People’s eyes start sliding off you when you hit about 50. Man or woman, one becomes invisible, negrified, and it requires some assertion to be seen and heard at all. My Old Hell Freezes Over Friend and I decided 25 years ago to make non-threatening eye contact with every person of color we passed on the sidewalk, for those very reasons. I remember running into a guy sitting on the steps of my apartment building in D.C., hundreds of people passing him within inches on the sidewalk, well-dressed, not exactly panhandling but in obvious distress, not least of it around his invisibility. He said to me, You’re the only person who has looked at me all afternoon. I remember walking Acey on the pedestrian path in Rock Creek Park, and stepping off the path as a clot of runners came toward us. They weren’t running together, and the guy at the head of the pack was a black man. He was frowning as he approached, apparently because a white woman and her dog had lept off the path as he approached. I made appropriate eye contact and said, Good morning, and his face broke into a smile like the sun’s.

It’s one reason, I have realized, for the decision some old babes make to become polychrome — Iris Apfel being the goddess of the polychrome old babes. I think she probably dressed like that all her life. It’s a way of making yourself exist by getting people to look at you. The old babes street fashion blog, Advanced Style is just getting to that ontological point.

Old Babe Iris Apfel

It can be clownish, however. It certainly violates Edith Wharton’s sharp-eyed stricture to the effect that dressing as if you were ugly is just as wrong as dressing as if you were beautiful.

Certainly no one need have confessed such acquiescence in her lot as was revealed in the “useful” colour of Gerty Farish’s gown and the subdued lines of her hat: it is almost as stupid to let your clothes betray that you know you are ugly as to have them proclaim that you think you are beautiful.

It gets harder to leave the house. Everything is beautiful in here.