I'd like to lie about my age
December 25, 2009 2:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in lying about my age. I'd like to tell people I am the age that I feel (and look). Has anyone here done this?

I'm 38 and female. I look young for my age and have been mistaken for being anywhere from 22 - 26.

I guess I have a mid-20s attitude towards life. I don't want to "settle down". I have a lot of different things I want to do with my life. I'd like to find a partner but I'm not interested in a white picket fence. I married young, divorced, and started over at 35, so I feel about 26. I don't have kids and am not close with my family of origin. I'm well-educated, but marriage kept me from a stable career path (for a variety of reasons).

So, I'm wondering: Who here has done something like this (or knows someone who has)?

Do you lie about your age? How much do you adjust it? Why do you lie about your age? When did you start? Have you ever gotten found out? How has it helped you or hurt you? Do you just avoid the question and refuse to tell anyone about it?

Please don't answer if you think there is something wrong with people lying about their age, if you don't lie about it, if you think I should find new friends, stop caring about what people think, etc.

I just want to hear from people who have lied about their age (or know of someone who has) and how it worked out for them.

Throwaway email: recoveredtime@gmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (60 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I don't lie about my age, but I am 29 and I routinely get mistaken for 19. It's somewhat annoying when I'm out with my best friend (who is 45) and people keep thinking I'm her daughter. (People make comments like "I wish my daughter would help me with the groceries like you do!" if I'm helping her.) It makes my friend feel old, but really it's because I look young. I don't do anything consciously to look older or younger, but I suppose I don't discourage the mistake either. (Being big helps... fat fills in wrinkles.) As far as being served drinks, sometimes I get carded and sometimes I don't. (But I only drink maybe once or twice a year, so I suppose I don't have a lot of experience getting carded.)
posted by IndigoRain at 2:36 PM on December 25, 2009

Sorry, hit post and realized I have more to say.

I don't think lying will matter much if you're talking about just casual strangers and stuff. Age is just a number anyways. But if you're thinking about getting into a serious relationship (be it romantic or friendship) I wouldn't lie.

Back when I was 20 and a friend from college was 23, we started studying with another lady from college who said she was 39. After almost a year of being friends with her (socially as well as for studying), she confessed that she was really 45 and she thought if she didn't lie about her age, we wouldn't want to hang around with her or study with her. We really thought it was kind of silly that she'd lied about her age because it certainly didn't matter to us. It didn't really hurt our feelings that she thought we were shallow (although some people might take your lie that way)... more like we felt bad that she was so insecure that she needed to lie. Food for thought.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:44 PM on December 25, 2009

I had a male friend who dated a lady who lied about her age. When he found out he was so weirded out that he dumped her. It wasn't finding out that she was older, really, it was the idea that she had lied by explicitly saying that she was much younger than she was. It made him wonder what else she would lie about.

I do have female friends who say that they celebrate anniversaries of their 25th birthday, or who use coy replies when asked their age. That seems to be more socially acceptable.
posted by christinetheslp at 2:48 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I had an acquaintance in college who lied about his age. We found out when he left his driver's license lying around. He was 26 and a junior; apparently he'd been following the Dead or something for a while before college and felt sheepish about it.

No one would have cared if he hadn't lied about it, but as with most lies, once we found out about that one, we started to question other things he'd said.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 2:49 PM on December 25, 2009

Or just don't tell anyone your age.

I like this idea because any number (age, salary, weight, etc) shouldn't matter at the end of the day - it's about the person, not their stats, etc. But I usually just tell people my age, anyway..
posted by marimeko at 2:54 PM on December 25, 2009

I lie about my age pretty regularly. I generally just knock 10 years off, from 34 to 24. With strangers I just leave it at that, with acquaintances I'll often joke a bit to make it clear I'm not being entirely truthful, and with friends I tell them the truth and encourage them to participate. I do this because I tend to hang out with a young crowd - I was a 30 year old college freshman.

Overall I've found the best way to deal with it is to pick a new age every time someone asks. That way people who are around you a lot realize you're fooling around, but without knowing your actual age. I don't feel that comfortable just flat out lying to people I know.
posted by skintension at 2:56 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I lied about my age though most of law school. I arrived a 21 and most of the people I made friends with were almost a decade older. It took about two or three times of hearing, "Youre just a baby!" to feel sufficiently infantilized. So I became 24. That was just old enough to stop it from being an issue.

