Most people move to Las Vegas buoyant with anticipation, but I arrived feeling depressed and deflated. I had just blown out the last flicker of hope for my marriage, and it was obvious that southwest Utah, where I’d been living for the previous 10 months, was no place for a hell-raising aging nymph like me. Although I missed my family back in the dreary Northeast, I couldn’t bear to return there, and so I landed in Las Vegas as a newly single, 45-year-old grandmother.
Even in the best of circumstances, middle age can be a trying time for women. Do a Google search and you’ll find countless books, articles and blogs lamenting that once women turn 40, they start to become invisible – not just to men, but to society in general. In our youth-obsessed culture, they say, gals my age are no longer considered attractive, so we remain under the radar, as if the world stops seeing us as part of humanity.
I never quite bought into that “Invisible Woman Syndrome” and I fancy myself as the type who would bloom wherever she’s planted. But there’s nothing like a divorce to send your self-esteem to the crapper, and I wondered whether I could handle living among the beautiful people I imagined inhabiting Las Vegas. Certainly all the women would look half their age, I thought, with tanned and toned bodies and flowing, long blonde hair. With that as my competition, I wondered if I would ever score a date. I doubted my worthiness to live in such a hip and happening place and felt that perhaps my turn to feel invisible had finally come.
Five and a half years later, I’m happy to report that my self-esteem remains fully intact. Sure, images of seductive beauties plastered all over town can taunt an aging ego, but I’ve found the key to staying visible and vital is to embrace the Sin City culture and join in the fun.
For example, since Las Vegas is the cleavage capital of the world (and believe me, it is), I say take a trip to Ross Dress for Less and indulge yourself with some trendy tops with plunging necklines. And don’t despair if you boast a mere A cup – thanks to today’s superior padded bra and underwire technology, anyone can have a fantastic Vegas rack, at any age. For me, breasts are an accessory: I put them on when I’m heading out on the town, and at the end of the night they’re back in the drawer and I’m sleeping on my stomach. Try that with implants.
Admittedly, the standards are higher here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, the ads on the taxicabs presenting a lineup of shapely derrieres in thongs can tug at my insecurities, but that’s just the incentive I need to pop in a “Buns of Steel” video the minute I get home. Remember, it’s sweltering here for most of the year, which means there’s no hiding under layers of clothing like you can in the colder climates.
I also take full advantage of the fact that in Las Vegas it’s perfectly acceptable to wear clothes that play with your flirty side – even to work (only here!). Just keep in mind that sometimes what you wear in Vegas should stay in Vegas. The first time I went back to Albany, N.Y., flaunting my new cleavage-accentuating wardrobe, I mortified my adult children to the point that they begged, “Mom, please! Put those away!”
But what if you think you don’t have a flirty side? Well, Vegas is the place to find it! It doesn’t matter if you were a high school geek or a shrinking violet, here, people meet you as you are today, with no preconceptions of the person you used to be; that’s one of the benefits of living in a transient destination. Soon after I settled in, I began performing stand-up comedy at an open-mike stage, something I never would have done in a place where everyone had known me for 40 years. But I figured, if not here, then where? And what could be more visible than performing on stage?
Overall, Las Vegas is surprisingly unpretentious and the people convey the vibe that judgment only gets in the way of a good time. Offer a stranger a welcoming smile and minutes later you’ll have a new friend. Age truly is just a number here. As for the dating scene, I’ve found that overall, men actually prefer the company of women their own age, though if you’re so inclined, a lot of younger guys seem to be looking for a willing cougar to fulfill their Mrs. Robinson fantasies.
In my experience, most people here appreciate it when you do the best you can with what you have to work with. Granted, I don’t spend much time in Vegas’ “beautiful people” hot spots; at 51, I’m not about to parade around the pool at the Palms among the 22-year-old bathing beauties. I can get away with a lot, but if anyone saw me in a bikini, they would definitely wish I were invisible!