I've noticed that whenever I'm introduced to a new, older woman, asking her age suddenly becomes a sensitive, taboo topic. Even if the person is relatively close to my age, she shies away from the question, as though I'm asking how something strange and uncomfortable like the total number of calories she ate for dinner last night. Culturally, I can understand why. After you've lived for over two decades, it's become an American norm to avoid revealing your age like the plague for every year that follows. But logically, I don't understand. Why? What's the issue? Growing old is a very real, first-world privilege. The statistics speak for themselves, with senior citizens in Monaco living to the average age of 89 whereas in Chad, 50 is the cut-off. So, shouldn't we be grateful for our age and health, rejoicing over the fact we are not yet dead, rather than lamenting over the numbers?
I can empathize with the avoidance to reveal your age at work — you may not be taken seriously by your coworkers or boss. I can understand the rush of pleasure you get when someone thinks you look younger, which translates to beautiful in our heads because appearing "younger" is a flashback to the time you didn't have forehead wrinkles and could eat a bag of chips without gaining six pounds in the span of two days. But I cannot understand why, from one woman to another, you have such difficulty answering the question, "So, how old are you?" at a dinner party. Or a wedding. Or a funeral. Or a casual night out. Why do you immediately rear up and abashedly whisper that age-old excuse, "You can't ask a lady her age!"
Doesn't it feel pathetic to stigmatize your own age? Don't you feel boxed in when you clam up about a mere number?
Seriously, no one cares about characterizing you as "old." We just want to have a reference point of how long you have lived, what decades you grew up through, what generational issues you may have experienced and can relate to. I ask your age because with it, I can make an educated guess about when you were a junior in high school, when you finally hit 21, when you must have taken that trip to Paris you mentioned a while back or when you plan to backpack through Kenya in the future. With your age, I can make a quick, vague timeline comparison between our lives — my years parallel to yours, allowing me to create a better connection through greater understanding of the years you own. I could care less about how your age correlates to the number of eggs you carry. The reason I ask is to have a better understanding of mind.
So, yes, your age matters. But not in the superficial way you think it to be, like a shameful secret you hold close or a netted weight dragging you down.
Your age is accrued time, rich in abstract history and wisdom.
Your age is graced through Allah's (swt) goodwill, and each year is meant to serve a purpose.
Your age is eudaimonia — human flourishing.
Stop hiding your age. Be gratefully proud, and hold yourself to its standards to truly own up to the years you have laughed, loved and lived. And let us pray that if it better for us, may Allah (swt) allow us to live another.