Throughout my life, I have noticed a pattern in groups that are gathering to introduce themselves or are in the formal process of getting to know each other: We are not only asked to share our name, but our age as well. Even in informal settings or whilst getting to know a stranger, you mention your job or occupational status because you are expected to be constantly doing something, either studying or working. Your age, your studies or your job define you in less than a minute.
We live in a culture obsessed with youth and age. I want to ask you something: If you do, when did you stop sharing your age in front of others? At what age do you stop? I stopped when I realised more and more that age is a social construct in which to put people into boxes. And also because there was this nagging feeling that I was getting old (in comparison to a younger group). Having been in situations where I felt uncomfortable about being too old, I simply did not mention it. As I have grown older, I have often felt moments of being ‘too old’ or getting an incredulous reaction of ‘Wow! You’re that old?, especially when you are amongst younger people. Our society is divided into age ranges and there is usually not much diversity in age when it comes to friendships and social interactions. There is more openness as you get older, but the attention and focus of society is on the young.
Why are people so obsessed about finding out other people’s ages? A lot of the times there is comparison and calculation of how much one has achieved by that age. It is not even done with bad or competitive intention, age is just part of the construction of identity. Several times, when I meet new people and I haven’t revealed my age, at some point during some conversation someone will just ask me how old I am. Is it really innocent curiosity or is there something more behind this? I noticed that it is mostly younger people who are obsessed about age. Just this week, I have been asked twice how old I was.
As one gets older, one might feel embarrassed about their age because society focuses more on youth. Innovation, the newest hypes and fast-developing technology seem to see anything old as ‘throw-away’ and ‘outdated’. For the elderly, their time of adventures, follies and sex are treated as over. In our society, it is often even disrespectful to ask an elderly person about their age, as if it was something to be ashamed of.
We age at the same time in different ways, biologically, socially and psychologically, according to university professor Robert Harrison, so is there anything such as a ‘real’ age anyway?
It is an old saying but ‘Action speak louder than words’ and numbers! The next time you catch yourself asking someone casually how old that person is, perhaps you could think about why it is important to you. How does someone’s age impact the way you see that person? Will you treat them differently and why?