I stayed 24 until it was time to be 25. And it was never a real issue. Nobody cared if I adjusted my age up, and usually the topic just dropped when I said "24."

But your change seems so dramatic, and there's no cute story to dismiss the issue in case anyone finds out. Just... regret. And while that might pull at someone's heart strings, I think it is more likely to creep people out.
posted by greekphilosophy at 3:03 PM on December 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

I haven't really told anyone my age, other than when legally necessary, since my late teens/very early twenties. Most of my friends don't know my exact age, neither do any of my present or past coworkers, even some of my family members have trouble remembering/don't know. When I'm asked how old I am I usually keep it vague e.g. "I'm old enough" or "I'm in my 30s".

The biggest problem I've personally found with this approach, is some people see it as a mystery or puzzle and typically barrage you with guesses. I usually sigh after the 6th guess, and admit to being 912.
posted by X-00 at 3:05 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

posted by mpls2 at 3:08 PM on December 25, 2009

In some social situations, I'll make up an outrageous lie about my age - but always making myself older. I'll claim I'm 55 or 65 or something crazy. It's obvious I'm making it up - so it's not exactly a lie. But I think that's much better than claiming you're younger - after all, if I say I'm 65, but I look like I'm 40, "wow you look super young!", instead of the expected dreary lie of lowering your age. Sometimes I'll go whole hog and claim 70. Lots of fun.
posted by VikingSword at 3:14 PM on December 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

Either don't tell, or tell the truth.

Don't lie. It sets a bad precedent for the relationships you're forming.
posted by squorch at 3:17 PM on December 25, 2009 [17 favorites]

I have a friend who never tells. It makes people very curious, but they give up after a while.
posted by kathrineg at 3:18 PM on December 25, 2009

It is really easy to find out many people's real age using the Internet, and more people are aware of this than ever before.
posted by grouse at 3:27 PM on December 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

In the past when Eve Ensler was asked in interviews how old she was, she would reply by asking the interviewer why it was relevant.
posted by alms at 3:33 PM on December 25, 2009

If someone asks, I generally answer that I'm old enough to not have to answer intrusive questions. It is a running joke amongst my friends, however, that we all stopped counting at 39. Mostly we had to, or we were going to be older than our Moms. I live in the Deep South, where no woman is evah older than 39. I think it may be a law. It's such a running joke in the South that the year you are *actually* 39, nobody will believe you.

But, joking aside, the sad fact of American culture is that age is something to fear, if one is a woman. There are virtually no cultural benefits to being older, and in fact enormous industries exist to make us feel bad that we didn't die young and leave a good looking corpse. There are very few brave public women who proclaim and embrace their age. Witness, for example Demi Moore, bless her plastic coated heart. Or Madonna. Or any of the other women who have been nipped and tucked into some shiny plasticine version of their teenage selves.

Meryl Streep, god love her, is one of the exceptional women who own her age, and are willing to show that you can be just as wonderful and vibrant and sexy at 60 as you can at 40. I can only hope that when I'm her age, I am as vibrant.
posted by dejah420 at 3:35 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to lie about my age pretty consistently. By pretty consistently, I mean from 21-25 I'd knock two years off. After that, it was four. I stuck with four (I had to, really, or else it'd mess too much with my family details - even at four years, I had to in turn lie about my sister's age). I was hardcore about it, I'd lie to everyone, even on official forms. My reasons for doing so were that I looked younger than I was, and I was involved in activities where age becomes an issue: playing in bands etc. The people who did know my real age were told to go along with the lie - that was a bit of a joke, really. I'm comfortable with the idea of people lying about any mundane fact about their existence. I've told a lot of lies to spice things up. Anyway, I thought if I lied to everyone, and acted that age, and was treated as that age, then I would effectively become that age. And it worked. I have a whole history in my head that trims and expands bits of my life, and it all fits together, and that's the version I used.

The main time it backfired was when I was going out with this girl for a year and suddenly we planned a holiday abroad. I could imagine some kind of scene where she'd grab my passport to laugh at the photo and spot the truth. So I had to tell her. She was angry enough - mainly because she'd been glad to have been finally going out with someone her own age (she thought), instead of the usual older fella. She nearly broke up with me in fact, but she got over it, and was later sometimes complicit in my lies afterwards.

