Saturday, February 8th, was my birthday. I turned…one year
older better. I jokingly told everyone I was turning 28. But they know better than to ask me my age.
I look 10 to 15 years younger than I am. Don’t add either figure to 28 (in case you’re trying to figure out my age), it’s a random number, and don’t think that I’m boasting (or delusional). In 2012, I went grocery shopping around Christmas Eve. When the supermarket cashier saw a bottle of champagne among the grocery items, this is what happened:
Cashier: I’m going to need to see your I.D.
Me: I LOVE YOU.
Cashier: You might love me but I still need to see your I.D.
Cashier (looking at I.D.): Whoa, you are incredible.
Me: <Big Smug Smile>
My husband (to Cashier): Aren’t you going to ask me for my I.D.?
Cashier (to husband): Are you jealous, Boo Boo?
I can tell you that in asking for my I.D. she took off more than 10 to 15 years from my age. She made my day. Well, more than my day, since I’m still talking about it two years later. But, anyway, all this to set the context for the rest of my post.
I think that we Americans are obsessed with age. This obsession is evident in many ways. I’m confronted with it every day in the countless news articles that I read in order to find sources for my blog posts. I have lost track of the many times that I’ve wondered why it was necessary to include someone’s age in a news story. This is especially true when the article is on celebrities. In a recent one on People.com, the magazine reports “Morton, 66, says that Washington’s nurturing personality will make her a great mom.” Joe Morton plays the role of Olivia’s (Kerry Washington) father on Scandal. There is absolutely no need to include Morton’s age in this instance, except maybe to imply that he knows what he’s talking about since he’s older. That is, of course, assuming that the readers believe that wisdom comes with age.I’m not one of those readers.
Most recently, I was reminded of our obsession with age with the recent news article published by CNN.com, on Michelle Obama turning 50 years old, She’s 50?! Famous Women With A Big Birthday In 2014. Why the question and exclamation marks? It’s 50, not 100! Besides, if they’re so age-conscious, don’t they know that 50 is the new 30? That’s the logical mathematical deduction if 40 is the new 20, by the way.
As far as I’m concerned news articles should not include someone’s age unless it’s integral to the story, like a 10-year old prodigy going to college, or when someone dies (for some reason, knowing someone’s age when they die is important to me).
Now, let me tell you why I don’t like to reveal my age. I have two very good reasons. The first has to do with the fact that we Americans are “categorizers.” Twenty-year olds do this, thirty-year olds do that, New Yorkers are like this, Southerners are like that. I don’t want to be pigeonholed. The second reason has to do with my body. Modern scientific research has already shown the critical role that the mind-body connection plays in our health. But I believe that we have just seen a very small tip of the iceberg. What if the reason we “look our age” is because we believe that’s what we should look like at that particular age? What if by telling ourselves that we are younger, our cells “hear us” and actually stay younger, not only reversing cellular ageing, but resulting in younger-looking, healthier us? I believe that this can happen, even though I’m no scientist. And yes, this means that when I look at myself in the mirror I also tell myself (my cells) that I’m 28.
But why are we Americans so obsessed with age (and ageing)? I can understand the difficulty of facing the deterioration of our bodies (and often our minds). The thing is that now we go to great—as in ridiculous—lengths to fight looking old. “Old” has also become a bad word. Because I believe that words are powerful, a new way of looking at age has to start with a new way of expressing ourselves. For instance, we should stop asking, “how old are you?” and replace it with “what is your age?” The former carries a judgment, the latter does not. I find it curious that in Latin-language cultures, that use the what-is-your-age formulation, old people are held in higher esteem than in our country. We also need to get rid of the term “middle-aged.” It sounds like an expression from the Middle Ages, a time when a 15-year old was middle-aged (since life expectancy was 30).
These are the thoughts that I had on my birthday. I wonder what thoughts I will have next year when I turn 28?