by Laura Sillerman

Last Saturday evening, my friend whom I shall call Cathy was invited to a couple’s anniversary party by a friend she’s known since kindergarten. “Sarah” and “Jeff” had been together for a decade and wanted their friends to join them in their celebration of this milestone.

About halfway through the cocktail hour, Jeff made an announcement: “There’s been a little snag in the kitchen,” he said. “We’ll need to kill some time. So, Sarah and I think we might as well get married.”

Sweet and touching, no? Yes. And as Cathy tells it, everyone was just so happy for them.

You’d think this would be the kind of story that Women’s Voices for Change would bugle off the rooftops. “Mature Woman Takes Risk of Marrying After 10 Successful Years of Co-Habitation.” The problem is, Sarah put an announcement in the newspaper and pushed her age down by 10 years.

It’s terrific that Sarah, at age 62, feels she looks like a 52-year-old. But what’s wrong with 62 — particularly when your new husband is over 65?

Let’s dish about this. When it comes to your age, do you lie? Why? If not, why not? Remember, you don’t need to submit your real name, if you don’t want to, but maybe it would feel great if you did.

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  • Cynthia Samuels March 12, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    I never lie about my age although, when I turned 60 last year I was bummed for the first time. Got through thirty, forty and fifty with a festive nonchalance but this one was different. Really meant being no longer “young.”
    One thing that I think makes it all much easier is that I have friends of almost every age from late 20s to 80s and so feel part of a community not dependent on age. It reduces the stakes because the passage of years does not isolate one from new ideas and enthusiasms.
    Although there’s no denying the bittersweet side of aging, it’s also lovely to realize how much has been learned. I named my blog Don’t Gel Too Soon with a subtitle “There’s Always More” because I know that as long as we grow spiritually, intellectually and emotionally, we age with grace.

  • Carolyn Hahn March 12, 2007 at 8:34 pm

    It’s interesting that both you and Jane mention yoga (Jane, stick with it!). I was thinking of this because of Laura’s response to another piece about her psyche and age still being (happily) separate.
    I find yoga is my power tool for aging: as long as I can breathe in, and breathe out (repeat as needed!) my “age” in years does not matter — I have no nostalgia for my younger self — I saw a picture of her, yesterday, thought — wow — nice bright smile {Ok, I was pretty, in a dark haired way I’ll never be again}, but stupid outfit, hair didn’t suit my face, housing situation was ridiculous,those “friends” were insane, etc. I was trying to be glamorous. Now I’m not trying to be anything, thanks.
    The most recent picture taken of me was on a tugboat on the Rondout (a childhood friend’s husband had bought one — sleeps 16 — uncomfortably — if anyone’s interested) and despite the fact that it flooded and for half the day we couldn’t even get back onto said tugboat, I was happy — and it shows in the photo. Find me a photo of me before age 40 in which I smiled a smile that happy to be doing something so “uncool”!

  • jennifer willis March 12, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    “love is the willingness to recognize that which is real.” I have always been interested in the definition of “love,” and my understanding of the nature of love has changed so much since i was young. When i heard my teacher say this at the yoga teacher training i attended 5 years ago it resonated deeply with me.
    Lying about one’s age is a way of distancing oneself from the real. It’s a distraction from being fully embodied in one’s real experience — a way of keeping apart from the here and now. I don’t think Love is a commodity or an object we can possess. It’s a state of being brought on by letting go of our illusions (the stories we make up about ourselves that separate us from others, and from our truer nature) so we can really feel alive.
    I think when we are able to experience this sense of our own reality then we open into our capacity to love — starting with the capacity to love ourselves. This is a lifelong endeavor … something we have to work on daily, in little ways.
    I think our aging bodies — the physical manifestation of change — are one way we can work to “recognize the real.” When i see the grey hair, the lines or feel the stiffness in my back, the challenge is to allow myself to be with all of that change … and to move with it. I think that’s how we gain insight into what life really is.
    So when people ask me my age … I pause, take a breath and say “50.” I often find myself smiling as I say it. It feels like coming home.

  • Jane Finalborgo March 7, 2007 at 8:08 pm

    “We grow neither better nor worse as we grow old, but more like ourselves.”
    –May Lamberton Becker
    I don’t know who May Becker is, but I like the above. I’m not sure this is happening to me, but it’s a goal to work for: Becoming more like myself. If I can accomplish that, maybe getting old is not so bad. Being comfortable in my own skin is more important to me than looking good in it. But, I do hate those age spots and sagging pouches. I would never lie about my age — 57. I’m glad to have made it this far. Someone in a comment above mentioned having a sense of humor about growing older. That’s a must. That and having good friends.

