By Kerika Fields Nalty
When I turned forty-eight in March, someone asked me how old I was and I found myself faced with a conundrum: To lie, or not to lie?
On a good day, I can get away with saying forty-two. On a great day (in the right lighting with a pink lipstick and if I don’t talk too much) I can even erase a decade and declare myself thirty-eight- or at least I’d like to think so! But, just because I can, does it mean I should?
Let’s face it, ladies; we live in an age-ist society. You know how it is: A business partner, a job prospect, a handsome stranger are all excited to meet you. But once you tell them your age, especially if that age is anywhere over forty-five, things change. It’s like a calm comes over the room as you wait for it: They either stammer or say, “Wow I would have never guessed. I thought you were much younger!” or worse, they say nothing at all.
Regardless of the response, once a woman of a certain age reveals her true number, the spell is broken. People start doing the math in their heads. How old were you when you had your first kid? How come you don’t have any kids? The questions go on and on and people get distracted. Everything becomes about how old you are; it is no longer about just you.
Some think the feminist movement got its momentum in the sixties when The Pill arrived on the scene. With birth control, women could decide whether they wanted to have a child, how many or with whom. But I suspect it was actually the popularity of hair dye that really gave women The Tool to an independent lifestyle. Women were able to reinvent themselves. Women who married young then found themselves in their mid-life, divorced, or simply bored, wanted to go back to work but wondered what they would do with all that gray hair. Hair dye made it possible for women to start over, to get jobs, to support themselves and make life choices accordingly. Because no matter what people like to say, society categorizes women by their age. In our country, especially, younger is just, well, better.
So can you blame me if, once I turned forty, I started to lie about my age? Mainly it was because eight years ago, my vain, ignorant self could not even get my mouth to form the words f-f-forty. I literally had to practice saying it in front of a mirror. But now I’m facing fifty and I’m over it. It really is what it is.
Now, when it comes to lying about my age, it’s just way too much work. I have to remember if I told you the truth or not. I have to remember the year I was supposed to be born. I have to remember not to make references to the 80’s. It’s exhausting AF. I’ve discovered the key to feeling and appearing youthful is to simply be truthful.
As Coco Chanel put it:
“The mere act of falseness is aging in itself. It announces your real age more than hides it. Nothing makes a woman look so old as trying desperately hard to look young.”
So ever since my last birthday, I stopped lying about my age. That doesn’t mean I go around announcing it, especially since it really isn’t anybody’s business. And if some random person wants to assume I’m a tad younger than I actually am, I don’t go out of my way to correct them. I’ve also used the classic answer: “I’m too old for you to be asking my age.” Or, more to the point, I simply say, ”I’m over 21,” which means I’m legal. Which is really all you need to know.
But to people that matter, people that I interact with long-term, I let it be known. I’m forty-eight and I am not here for your shenanigans. I’ve found it to be quite liberating. It saves a lot of time because if whoever has a problem with my age then whatever. Everybody can keep it moving.
This is really, for me, what being truthful about my age is all about: Moving forward. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for anything else.