying maps on their i-phones. I could have asked for some tips on the best places they’d been to in Melbourne. In hindsight, I know it would have opened up a conversation.
Most young people are, and always have been, the same. They’re unsure how to behave around older people. They’re as shy of us as we are of them. Just like us, they want to be asked about themselves. It’s just that they may not have the skills to initiate conversation. Take the lead and you’ll soon find you’re not as invisible as you thought you were. You may not be as sexually attractive to a younger person as you want to be but if that’s your only interest in them – isn’t it time you grew up!