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Don’t Ask My Age

Updated on October 19, 2012

“A woman can keep one secret - the secret of her age” - Voltaire

At a recent meeting of our bonsai club one of the male members had the audacity to ask me how old I am. Before I had a chance to think how best to avoid answering his question, his wife butted in.

“Mind your own business,” she said.

He persisted.

So did she.

When finally I got a chance to speak, I told him she had given the right answer. But why was it the right answer? Why are women so reluctant to reveal their age?

In my case, it’s a habit I acquired from my mother. I imagine she got it from hers.

But there’s more to it than that. Part of my reluctance to reveal my age comes from my own feelings of inadequacy. I still live with my parents. I don't have a man in my life. Despite having spent my whole life believing that my main purpose was to have children, I have to accept the truth. Whatever else the future holds in store for me, I will never be a mother. I could go on…

So it’s only natural that I would want people to think I'm younger than I really am. And some people certainly do.

Last year a business acquaintance wanted to match me up with her son. When she told me his age, I knew I had to decline the offer. At that stage she suddenly thought to ask my age, but of course I wasn't telling. Looking back now, I wish I'd asked her how old she was. But that’s not my style.

A few years ago I went to a high school reunion. I was surrounded by reminders of my own failures. These people who were once a part of my daily life had achieved things I could only dream of. Some had children approaching adulthood, who were already achieving great things too. All I had was shattered dreams. And everyone knew how old I was!

Putting this down on paper has been a revelation. I think I've finally figured out why I don't want to tell anyone how old I am. I don't want to be reminded of the wasted years. At times I feel like I'm still a child with great things in front of me. But when I'm forced to face my own reality, sometimes I feel really old.


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    • Gina145 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from South Africa

      I agree that we should not be pushed into other people's stereotypes, whether about age or anything else. We are all individuals and should base our choices on how we feel and what we like, not on what society expects of us. Just as long as we're not harming other people in the process.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      My reason for not telling anyone my age has nothing at all to do with shame. I like being young but somewhat mature with some life experiences, that is how I see myself, so I am personally very fine with my own age on the rare occasions that I think of it. But I also almost never think about my age, and most of the time can't remember what it is. I have always felt and looked young, no one can guess my age even when they really try, and I believe that my seeing myself as young and not thinking of my age is one of the things that keeps me young. I actually stopped telling my age to others when I was 27; at that time I looked anything from 17 to 23 depending on the viewer, and I was a university student living in student residences as I do much of the time now, too. Although everyone thought I was younger than my age and around the average uni age, one guy asked me my age and when I told him, he said, quite seriously, "You're reeeeeally oooold". I knew I was young, not old, I knew we all age differently, so it was then that I decided to no longer tell my age since I wanted to stay young in the way that I perceive myself and not be pushed into other people's stereotypes of how I should be.

      People have all kinds of ideas of how someone should be according to their age, and I have never fit into any of these, or other sorts of stereotypes either. So many people allow society to push them into grooves rather than being the way they were actually meant to be according to what they are on the inside. My mother has never told her age, and she and my father have always looked years younger. My mother also has not follow the rules outlined for her by society but has a very special and unique life. I have learned my attitude from her.

      The best way to stay young and healthy is to be the age that you feel, and the best way to preserve that is to not give out the chronological information to others. There's all kinds of attitudes out there, including competition, insecurities, jealousy, and just other ways of seeing things that don't fit our own. It is not necessary to give them very important parts of out identities so that they can assess them as they wish and then try to push us to internalize that assessment to make themselves feel better.

      Don't know if I quite explained it the way I think it, but this is my reason and it won't change. I don't see myself as a chronological age but as a person. And most of us know anyway that chronological and biological age can be vastly different.

    • Gina145 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from South Africa

      Nell Rose, that's a very clever way to handle the question. I don't actually get asked often. Today I had my eyes tested so I really did have to give the right answer, but that was the exception.

      Oh, and of course Rain Defence has just asked, so that's twice in one day. So how old do I look on my profile photo?

    • Rain Defence profile image

      Rain Defence 

      5 years ago from UK

      So how old are you?

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Hi Gina, you do have good points here, I totally feel for you because sometimes I look at the other people from school etc and wonder where the heck I go wrong. Heres a tip for you though, what I always say when a guy asks how old I am. I say, how old do you think I am? if he guesses older, then I walk away, but if he says, 40, 41? I say, oh aren't you clever? lol! 53 really! that way it makes them look good, and you get away without saying it!

    • Gina145 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks, xstatic. I've reached a stage in my life where I'm not sure I could turn my life around to that extent. I'm far too set in my ways. Maybe I'll get lucky and meet a single man with children, but I'm not counting on it.

      I'm glad things worked out so well for you with your adoption. It must be so rewarding to help a child in need.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      5 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Gina, While I did not become a Captain of Industry and have not written, let alone published a Great American Novel, I did beome a parent at age 48. We adopted a two day old child, now 24, out of college and she even has a job. While that marriage did not last, and her (adoptive) mom died when she was six, I am so glad that I did all that, even being a single parent for several years.

      Don't give up hope. Is there a mature singles group where you live or a Parents without Partners chapter maybe?

      Keep writing and keep hoping.

    • Gina145 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for your kind comments. I'm not quite sure why I wrote this Hub except that it was one of those things that insisted on being written when I was trying to sleep. I wasn't expecting it to get so personal.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 

      5 years ago from uk

      I want to give you a hug now! At the start of your hub, I did wonder why you were so defensive, but, as you say, you may have answered your own question. I don't mind being asked my age, except that I have to stop and think, it has little relevence to most things.


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