Recently, I moved to a new town, following this same girl. And most of the people I meet I know through her now, which is a bit of a drag cause I'm generally having to be honest about my age. It's like I've aged four years in an instant. Approaching forty instead of just out of my twenties. That's the main downside of this business. But I still lie when I can.

So, mostly, I'd recommend it. Just lie enough so that you do it without blinking and you believe it yourself. You don't want to be remembering that you're lying all the time.
posted by cincinnatus c at 3:37 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

I went out with a guy who lied about his age once, and mostly I just thought it was silly that it mattered so much to *him*. Wasn't an issue for me.

Oh, and I think that if you are 38 and look like you are in your twenties, that would be a definite positive. I'm mistaken for being younger, and told my kids a couple years ago that I was going to start "aging backwards". So, once I hit 40, the next year I would really be 39, and the year after that 38. But I didn't really go with that, because I like my age and that I don't (mostly) look it!
posted by misha at 3:50 PM on December 25, 2009

Don't lie. You don't have to tell the truth about it, at least casually; a cavalier "I'm a youthful 103" or "A lady never tells" will deter most questioners.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:01 PM on December 25, 2009

You could answer questions about your age with " I'm old enough to know better and young enough to not care".

People who insist on guessing are almost always wrong about my age, underestimating by five to ten years (I'm almost 39, and regularly hear people say that I look 25 and rarely that I'm over 30). I just say "aren't you kind!" and go on with my business. Though I did decide long ago that I'd rather just admit my age and get on with it, because aging is definitely better than the alternative, in my opinion. I've lived my life and deserve credit for every year.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 4:15 PM on December 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

My cousin does this for almost exactly the same reason as you... apart from the marriage thing. She mostly refuses to state her age but reduces it by almost ten years, frequently.

Amongst the family, it gets a fair amount of ridicule. But it kind of suits her because she's never really grown up and is a bit of a flower child (and a teeny bit vain/self conscious). She really hates talk of her age, and has married someone a bit younger than her.

I've never heard that she has negative feedback about it from other quarters. Probably most people don't know. But she has given me a bit of a lecture about telling people, like MY friends, her age. Considering she is 6 months YOUNGER than me, I find it ridiculous and tell them anyway.

I hope you don't have a horrid cousin like me... and if you don't, you should be fine.
posted by taff at 4:19 PM on December 25, 2009

Lying about your age communicates that you are insecure. Insecurity is not attractive. What is attractive is being 38 but acting like you're 25 and making no apologies for it. You should continue to exude the confidence of a 38 year old woman who looks, acts and feels in her 20s. This is coming from a man in his 20s who has been with women in their mid 30s. Age is what you make it....if you're hung up about it, you can be guaranteed that everyone you meet will be as well. If you still feel sheepish about relating your true age...derail the questioner by simply saying "old enough" with a smile or some such flirty thing.

Really though, rather than look for reinforcement that its ok to lie about your age...you should just cultivate the attitude that you're 38 and don't fit the 38 year old stereotype (whatever you think that is). Show people your power, not your insecurity.
posted by jnnla at 4:36 PM on December 25, 2009 [28 favorites]

I agree with jnnla... I cringe whenever I hear someone over 30 (which I am) say "...but I look X." Better to get to the root of the insecurity.
posted by mpls2 at 4:46 PM on December 25, 2009 [2 favorites]

You know, I just turned 27 and have been really pondering on the age thing. For whatever reason, 27 has been a number that kept shocking me. What do 27 year olds do? I've basically come to terms with the fact that I am aging, even if I don't look drastically different.

I don't want to be 20 again, or anything like that, but I've started assessing all these people that I know, and the wide swath and spectrum of their lives and ages and what they've done, how they act, and yes, how they look. And I would love to know if someone like you was 38. I take a lot of comfort in how many types of people there are, actually. It helps break down cultural stereotypes and taboos and all of that, and reminds me that there is no set schedule, there is just the person that you are, and all you can do is be the best at yourself.
posted by redsparkler at 4:59 PM on December 25, 2009 [6 favorites]

The last time I lied about my age was because I was underage but wanted the guy I was with to have sex with me. This isn't something I'd want to recreate as an adult, and I can't separate the two.

