Should you tell your age?
I've had an interesting reader response to the column I wrote about celebrating my 70th birthday.
Many said they were shocked. They didn't know I was even close to that age. But the most interesting responses came from a few readers who wrote that I "was brave to tell my age."
"People think of a woman differently when they know her age," wrote one Palmerton woman.
She said that during her working career she had a job where she was very successful and got one promotion after the other. I know that is true because I remember interviewing her a long time ago when she was in a position of power. She came across as extremely efficient and capable.
She said in her e-mail that she always took great pains in work to hide her age. "The bosses could have gotten it from my employment record in human resources, but people don't tend to do that. They judge your age by your looks," she wrote.
I think she's right. We all tend to judge people's age by their looks.
The Palmerton woman said she worked hard not to look her age. She colored her hair, wore great clothes, and worked out to keep her body in shape.
I think that sounds normal, too. Many of us do that.
But in the workplace, trying to look younger is more than vanity. It's job survival, according to both men and women who have shared their experiences.
"I had a milestone birthday, too. I turned 60 and celebrated at work," said the Palmerton woman. "When my bosses learned my age, they looked at me differently and I could see their opinion of me changing." She said she was laid off in the next round of downsizing while younger, less capable women kept their jobs.
A male writer whom I've known a long time surprised me by saying he worked hard never to let anyone at work know his age. "I don't care what anyone says, age discrimination is still rampant," he wrote. He says he dyes his hair black and is careful not to reveal details where one could estimate his age.
I was so pleased to receive nice birthday messages from many Pennsylvania friends and acquaintances who read the birthday article. I can't tell you how much it warmed my heart to read your nice comments.
But one longtime friend sent an e-mail that surprised me. "What, are you crazy to tell people how old you are?" she asked. "I am careful never to let anyone know my age, especially those I work with," she wrote.
She added that I probably only wrote about "the age thing" because I am no longer working fulltime. "In the workplace, admitting all those candles on a birthday cake is like painting a bull's eye on yourself. You'll be sorry," she wrote.
Okay, let me tell you one reason why I wrote that column. Here in America, people are afraid of aging. They do everything to look younger. No problem with that.
I want to look good for my age, too. Heck, we all want to look good, regardless of our age.
The problem comes in when we run from age. And that takes many forms.
How many times have you seen older men marry much younger women, some the same ages as their own daughter?
Some do it because they can. Translation, they have enough money or power to attract a much younger woman. In some eyes, that equals success.
And some do it because they think "marrying younger" keeps them younger.
I have a good friend with three failed marriages. He's actively looking for number four. Each time the women he picks get a decade younger. I won't get into details but just let's say that I wonder why he can't see the big picture. My friend says his younger women keep him young.
I say he's still the same age, regardless of his partner's age.
But we deny age in America.
Many of us are afraid to tell people how old we are.
Some friends and readers nicely responded to my column by saying, "You don't look 70."
One friend hugged me and said, "No way! No Way! You don't look 70," She never admitted her age before but then she whispered in my ear, "I turn 70 in another month."
Then it was my turn to hug her and say, "No way! No Way!" I thought she was about 56.
We both concluded this is what 70 looks like.
My favorite comment that I treasure came from my daughter's best friend. When she learned about my big birthday, she said: "If that's 70, I'm not afraid of aging any more."
That's my message. Don't be afraid of aging. Just be afraid of dying before your time.
Some die long before they are embalmed. They die inside because they don't fully embrace life for the gift that it is.
My wish to all of you is that you celebrate life every day. Live it fully, savoring all it has to offer.
And don't be afraid of how many candles are on your next birthday cake.