  • Carolyn Hahn March 7, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Ha. “But you don’t look…” Talk about a back handed compliment. No, honey, I may look younger, but why don’t you just finish the sentence: “…than you REALLY, are, the AGE AT WHICH NOBODY WOULD BE ATTRACTED TO YOU.” Thank you.
    PS: I meant “brazillian waxing” up there, not bikini waxing–just because the former seems like yet another form of OCC nuttiness for any of the things about being human/female [although if you do it & love it, that’s nice–have fun–I just don’t feel like jumping on the bandwagon to be physically “perfect” in that Penthouse centerfold way that passes for officially sexy these days]. And second PS: I’m full of baloney to say if I lost a breast to cancer, no biggie, I’d be fine. I would not be fine. But I would like to hope that I have a partner who would not dump me over
    it, or the “dowager’s hump” [nice phrase, huh?] I may get some day, or whatever else aging has in store for my thinning bones.

  • Linda Gibbs March 7, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    Isn’t it a shame that our culture makes us “mature” women feel as if we have to hide our age? But people do make assumptions and don’t you love it when someone says, “Oh, you don’t look….” Do they do that to men? Anyway I generally keep it to myself, but maybe I don’t need to do so!

  • Carolyn Hahn March 6, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    Leslie, that’s such a good point: the taking care of yourself part is what saves it. If you are doing the things that make you feel strong, like yoga, or whatever, it provides a base to face society’s condescension about older women. because let’s face it, men get old, too! When you like yourself, when you can take care of yourself, when you’re not looking for a man to rescue your from youself, but to be a partner, there’s an acceptance of each other and aging is a part of that. The woman Laura mentions is getting maried but has taken year off her age—it makes me think of when I was younger,and worried that if I got sick, or disfigured, nobody would be there for me. Well, at the time, I wouldn’t have been there for myself, because I was too darn young to have any. Now, if he loses his hair, so what? If I lose a breast to cancer, so what? True sexuality is in our heads. The men who want perfect young bodies…please–there’s something lonely about that. Or not. I don’t worry about them (and I don’t want them–I’d rather be alone than have a partner like that).
    But speaking of which–maybe it’s a whole ‘nother topic–just as we don’t need to be the bikini wax version of Barbie (maybe it’s generational–I’m 48 and they say the whole bikini waxing thing skews a few decades younger, but you know what I mean), I wonder if we need to let go of thinking the man needs to be tall, dark, etc? Or make more money than we do? How many of us hold ourselves back from finding partners who would really be there for us because of things like that? If we want to be and look our age, don’t we need to let go of some of the stereotypes we have of what men should look like?

  • Leslie Horan Simon March 6, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    I’m 53, born in 1953 and I was told that Diamonds are a girls best friend and a woman never tells her true age. No one asks and no one tells.
    From what I could see the women I grew up around began to have a lot of trouble once they hit their forties since their focus had always been the men in thier lives. I was very clear that I was taking a different path and that men, looks and age would not be defining for me. I have stuck with that. I don’t bleach my teeth or dye my hair, I’m naturally thin though I have hips and a tummy. I am active to be happy. That’s it.
    I’ve earned my stripes and I want to model to my 13 year old daughter that real women are beautiful when they are themselves. I take care of myself to be sure, I like to look well but it’s a simple part of my life, not a focus.

  • Carolyn Hahn March 4, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    Interesting topic…to me, not being able to spit out your age seems like a sad commentary on one’s worldview, as if you’d be rejected if they REALLY knew. If WHO really knew? Some guy our own age who is looking for someone half his? Real men aren’t scared of women their own age.
    I still remember when I stopped dying my hair. I think I was 41, which, coincidentally, was a year before my period blipped to a stop. Just like that–couple of years of spotty, then…not at all. But my grey hair had foreshadowed even that [slightly premature] shutdown by a few years and I’d kept dumping dye on it, hoping to COVER IT UP. Cover what up? That I was getting older? The hair dye became a metaphor–I could never quite get it right, it kept SHOWING…creeping back, faster than I could keep up with it, plus, in certain light, you could always tell it was dyed. OK, so you should have spent more and gotten a better job done, Carolyn. But when I finally just let it go grey (OK, salt and pepper), it revealed a new me, one I hadn’t even realized was in there, one with a better sense of humor about getting older. This is it–it’s not just salt and pepper,it’s short and spiky. Goodbye to years o’ long hair that had to be tortured into straightness lest it drown my wee face (it did anyway).
    So…too long post, but yes, it’s a relief to be able to be whatever age you are. Life’s too short to keep hiding out from yourself. Let it go…

  • Phyllis August, MD February 12, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    I love telling anyone who asks (and many who don’t) my age – 54; I get a kick out of their reactions (the whole spectrum). It’s fun.

