‘12th of January 1967,’ I mutter sheepishly in the phone.
Why do these service providers ask for dates of birth, anyway? Does our electricity or phone usage have age-relevant meter numbers corelating with the invoices we pay?
My date of birth may roll eyes with innuendos, but it does not roll off the top of my tongue. If it earned me a feather in any one of my caps, I’d be more open about it. But the etiquette of not asking a woman her age has been created for a reason. Only when we reach a certain age, however, do we expect this etiquette to apply. Are we contributing to our own stereotype?
Covid, and its demand for computer savviness has gagged Baby Boomers and Gen X women further. Not all women, though, think shushing their age under the carpet, is the way. Feminist writer Phillipa Willits wonders why we are ‘still… keep(ing) quiet about this arbitrary number’ (2013). Some might respond with, a Covid demand for an elite technology repertoire, that’s why. This virus has created a need for distance employment which has created a need for more advanced computer skills. By reputation, ‘this arbitrary number’ (Willits, 2013) is less capable than Gen Y’s and Z’s in technology. So, even when we make mistakes that the young have also made, our age is the first thing that we blame, even in humour. Is admitting to our birth day, admitting that we are inferiorly skilled with the apps, programs and cyber knowledge of the current times? With our quinquagenarian shushing, we give the answer.
We keep our age in our throat. A lump that we can’t swallow and can’t spit out. Even I, someone who got her first degree at 42 and just finished her third, find myself shushing about my age. I’m not forthright about it because I believe it can penalise me. Society has a tendency of blaming women for getting older as if we have a say in the matter. It can discredit us because we weren’t superhuman enough to stay young. Speaking to working women my age, it has occurred to me that we are not helping our own situation. Instead of ‘living agefully’ by celebrating ‘all the things we have done and been’, as writer Ashton Applewhite suggests in her Manifesto Against Ageism (2019), we are confirming that age is a barrier by concealing ours. Disclosure could be the first step to overcoming the age barrier. If we take pride in our glimmering life story; if we own our presence like a parent at their child’s concert, ‘Here I am. I’m here/I’m 54’, it might allure society to notice. To also notice that we do hold our own in this technology driven COVID world and we are doing okay.
As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow puts it in his poem ‘Morituri Salutamus’, ‘age is… youth itself though in another dress’ (1874). We have less collagen but more character in our faces. Less energy but more spirit. Less nonchalance but more discipline. We’re not subordinate to our youth but evolved from it. Yet I do not always admire my own ‘dress’ (Longfellow, 1874) and have allowed the Covid technology boom to spook me into losing some confidence. So much, that a request by my service provider for a mere account verification with my date of birth makes me squirm. If we can expose this as a fallacy, especially to ourselves, maybe society will also see that we are not dinosaurs. This ‘other dress’ (Longfellow, 1874) is like every dress code, perfect for the time we wear it.
Removing the shackles of age would serve society better too. Life is short, so limiting its prime to 39, gives us 21 adult years to make our mark and more than half of our lives to feel old. I’m tired of googling ‘late bloomers’ for inspiration. I resent having to cling to fellow mature achievers for dear life. And why are we called ‘late bloomers’ anyway? Our punctuality is not in question. What age would we have been on time? Our 20’s? Our 30’s? Does anyone know? Julia Child and Grandma Moss would be insulted to be remembered as tardy. At 49 and 75 respectfully, they’d be remembered as perfectly punctual if we spoke up about age.
In a zeitgeist that demands equality and applauds pursuits for individuality, there are rare protests for ageism. And I know why. It’s because many of us believe in it. We have few vigilantes, having been conditioned to think we are passed our best. We stop being ambitious and our mantra becomes ‘if only…’ and ‘if I was 20 years younger…’ and when something like COVID comes along, we question ourselves.
We’re robbing the world of all that we can achieve in the second half of our lives by listening to our inner voices. As a result, society believes that we are content to rest on our laurels or regrets. We are feeding what we hate: our reputation of being past our prime. We’ve spent too much time looking away from our own faces and no time admiring our ‘dress’ (Longfellow, 1874). We remind society of the dreaded day when it too will turn 40 and will feel like its best years are behind it. Instead of succumbing to this future, why not change it and minds so that we have more time to bloom.
We are not expired. ‘If only’ we utilised age, fully.
Applewhite, A (2019). This Chair Rocks: A manifesto against ageism. Great Britain:
Longfellow, H (1874). Morituri Sautamus. Retrieved 14 April 2021 from
Willitts, P (2013). You never ask a lady her age. The f word contemporary UK
feminism.Retrieved 14 April 2021 from https// thefword .org .uk