Love who you are.
posted by goo at 5:00 PM on December 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

My maternal grandmother lied about her age for years. She was a lifelong waitress and I guess she figured she'd get better jobs or more tips if people thought she was younger. She had six children and multiple marriages under her belt, though, and she really wasn't fooling anyone except for maybe the most fleeting of acquaintances. Her grandchildren weren't allowed to call her "grandma" in public, and we all thought her ruse was pretty ridiculous.

I'm 38 and female. I look young for my age and have been mistaken for being anywhere from 22 - 26.

It's better to be a young-looking 38 year old, than to risk being outed as a fake 22-26 year old.
posted by amyms at 5:00 PM on December 25, 2009 [7 favorites]

Also thirding jnnla. While lying about your age and getting away with it is one thing, if you're found out, or start getting defensive, or dance around the subject with some lame attempt at humor, it really doesn't come off making you seem more alluring or intriguing or some such. It just makes you seem totally insecure. If you succeed in your lie initially, it will only be a matter of time until the truth is revealed and I can't see any good coming of that. I'd say either be honest, or tell people to mind their own damn business. The latter works well if you're known to have a generally surly disposition.
posted by drpynchon at 5:05 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Liars are liars. If I knew someone, and then found out they lied about their age by more than a decade, I'd feel sorry for that person, lied to by them, and probably not interested in knowing them any longer.
posted by xmutex at 5:09 PM on December 25, 2009

Do you really look 26 or is it just that people are guessing low to be nice?
posted by delmoi at 5:26 PM on December 25, 2009 [11 favorites]

Something else to keep in mind is that when age comes up, people usually guess a person is younger in order to be polite/flattering. It may not necessarily be a true estimate. And it is also a factor that age can catch up with you all of a sudden. So a few years down the line, it may become apparent you fibbed.
posted by lazydog at 5:26 PM on December 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

If I found out someone I knew was 38 but had been saying they were in their early 20s, I'd think it was pretty odd. That's a significant difference in life experience. Also, wouldn't it be better to be a young-looking 38-year-old than an oldish looking 20-something? For every person who thinks you're in your early 20s, there's probably someone who thinks you're closer to your real age. I'm in my mid-20s and I get everything from 16 to 30+ from different people, so it's not like you can guarantee that you seem younger to enough people that you can get away with it. It's just that if someone thinks you're your age or older, they aren't going to tell you that.

Also, if you go by your real name, it's extremely easy to find out your legal age, so it's really not worth lying then being outed.
posted by ishotjr at 5:34 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lying about your age to your employer might be grounds for firing, just like lying about any other identifying information might be (depending on the terms of your contract). Also, if you're in the US, the paperwork they get back from Social Security will reflect your actual date of birth, so you will be busted on it eventually.

I know you didn't want to hear about it, but it's important that you are aware of how this could have negative consequences for you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:36 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Haven't seen it brought up so far on this or the previous threat, but things aren't always as clear cut as we might assume. A good friend grew up on a religious commune where they didn't buy into all this modernist bullshit about chronology, etc. As a result, it's pretty much impossible to know how old in fact she is these days. Yeah, she has a birth certificate, but the date is a placeholder made up long after the fact. So, we're left with a pretty wide window of possibility, somewhere between 28 and 35, as far as we've been able to estimate. Even trickier to figure, since she didn't graduate high school or college on a traditional schedule, and her early environment didn't place much stock in mass media or pop culture, so a lot of the habits of taste that flag someone as of a given generation don't work so well either. As far as everyday life, she claims most folks she interacts with estimate age much more according to the social environment than anything about appearance: when she's at work in a white-collar job, where she has professional status, people have assumed she's older; when she's playing D&D and doing other geek-fun activities on her own time, people assume she's younger.

Clearly, her example is an odd exception, which is pretty much how we treat it, but it's definitely made me realize how much our assumptions about this topic have more to do with bureaucracy than lived experience. For example, large-scale concern with having birth certificates for (almost) the entire population is pretty recent; in the USA, it only dates back to the early 20th century, with the introduction of Social Security and other government benefits to be doled out according to one's age. (Yes, some families kept careful track of births in the family Bible, and the privileged classes had wills and deeds and other official papers that might document one's age, but having most all the population able to point to a specific birthday as their own is a pretty new concept; and if anyone's curious about a citation, I'm recalling the work of Theda Skocpol, a sociologist at Harvard who studies the history of welfare policy).

