I won't lie. I look like a child. I get told I am lucky and that when I am 40 I will appreciate it but it really isn't that great. When I answer the door without makeup people ask me if my mother is home. I always have to bring my driver's licence to the supermarket and I have had to abandon my dreams of wearing anything with a peter pan collar. Worst of all, I constantly wonder if people would take me more seriously if I looked the age I really am. Yet I am in my mid twenties.
Or am I?
Because of the disparity between how old I look and how old I am, I can get away with some pretty damn ridiculous answers to the question "how old are you?" And believe me, I take full advantage of what is otherwise, in most cases, a disadvantage. I lie about my age.
You can be evasive about it and say "you shouldn't ask a lady her age!" Or get clever about it with phrases such as "as old as my tongue and a little bit older than my teeth" - but sooner or later someone will want an actual, numerical answer.
So there's the issue. If someone demands an answer, and you don't want them to know your actual age, you lie.
And most of us do. A survey by Marketwatch revealed that a fifth of women admitted to lying about their age on dating sites. The other four fifths probably just didn't want to admit to it.
But the tradition of lying about your age has been around much longer than dating sites and is likely as old as age itself.
Walt Disney forged a birth certificate to be a year older in order to serve in World War I.
Sandra Bullock's birth year was given as 1965, 1966, and 1967 until 1997, when Vanity Fair discovered that her true birth year was 1964.
At her interview for That 70s Show, 14 year old Mila Kunis said that she wasn't 18 (the required age) yet, but didn't tell them her actual age. She got the part of Jackie Burkhart and met her now-husband Ashton Kutcher.
In order to go to school earlier, Kalpana Chawla changed her date of birth by a year. She later became the first woman of Indian origin to go into space.
The interesting thing about these examples is that not all of the people lying about their age are making themselves younger. And not all of them are lying for vanity, but as means to positive ends.
Even if you were to dismiss actresses who shave years off of their age (such as Sandra Bullock) as vain, you must admit there is a climate that asks them to do it.
A woman in Hollywood can expect to reach her peak (and receive the most roles of her career) at age 30, while an actor in the same position will peak at 45 according to time magazine.
Similarly, 53% of all male characters were over 40, while female characters over 40 made up just 30% of all female characters. On top of that, a 40 year old character is usually played by an actress in her 30s - making it even harder to be a woman who has a fixed birth year in Hollywood.
And the pattern continues into real life, where the gender pay gap widens with age.
So it is little wonder women lie about their age more than men do.
There are no rules to lying about your age. You don't even need a reason. Yet in a world where we are so harshly punished for aging, and we (still) don't have all the same privileges that men do, can it hurt to simply not give a number?
Like a good wrinkle cream, the younger you start, the more effective it will be later.
Even just for the mystery or fun of it, we need every leg up (or simple joy) that we can get. So take the current year, subtract your birth year and forget the final number and pick one you like. We won't tell.
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