It's An Age Thing

Here's a cautionary tale. When we were at school, some 20-odd years ago, someone of my acquaintance was two years older than me. Since achieving professional renown, he now claims to be two years my junior. Any one of more than 200 people from his year, and another 200 from mine could expose his true age yet he persists.
So why do people lie about their age? I used to lie about mine. But I was 16 and trying to get served in a pub.

Nowadays, of course, I’d like to claim to be younger, but it’s fraught with problems. Lie too much and you run the risk of looking haggard for your “age”. And if you run into someone with whom you went to school, well the game’s quickly over. Age, of course, is one of the few things we can do nothing to change. No amount of skin creams, or Botox, or exercise will make me any younger. They might make me feel or look more youthful. But the fact is, I’m 39 and I’m only going to get older.
  But is it any wonder we’re tempted to lie about our age? Age has become the ultimate label with which we identify and divide people; it’s hardly surprising we are so keen to conceal it. Yet when we were children we scraped every last fraction into our age. We were four and a half, eight and three-quarters, and nearly ten. Adulthood changes this. A few months ago, a visitor to the house asked me how old I was. Before I knew it, I found myself blurting out the answer. At first I was annoyed that I’d answered so readily and then annoyed at the impertinence of the question. But why are we so insulted? If we think we look younger than we are, we are more than happy to encourage that kind of enquiry. Shouldn’t we just take the rough with the smooth?

When I was about to turn 30, I spent half the year imagining it was the end of something. The death of youth, I suppose. Of course, come my 30th birthday, I felt exactly the same as I did the day before, only without the illogical sense of panic.

Victor Hugo noted that 40 is the old age of youth while 50 is the youth of old age – I’ll have to let you know on that – but in the meantime I’ve decided to celebrate each birthday that, God-willing, passes by and not fear them. It's really just a matter of attitude.
We celebrate every birthday up to 21, but then we turn 30, push 40 and hit 50; and it sounds more and more gruelling as the years roll on. Once we reach 80 – there we go again, that's considered a stretch - we stop wishing happy birthdays and begin to congratulate each other. The marks of 90 or 100 are considered increasing achievements, as if living to 100 is something we can all achieve if only we try hard enough.
Now congratulations on wedding anniversaries I can understand, because marriage would seem to be something at which you have to work. But our age? I can’t help suspecting that a lot of this conditioning comes from greetings cards manufacturers; those cards with numbers on always seem to be the most expensive.

But lie as we might, we all have to put up with increasing maturity. But we don’t have to be governed by the numbers on our birthday cards. It’s your life that’s important, not your age.

So let’s just get on with living and stop worrying about birthdays. You never know, we might just start enjoying them again.

Here's a little footnote: 40 came, and it passed and it was fine and the sky didn't fall in … see, I told you!