Of course, the other major institution that obsesses over chronology is the modern school system, where being "held back" can stigmatize students, and where a host of experts assess all manner of academic and social performance according to that magical standard of "at grade level" (even though calculating it gets messier than most of the experts would like to admit). For this reason, as far as whether/when to fib about your age, I'd be more cautious with the younger crowd (teens to late 20s, say), who are coming out of the age-obsessed environment of school. On that note, I'd also point out that part of the aging process seems to be perceptual; that is, when I was a teenager, pop musicians and professional athletes definitely looked like "adults" to me, whereas now they most all appear "really young," as far as I'm concerned.

But if you're mostly dealing with people in that wide swath of age between, say, 25-ish and 65-ish, what I'd call "grown-ups," then, sure, fudging by few years probably won't hurt. Recently, at a job I've held for several years now, the eight of us who work most closely together happened to start comparing birth dates. Turns out my peers, who in everyday interactions I assumed to be "about my age," actually range over a 15-year span, from approximately seven years younger than me to approximately eight years older. What's even stranger was how specific individuals varied from my assumptions age-wise; the guy who'd always seemed the most childlike turned out to be the oldest. So, I'd say it's as much about genetics, healthy habits, and lifestyle responsibilities (being a parent, whether you're 15 or 50, tends to make you seem more "mature," other things being equal) than simply counting numbers. And, as far as worrying about getting "old," I also learned recently that another colleague, who I had guessed to be in his late-50s, has actually had the same job here for over *40 years*, longer than I've been alive. Wow, I only hope I age that well.

And one last point: when I was about to turn 30 myself, I asked my Dad if there was anything distinctive about that birthday. "No," he said, "except tomorrow you'll turn 40." And, boy, he was right; time does fly, especially when you're having fun.... ;-)
posted by 5Q7 at 6:05 PM on December 25, 2009 [3 favorites]

A childhood good friend and recent but temporary Facebook friend was listing her age as several years younger than she is on her Facebook account, and I thought: what...the...fuck? Loser! HA HA HA! Oh man that's so sad...

So my answer here is that I can't see how this would work in this day and age. You'd have to avoid all 'social networking' sites. You'd have to...you must have friends right now who know your real age? How would you handle that?

If your fantasy/fake age is 25 and you get with a guy who's not, I don't know, really drunk, he'll probably notice that he is not sleeping with a twenty-five-year old. You really think your skin and body haven't aged? What if you hit menopause at "31"?
posted by kmennie at 6:12 PM on December 25, 2009

The risk of getting caught isn't worth it.

And you WILL get caught.

I speak from experience.
posted by Grimble at 6:22 PM on December 25, 2009

This makes me sad. My boyfriend is (a very vibrant, vivacious, crazy, sometimes irresponsible and 'youthful') 38 and I'm 23; when I imagine him lying about his age it contradicts the carefree nature that I love about him.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:33 PM on December 25, 2009

And I'm extending this to you, too... lying about your age seems to contradict the best parts of your personality. Please don't do it.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:34 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sometimes I lie younger to match my looks. Lately though, I lie OLDER! Just by a year or two.

I live in a town where a woman's age really matters. I guess I do this "lying up" thing for personal amusement. Also, I then can't take the "You look so young!" comments that seriously.

In the end, my age is none of their business, anyway.

posted by jbenben at 6:39 PM on December 25, 2009

I lie about my age when I go to a posh place for a facial.
I add ten years, so when the therapist is ready to sell me on the perils of aging skin [and the expensive lotions that will cure me!], she loses her 'spin'. I usually get asked about what amazing things I have done to keep my skin in such great condition. [Answer=sunscreen]

I think most people when asked to estimate another person's age, always politely say low ages. And young people assessing age is laughably off. They think an 'old' person is 29. Teenagers seem to think their teachers could be as 'old' as 25. I think taking off 10 years is a bit needy, bit delusional [somewhat Jenna Maroney style]. Try five years off? Or, better still, just don't tell anyone your age.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:01 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

Eh, I'm a pretty scrupulous person when it comes to being truthful, but I think a little fudging of one's age is perfectly acceptable, particularly if you're female. (As dejah420 said above, society is merciless when it comes to women getting older.) My friends tend to be a little younger than I am, and I've been known to "forget" a couple of years when directly asked. You can also just choose to be vague in your answer ("Oh, in my 30s" or "Older than you" or "It's not polite to ask a woman her age!", delivered with a broad wink). Most social networks give you the option of not showing the year of your birth, as well.

