What if we all refused to treat age like a shameful secret or a “confession”? The world would change tomorrow. Read More
This is a wonderful article about a very tough subject matter.
I proudly own my age, and always have. I am a woman, age 54.
The women of my mom's generation (she was born in 1924) never divulged their age, and neither did she. When asked how old she was on her birthday, she'd laugh and say, "Forever 29!" So I never knew how old she really was.
Fast forward to her later years when I wanted to throw her a 70th birthday party. I called my sister with my great idea, only to be told that Mom would actually be turning 72. My sister said she'd seen our mom's driver's license in her purse and that's how she knew. I was two years too late! What a sad disappointment to have missed that big milestone.
I make it a point to tell my teenaged son exactly how old I am. I laugh with him about being an "old lady" and being forgetful. We have discussed historical events from the '60s to the 2000s as he has a U.S. History class focused on that time period. I don't want to pretend I'm younger -- and I definitely want a 70th birthday party when I'm actually 70!!
I am 55. I never, ever understood all the secretive behavior with respect to age. My Mom never engaged in that behavior (born in 1936, and my mother-in-law - born 1926 doesn't either). I was always puzzled when people hide their age! It seemed like an absolutely ridiculous and non authentic way to live.
The same people who spends precious energy to hide their age socially certainly didn't won't do that when it came time to collect their rightful government benefits though (Social Security and going on Medicare!) - so why do it in other parts of one's life?
When I was a kid and asked mum how old she was she'd always fire back with "as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth". @@ It was only one day I overheard her telling someone on the phone that she was 43 and I thought "43?! Practically prehistoric!"
I used to be shy about my age (45) until I read this comic:
It's true. People can see you're not 29 (hee hee) so you just look like a dick. If I know someone's age I can tailor my conversation with them, i.e. if they're in their 60s they would remember the Beatles, if they're in their 20s they won't remember there ever being two Germanies. If I say something like "remember when Nelson Mandela was in jail?" and I get a death glare - well, that's your fault for buying into the age-phobia. And possibly for smoking, drinking and sunbathing too much so I ASSUME you are as old as me.
I am 43 and look very young for my age. I'm often mistaken for being in my early 30's.
In office and social settings I will mention my age if it comes up in conversation. The reactions I receive from men and women are quite different. From men I simply get, "oh I though you were younger". And there's a bit of a shrug of the shoulders as they carry on with conversation.
When I mention this women I'll often receive a "you're what age!!". As they lean over to their colleague and scream to tell them how old I actually am. Then will proceed to then ask "boyfriend...married"...."what no boyfriend...not married!!?" and "no children!!??" As I struggle to continue with the conversation they'll harp on my age for next 20 minutes.
Sadly it's often other women who perpetuate the stigma of aging.
I agree that we should be open and matter-of-fact about our ages. To conceal my age (56) would entail hiding part of my life - and would require constant monitoring of what I say. (Oops, I shouldn't admit to watching the Watergate hearings on TV.... to remembering seeing the Mary Poppins movie in original release.... to having had the career I built.)
However, I think we should also stop introducing age through self-critical comments about mental and physical deterioration. Sure, the deterioration happens, but why dwell on it? Especially on the mental side, I think a lot of what we tend to blame on age actually happens at any age, but after a certain birthday we start to focus on it as the inevitable consequence of aging. For my part, I choose to believe that my memory remains what it always was (just average) and to focus on the many ways I have developed to thrive without perfect recall, like consistency on where I keep my stuff, messages to myself and lists of things to do -- which frees up brain space for more interesting things than remembering where I put my keys.
"You might not get that job..."
Right. So if I need to hedge about my age, get a professional hair-coloring, go to the gym regularly (which I want to do in any case), I can live with it.
You go on and on about this alleged "shame." Let me tell you, the pain of being severely underemployed--of not being able to practice my vocation, of living on the edge of poverty--is far far worse than any fleeting discomfort I might feel about concealing my age (which in any case is nobody's business except mine and my doctor's). You obviously don't know what you're talking about.
Your birth is a registered event and thus a matter of public record. Your employer is going to know your birthdate and your social security number so they can send their part of the SS contributions to the government. Anyone with whom you purchase insurance is going to know your birthdate too. The government knows your birthdate so they know when to dole out your earned benefits over the course of your lifetime.
There is nothing secret about a public, registered event such as a birthdate.
How you feel about it is, though.
I loved this article! I vowed before I became a mother that I would never lie about my age, or even try to hide it. I want to be a good role model for my daughter in that way. I plan to always take care of myself, to make myself look beautiful. But I don't plan to always try to look "young". I am 32, and I think that with each passing year, I become a better me. So for this reason I am proud of my age, and I always will be.
Thank you, Dr. Lerner, for bringing this to my attention. I've been practicing "age shame" and not realizing it. I'm 54, and it's time I stopped.
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Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., is best known for her work on marriage and family relationships and the psychology of women. Her book The Dance of Anger has recently been reissued.
When and how should we open up to loved ones?