Wednesday, May 20, 2009

To Lie or Not to Lie: The Age-Old Age Question

I don’t usually have time to sit around watching TV in the morning. God knows, I barely have time for my eyes to come into focus. But it was one of those mornings I was going into the office late and decided to flip on what my daughter bemoans as my “antique” of a TV set ( meaning not a flat screen, plasma screen, or high definition anything).

My luck that Lesley Jane Seymour, editor of MORE magazine, was a guest on the Early Show (CBS) and was debating the issue of whether women should lie about their age. On the other side of the issue was a youngish online dating guru (their term, not mine). Seymour emphatically argued that people in our society need to get over what amounts to penalizing women for their maturity. The guru countered that there are times—like when you’re trolling for a date online—that a little bit of subterfuge is a good thing.

The male co-hosts seemed to concur. Asked whether they’d be interested in dating a woman over fifty, they all agreed that, while age did have a strong influence on their interest, the idea of deception at the beginning of a relationship was never good. But. Oh boy, here comes the BUT, I thought. Out spewed the one-line stereotypes: “It would be okay if I wanted to spend all my time playing bridge.” Har-Har. “No problem, except she’d probably want dinner at 4:30.” Har-Har.

Lesley Jane and I had the same dumbfounded, you-are-so-pathetic expressions on our faces. Could this be the twenty-first century, and are these attitudes coming from men whose mothers were the first to embrace their sexuality with birth control and thumb-worn copies of Erica Jong’s “Fear of Flying?”

Irrational as it may be, the guys’ response, made Seymour’s point exactly. We’re neurotically age-phobic in America. See a fit, vivacious, sexy woman without knowing her age, and you see exactly what she projects. Look at her driver’s license which tells you she grew up when the Kennedys ruled the new Camelot, and watch the excitement fizzle and the you-know-what go limp. No wonder we shave a few years off when we’re putting ourselves out there in the unforgiving on-line meat market. Can anyone blame us for erasing the year we graduated from our resumes? Or telling people we’re celebrating our twenty-ninth birthday--again?

I’d like to say I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I’d like to be seen as a desirable woman at every stage of my life, not just when I’m flush with baby-making hormones. I’d like to blow out every single one of the fifty-plus candles that should go on my birthday cake, instead of the one I allow myself. Forget how long it takes to light that many candles. The point is, I shouldn’t feel ashamed of my age, that my employability is diminished, or that a man will assume I’m ready for the canasta table and in bed by eight. But a lot of times, embarrassed, self-conscious and afraid are what I feel. The upside is, I know plenty—make that millions—of women share these feelings. Our sisterhood of fearless aging is slowly beginning to acquire a face, and it’s relentlessly eeking its way into our mass media where, subtly and deliciously, it’s making a footprint on the backside of out-dated American attitudes. It's one of the reasons I use as my motto: "Life blooms after forty!"

Lesley Jane Seymour’s final choice word on lying about our age was this: visibility. The more women that are seen without the stereotypical dowdiness that so often gets slathered on to us like age-spot remover, the more perceptions are likely to change. So put us on billboards. Splash our faces on 84” high definition TV screens. Pose us on runways. Send us out on bizarre global treks in the Himalayas. We’ll have the last laugh, oh, guru of youthful ignorance. You’ll see.