  • Gina February 4, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    I must say, I find lying about one’s age a sign of immaturity — just like telling the little white lies about your accomplishments, etc. At some point, life is what life is — and you are what you are. It’s about appreciating the present — not living in a symbolic world.

  • Dr. Pat Allen February 3, 2007 at 5:56 pm

    I grew up in the usual dysfunctional family in the South (is that redundant?). For starters, no one had a birthday party. And, to compound the problem, my birthday, December 21, was so close to Christmas that I was always the recipient of the Happy Birthday/Merry Christmas gift.
    I have always been in love with my birthday, coming as it does on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. I felt so very special. I have always honored my day of birth and, as in so many things that I do my way, I vowed that when I was grown up, I would never wait for someone else to arrange a birthday party for me.
    I went to Paris for my 40th, taking 16 friends along, for a hedonistic delight. It took me a decade to pay for that one! I celebrated my 42nd at EAT in New York, a second home for my children and me throughout their childhood. I invited 42 guests, natch, and instructed everyone to look really nifty. All the men were especially gorgeous. Why not? It was my party.
    At 43, I gave my last big birthday party — 100 guests in a downtown gallery, from 9 -midnight. All the women were told to wear something too short, too tight and obviously black. The men were in black tie. It was a fabulous setting. The food was great. The band was too much fun. But, I had to give my own toast. As I raised my glass of champagne to toast my guests for their generosity of time on my birthday, I realized at that moment that my marriage was over. And that perhaps the insistent though incredibly fun celebrations were for the child who would never have a party. And that it was time to take a break from birthday parties.
    Now I am 59, and I will be 60 December 21. I am giving myself 12 birthday parties. I am choosing to reconnect to people that I love and to create a fantasy every month. Tea at the Ritz with brilliant conversationalists, a box at the opera with family in formal dress, theater for 10 to see “The Year of Magical Thinking” … Joan Didion, Vanessa Redgrave … my heart stops.
    I love my age. This is what 60 really can be. I know that this sounds too self-aggrandizing, but I am a role model for what is possible. And I pay for this by ALWAYS TELLING MY AGE. I am healthy. I am happy. I look great. I have a fantastic love life with a really charismatic and much younger guy.
    I am determined, as I urge all of you to do, to celebrate the real number, but redefine it. The 21st-century 60- year-old woman, who has some good fortune, is smart, witty, funny, seductive and still hot. Do not let that most toxic of all emotions — shame, about your very own age — define you. To the barricades, silver- and red-headed foxes! 60 is the best.

  • Susan G. January 31, 2007 at 2:21 am

    I don’t lie about my age, but I confess to taking (non-surgical) steps to conceal it (hair color – check; pocelain veneers – check). These are things women (and men) of all ages do, so I tend not to think of them as “age-defying,” but they do make me look younger than my years.
    What? My years? Oh, yes. 67 and counting.

  • faith childs January 30, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    I confess I don’t get it, the urge to lie about one’s age, that is. What’s the point?
    Being the age we are means most of all living with authenticity in all the ways that matter. One of the principal things that matter is being honest about who we are.
    I think it is critical to claim every one of those years. Most of the women I know do so. I won’t make the case that we never lie, but not about things that matter, not about definitional things. It’s simply too important.
    I’d like to believe that were I motivated to shave a few years off my age, one of my authentic friends would take me to task to find out what was wrong with my math.

  • Elizabeth Hemmerdinger January 30, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    A friend died suddenly a week ago at 54. At 61 I’m healthy and glad to be alive with tolerable aches and pains. And I’d hate to be living a lie. But maybe that’s just me; and after 38 years of marriage (to the same guy) I’m not in any position to pass judgement about adjusting truths. Truth is, there’s plenty my husband doesn’t know about me.