“Age ain’t nothing but a number.” Not just the title of an Aaliyah album, but a cliche spoken by young and old alike to defend their capabilities and desires. And an uncomfortable reminder that in just 81 days, yours truly will turn 30. But I’m not the only one feeling a bit shy about her age these days.
The bio for Jessica Chastain, Academy Award nominee and star of “The Help,” lists her age as 30 and her birth year as 1981. Trouble is, Chastain went to high school with former American Idol contestant Mandisa, who recently revealed that Chastain is actually 35. How helpful of her.
Now, it’s true that Chastain has never expressly stated that she is 30. She’s dodged the question of age in most interviews by accusing the questioner of being impolite. However, her official bios on IMDB and Wikipedia all say 30, so careful verbiage aside, the girl’s been indirectly lying about her age for awhile now.
It’s not difficult to understand why a female actress whose star is on the rise wouldn’t want to be type cast as approaching middle age. After all, Hollywood is a traditionally cruel place for women to grow older. But Hollywood isn’t the only place where women conceal their biographical information.
Facebook kindly allows users to obscure the year from their birthdays. The Telegraph found that lying about your age was the second most common untruth told by women with online dating profiles (the first was shaving a few pounds off of their weight.) And in this difficult job market, some people are concealing their age on their resumes so that they don’t fall prey to the curse of being an older jobseeker.
I know a number of women inside and outside of D.C. who fudge the numbers on their ages. My Father’s secretary was 29 for the whole of the 1990s. In fact, she only stopped claiming to be 29, when I turned 29. (She had once been my babysitter, so even with my poor math skills that one didn’t compute.)
A former co-worker of mine has carefully concealed her age from nearly everyone who knows her. There doesn’t seem to be anyone who knows her actual age. Even the people who went to law school with her are clueless. And since she looks exactly the same now as she did when I met her eight years ago, that secret won’t be revealed until someone chisels it onto a headstone.
As for myself, someone asked me last week how old I was, and my first instinct was to answer, “Somewhere between 21 and a Wal-Mart greeter.” It’s not that I’m uncomfortable about being 30. Okay, that’s a lie. I’m squirming like a harlot in church over it, but despite my emotional qualms, I know that it’s not such a big deal.
Or, at least, I know that it wouldn’t be if I didn’t feel like the oldest person on Capitol Hill. Perhaps, if I worked in a normal environment where the middle and upper managers weren’t still blowing the ink dry on their college diplomas, I wouldn’t be able to relate to Chastain’s problem. But given that my Monday lunch meeting (an LA from a Southern office) just turned 23, I totally understand her desire to give her birth certificate a bit of a makeover.
The trouble is, powerful women in their 40s, 50s and 60s are constantly espousing the glory of embracing your age. “50 is the new 30,” they say. “Age is a gift,” they say. But as my friend K said recently, “It’s easy for post-menopausal women to tell us to embrace our ages. Without the ringing of your biological clock, age becomes a much easier pill to swallow.”
Whether you embrace your age or wince every time someone adds a candle to your birthday cake, it’s hard to deny that America is an ageist culture. So today’s question is two-fold: 1) Have you ever lied about your age (up or down)? and 2) Do you lose respect for a woman who lies about her age? Leave your answers in the comments.