My husband and childhood friends find this very amusing, and the big joke has been to give me birthday cards celebrating my 29th for.. a few years now.

That being said, 10+ years is an awful big difference, and probably not sustainable. While you may have the lifestyle and demeanor of a much younger person -- and good on you! -- your cultural references will likely give it away eventually, and then you're going to have to awkwardly explain yourself.
posted by jess at 7:11 PM on December 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

People, especially men lie to women about how old they look. Because god help us if we guess too old. A typical response to a woman who looks anywhere between 25-40 is 21-30. Because that way it'll always look like a flattering compliment.

People will find out*. And when I find out that someone lies about something so small and insignificant then I pretty much lose all respect for them. What about them can possibly be true? I'd understand if you lied about that prison term, or that you never mentioned that horrible 2 month long marriage when you were in France that summer, but your age? Really? If you lie about that you'll lie about anything. Act your age and tell it like it is.

*A billion ways this can be found out. You pull your ID out to get a drink at a bar, someone is going to look at it... Someone will demand everyone shares their awful photo ID's. HR at work knows how old you are. Are you on Facebook? Gee, it says you went you SoAndSo High School, lets see, here's your classmate... class of... WHAT? Or simply by the pop cultural references you make. If you talk about the music, TV shows, etc you watched when you were a kid your cover is blown. It's equally blown if you fail to get the references made by people make who are actually 25 years old. And if I found out someone I knew was the same age, I'd try to bond by bringing up some cultural referenced from when I was a kid. I'd see through you like glass.

If you really must be so immature, just don't say. It'll add to your 'mysterious allure' or something like that.
posted by Ookseer at 8:04 PM on December 25, 2009

When I'm asked my age, and I'm rarely ever asked my age, I generally admit that I forget how old I am. Sometimes I'll quickly do the math and remember that I'm well over 30; other times, I'll shrug and say, "Whatever, I'm over thirty, not yet over forty."
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 8:07 PM on December 25, 2009

I understand the impulse, and am usually thought to be much younger than I am, but I tend to think honesty is the best policy for a number of reasons. I see nothing wrong with being coy or offering a non-conclusive answer (I'm old enough to remember life without the internet, but young enough that I can't imagine living without it), but if you're unwilling to give your actual age, I'd avoid giving an exact, false number.

With that in mind, I have a friend who looks and has a much more youthful mindset most people associate with her age, which is 51, but I've noticed that those who guess her age, shoot for way younger than she could actually pass for (38, for example. 43-ish is believable, but younger than that really isn't), and they are trying to be kind and complimentary, but it also seems to highlight any insecurities she may have. I had another friend who was 37, and could have passed for her late 20's/early 30's, but her actual generation would come through in small ways, such as discussions about pop culture, and that can just get weird (generally because someone younger doesn't really get why you would lie about your age, and someone who is your age or older is very likely to see it as insecure and shallow).

To sum up, do not give a specific wrong number, and if you want to avoid giving your actual age, feel free to be coy. For people you know on a casual basis, it won't matter, and for those who may become important to you, it doesn't introduce unnecessary issues into your relationship that an actual lie would.
posted by katemcd at 8:17 PM on December 25, 2009

My grandfather (born 1913-ish) served in the military and was too old to re-enter as a pilot for the Air Force as the US entered WWII. He lied -- shaved off a few years -- so he could serve. It worked out fine. He became a career military person, rising through the ranks to be a full Colonel, running a base in Japan and later working at the Pentagon. After retiring from the military (and never disclosing the truth about his age), he entered politics, and was re-elected many times so that he served as a politician for more than a decade. Again, he stuck with his altered birth year.

Even his grown children did not know. He came clean to his children and grandchildren on, if I remember correctly, his 80th birthday.

