Thursday, May 13, 2010

Owning Our Age

As we prepare to celebrate my son’s college graduation next week, I find myself pondering the eternal irony of young people chafing at what they perceive to be the constraints of their youth, straining forward into adulthood whose travails they know not, while older people look back fondly upon the freedoms of those earlier years and yearn for their lost innocence (and firm bodies).

Last weekend asked an acquaintance I’d met several times how old she was, thinking she’d be a fascinating subject for an article I was thinking of pitching to some publications skewed to a 50+ readership.  She looked at me cagily and said, “Why are you asking?” I explained, and she said, seemingly lightly but definitely wounded, no, 50 was “a long way away.”  I started backpedaling like a bicyclist at the edge of a cliff, babbling, “Oh, I didn’t think so, but I just thought I’d give it a shot,” and “I’ll check back with you for those markets in what, 10, 15, 25 years?”  (The latter of which would have made her an impossible infant).  I fled shortly thereafter.

Honestly, I’ve lost my ability to tell people’s age. I find myself thinking some guy’s cute when I’m out and then am horrified to realize he’s my son’s age.  Ditto with some hot male actors; I think they’re my peers and they turn out to be 28 or have just hit the huge milestone of say 35 or, god forbid, 40.

Still, I never get why women are so reluctant about telling their age.  It’s the last throwback to the (19)50s or something.  I’ll tell anyone how old I am, though the sad thing is I always have to do the math in my head to get the exact age—I remember, for example, that I am in my 50s, but is it 53 or 54? What month is this?
Half the time I make myself older by a year than I actually am because I just don’t pay that much attention to it, or am being lazy with my math.

Does the iPhone have an app for that? The “how old am I today” app?


  1. Great post Karen. I especially loved the iPhone app idea! The humor of that is tremendous! Like you I have no qualms about age-saying (truth-telling) and like you I tend to overstate; maybe it's the influence of the Chinese culture, which considers people a year older than Europeans do. After 49, who really cares about the number of years? Aren't we just lucky to be alive? And it is really challenging dealing with age with my women friends, wanting to include them as my peers, generously, for a good collective "we", only not daring to, less they be forty or thirty and not at all pleased to be included in my over-the-hill, fifty-plus year-old inclusive "we."

  2. Great post. I could totally relate. I'll tell anyone how old I am. No biggee.

    It was good meeting you at the Gaithersburg Book Festival last week. Keep on posting.