Shelley Bridgeman 's Opinion

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Do you lie about your age?

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Do you try and hide how old you really are?Photo / Thinkstock
Do you try and hide how old you really are?Photo / Thinkstock

Fudging our age is a time-honoured tradition. In your teens you'd typically add a year or two - usually to ensure access to licensed premises or else just to appear generally more mature and wise.

Some women of a certain age, often somewhere in their 50s, can become very evasive, and almost obsessed with minimising and lying about their chronological age.

Being creative about your age is a practice said to be rife on internet dating sites.
There's many a woman who thinks 47 sounds way more desirable than 51 which is all very well if the relationship doesn't progress beyond one or two dates - but what happens if something long-term develops: do you front up or do you keep the charade alive?

What motivates us to lie about our age? Is it driven by vanity, shame or simply the awareness that society places such a high value on youthfulness? Perhaps it's for practical reasons such as to snag a man or to get a job. And if a tangible benefit is being achieved, does it make the prevarication even less acceptable?

In Are there benefits in lying about your age? it was reported that a Texan actress is suing Amazon and the IMDB for listing her age as 40. Never mind the fact that it's true; evidently it was having a negative impact on her career to the tune of US$75,000.

Of course, the older you get the less likely it is that your age will come up in polite conversation; that is, until you're 80 and it seems to become acceptable once again. I can't remember the last time anyone asked me my age. (Probably because that's supposed to be about the rudest question you can ask a woman.) But in order not to be one of those women who are embarrassed about it I'll sometimes volunteer my age to give the impression it's no big deal - when really I'm not loving being past my best-before date. (By the way, it's 47 - the bona fide 47, not the dating site 47.)

Being coy about your age - and refusing to reveal it - is almost certain to backfire. It can make people talk about it behind your back and speculate that if someone is that sensitive about disclosing her age then she must be really ancient. Drawing attention to your age and making people hypothesise about it could see them adding 10 years to what they would have thought your age was had you not been so precious about it.

Alternatively, it can make you wonder if the woman concerned has just aged really badly which is why she wants to throw you off the scent. Let's look at the example of a 55-year-old woman who acts all secretive about her age. You might decide that she must be older than she appears and therefore you estimate her age as between 60 and 65. Or else you'll assume she must look older than she is, in which case you might guess that she's aged somewhere between 45 and 50. I can't figure out which of these assumptions is preferable which probably explains why I'm a big fan of trying to be truthful.

Is lying about your age just creative accounting - or something more sinister? Have you ever lied about your age? Are women more likely than men to do so? What are the benefits of such fibbing - and what are the pitfalls?

Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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