On the one hand, I think that if someone can get away with that for almost five decades, fudging to the US military and a life in politics, anyone can do it. On the other hand, a lot of people did that to be eligible to serve during WWII, and it was for a good reason (to serve our country during wartime -- if discovered, who would be upset if you did it to fight Nazis?). Doing it just because you look youthful is a little different, and might be perceived differently.
posted by Houstonian at 8:18 PM on December 25, 2009

A close friend my age regularly shaves 2 years off her age. She even supplies a false birth year on social networking sites. Why she goes through this trouble for such a petty adjustment makes little sense to me, but she tends to date people a bit younger, and would like them to think that she was born "in the 1970's"--not the *gasp* 1960's. I never say a word about this, and pretend not to notice, but it creeps me out.
posted by applemeat at 8:25 PM on December 25, 2009

Also, lying about your age instead of demonstrating your natural vitality helps perpetuate a system that devalues older women.
posted by applemeat at 8:40 PM on December 25, 2009 [16 favorites]

The craziest girlfriend I've had was always cagey about her age and when pressed would, I presume, lie. It seemed pretty weird to me because I was at least a good decade to a decade and a half older than her. Plus I didn't really care in the first place. As a result of that experience, and I know it's not fair, I think that if someone tells me a large lie about their age they're very likely to be someone I want to avoid. If you lie about your age, then you take the chance that you're signaling people to run for the hills.
posted by rdr at 8:58 PM on December 25, 2009

I'm almost 35 but could pass for early twenties on a good night's sleep. I wouldn't dream of lying about my age. It's your age, not your deep core identity. The people that would care are not really going to do anything but take from you.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:49 PM on December 25, 2009

Houstonian's comment is right on. But, like war, you can totally do it for love.

It's flattering to a younger guy to have an pretty older woman alter her age to improve the chances of a relationship. Isn't that how you would feel if you knew deep in your heart that a younger guy was adding a few years to his age to have a shot with you?

(Although 12 years is a stretch-- even if you look great, your emotional maturity is probably a giveaway.)
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 9:52 PM on December 25, 2009

I guess my comment would be "why?" I don't think age has the stigma it once had, and I have a hard time imagining a situation where you'd want to be perceived as being younger. If you look great for your age, then you probably have good genes and are good to your body and health - that's something to be proud of!

I also think that most people don't care how old you are. I mean, if it means that much to you, sure, lie - you risk getting wound up in a liar's web and you'll lose respect from others entangled in it. But if you tell the truth - the grandest thought someone would have about it would probably be, "wow, she looks great for her age."
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:55 PM on December 25, 2009

Something you could do is give an improbably low age (e.g., 17), then an improbably high age (e.g., 59), and afterward you can say whatever you want and no one will know what to believe.
posted by ambulatorybird at 11:44 PM on December 25, 2009

I like the "come up with a witty way of not telling" method. I too, often think too much emphasis is placed on age (especially in Japan, where I live, this is much more prevalent than in the US).

I think lying about it is kind of sad and pathetic, though.
posted by zachawry at 12:32 AM on December 26, 2009

If age is just a number, then how come it's important enough to lie about?

I think it's okay to lie about it in any circumstance where it doesn't matter. Who gives a rat's ass how old your friends and acquaintances are? However, any circumstance where it does matter -- work, love, that sort of thing -- people will feel straight-up betrayed when they find out the truth. Why set yourself up for a fall like that?
posted by Afroblanco at 2:06 AM on December 26, 2009

I did this, and I'm your same age, and I had to smile when reading this because it's become an in-joke with recent younger friends who haven't missed a chance to mock me since finding out I was a bit older than they thought (or rather, than I led them to think). I now laugh about it too.

Short version: don't do it. Lying about your age is not worth the effort (and like every lie it does become an effort to keep it up, trust me!*), it's stupid and it's counterproductive. Just act and live the age you feel and forget about what other people may think.

Do you want to meet and be friends with people who put you in a box filled with social expectations about what and who you should be based on the 'average' person at your age, or do you want to meet and befriend people who like you for who you are and with whom you get along because you do share common interests, lifestyle, etc. regardless of age?

It's also even more counterproductive for us women, because there are a lot of specific expectations about what you're supposed to have achieved at 38, why you're not married or don't have kids, blah blah.

If you lie, you'll never 'screen out' the people (and men in particular!) who are too narrow-minded (and possibly a wee bit sexist?) about this stuff.

Be confident and comfortable with who you are, and you'll meet people who are just as comfortable with you as you are now.

Also, telling the truth if you do look/act younger will get you 'oh no I don't believe it' reactions which can be very flattering. I used to hate it when I was 20 and got treated like a kid, I got annoyed at 29 when people asked me about how school was going, now when I get asked what am I studying in college, I just smile and thank them for being so kind!

* even silly things like talking about music and remembering not to give away that your first concert was Duran Duran, or the first single you bought was George Michael's "Last Christmas", eek...
posted by bitteschoen at 7:48 AM on December 26, 2009

Maybe I should add, I also partly identify and totally sympathize with the reasons you cite for wanting to lie about age.

I started lying without really thinking about it when I moved to a new country, and realised I was befriending mostly people younger than me, and it was just 'easier' to lie and pretend I was a few years younger too. But there was a somewhat deeper reason in that I'd had troublesome years that I felt were sort of lost, missing, 'interrupted', and felt I should 'reclaim'. And that was the wrong way to do it, it was not coming to terms with the past, it was being ashamed of it, being narrow minded about it myself, letting all those social expectations influence my own view of myself. When I stopped feeling like that and accepted everything that had been, it made relationships and friendships a lot easier, made me more confident, and suddenly the age factor wasn't a factor anymore. It had never been anyway, for the people I had grown to like and be fond of.

Sometimes we project our own assumptions on others, our own sense of inadequacy on how *we* think others are 'supposed' to see us. It's just useless self-sabotage.

With strangers, well, I think it can be ok to be vague (like jess says above) if you do feel like being vague, but that's the closest thing to 'lying' I'd recommend, lie by omission... don't get yourself into the trouble of actually saying a figure that's not the real one.
posted by bitteschoen at 7:58 AM on December 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just a footnote: I know several women who lowball their ages on Facebook not for vanity reasons, but because if you put your real age you get bombarded with ads implying you're old, you're fat, you should date retired single men, and so forth. Which kind of puts a crimp in whatever marginal amount of fun you can get on Facebook, doesn't it?
posted by zadcat at 8:27 AM on December 26, 2009

Wha?? So they put a younger age and get bombarded with equally inane fad diet programs, “designer inspired” handbags, “Test a Pink laptop!” scams, and “He’s Just Not That Into You” podcasts?
posted by applemeat at 8:46 AM on December 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I tend to work with/hang out with people in their mid to late 20s, so the fact that I'm in my late 30s is sometimes a surprise. This is party just because I ended up working in some startup environments that were mostly staffed by people in their 20s, and partly because I have drifted around a lot, career-wise, and went to grad school for something I don't use.

My feeling is this: I have, a couple of times, given a lower number, purely in order to keep the situation from turning into a conversation about me and my age. Like, if I'm in a group that I don't know very well, and they are all (or mostly) a lot younger, and someone asks in a casual way, and is obviously assuming that I'm about 30, then I'll just say that.

On the other hand, I've already seen that this can backfire. Because sometimes, you want the younger people around you to respect your experience. And that's hard to do if you've already made them think that you're their age.

Also, I've met a couple of women via online dating who have actually told me (in correspondence, before actual meeting) that their posted age is a lie. That weirds me out in a bad way. In one case, she was 45, pretending to be 37 or something. And I was like, why can't you just be a hot 45 year old? I don't need to think you're 37 to see that you look like you're 37.
posted by bingo at 9:24 AM on December 26, 2009

A coworker's brother lied about his age, because his job -- something in the music industry -- was the kind where you were expected to be young! forever! He sent out an e-mail to his family saying "I am now 27 years old, I was born in [whatever year], please back me up if anyone asks," started lying about when he graduated from high school, and all that. I guess it worked for him, at least for a while.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:40 AM on December 26, 2009

The only way you can get away with this kind of thing is if nobody outright asks you your age. The second they ask and you lie, you are asking for trouble. Hell, I didn't really want to fess up to my age last night when I got asked, but someone who graduated from the same high school as me was there and that cat was kinda out of the bag already.

Really, I'd just say to be vague about it as far as you can get away with that, but realistically you're gonna be found out and fast these days. Nobody really yells at me that I'm too young or too old to play in the social groups that I do (I'm 31 and tend to hang out with people in their 20's or 40's, hardly anyone in my own decade range) one way or the other.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:15 PM on December 26, 2009

If it's people you don't know well, just casually say "I'm a couple years older than I look, but don't worry about it!" When you get to know people, tell the truth. If you really do have a mid-twenties mindset, anyone that is worth hanging out with won't care what age you are.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 9:24 PM on December 27, 2009

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