Social Question

girlofscience's avatar

Why are people private about their ages?

Asked by girlofscience (7477 points ) March 25th, 2010

Honestly, I find it ridiculous that anyone has any qualms about revealing his or her age. Granted, I am only 24, but I can say with a pretty high level of certainty that I will gladly reveal my age to anyone who inquires when I am 34, 44, 54, 64, 74, 84, and hopefully 94, as well. Unless you look significantly older than you actually are, I’m really missing what there is to be embarrassed about. Everyone ages…

I’d like to make a disclaimer that should quash some of the “Why should age matter anyway?” responses I feel I’m bound to hear. I don’t think that age does matter very much. I would never judge someone positively nor negatively as a result of his/her age. I do not believe that age should limit anyone in any context. I simply believe it is a part of who someone is and the time in which one grew up is an interesting potential contribution to personality and experience.

Let’s compare this to hometown. Just like age, hometown doesn’t ”matter” either. No one should ever be judged positively nor negatively on the basis of his or her hometown, and it doesn’t significantly affect or limit anyone. But in the same way as age, it is a part of who someone is, and where one grew up is also an interesting potential contribution to personality and experience.

But no one is private about his/her hometown. People ask others where they grew up all the time, and no one blinks an eye. Everyone freely displays hometowns in facebook profiles, but how many people on your facebook friends list have hidden their birth year?

This is so silly to me. Age should not be a private subject.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

98 Answers

Just_Justine's avatar

Because we do not want to be put into a little box in someone’s mind of how they think we are.

Chongalicious's avatar

I’m 17, going on 18 :)

I don’t think it should matter either. Most likely, people are just afraid of getting old :O

girlofscience's avatar

@Chongalicious: How does being secretive about age prevent aging?

Blondesjon's avatar

Because an individual has a right to be private about anything they choose to be private about.

Why do some folks like the color blue? Why don’t kids like spinach? Why is Carrot Top still such a large draw in Vegas?

What do the answers to any of these questions amount to? What profound social conditions will their answers solve?

Response moderated
escapedone7's avatar

Huh? Where the heck did that come from?

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escapedone7's avatar

I don’t tell anyone where I live. Only one person here knows my real first name.

I don’t care how old anyone here is or where they are from. Is it odd that I am that indifferent?

filmfann's avatar

53 today. 54 next week.
I don’t really keep track of it either, but I know my dad died at 53, so this is kind of important to me.

escapedone7's avatar

Do you ask people how much they weigh? Do you ask them like, how many cavities they have?

Are you like one of those people that pm’s people asking what they are wearing? Tee hee.
I am wearing a pink skirt. Wanna see?

faye's avatar

I agree with @Blondesjon about the privacy thing. I don’t care but I know people who do. Sometimes it is easier to answer a question if you know the person’s age. We all remember the depths of despair over breaking up at 15, that we can’t remember the person’s last name now.

girlofscience's avatar

@Blondesjon: Ew.

Because an individual has a right to be private about anything they choose to be private about.
This question does not imply that individuals did not have a right to be private about anything they choose to be private about. This question addresses the fact that many people tend to be private about their ages and curiously asks why this is so. Many fluther questions are asked because of an interest in exploring the human condition, social norms, and just why people do what they do.

Why do some folks like the color blue? Why don’t kids like spinach? Why is Carrot Top still such a large draw in Vegas?
These are unrelated questions that may (or may not) spark interesting discussion on other threads. If you are curious about the opinions of flutherers on these issues, please feel free to ask them on separate threads.

What do the answers to any of these questions amount to? What profound social conditions will their answers solve?
The answers to questions such as the above may serve to enlighten those interested in why people do what they do. Additionally, such questions may prompt people to reconsider why they do what they do. I didn’t realize that the possibility of solving a profound social condition was a prerequisite for a fluther question.

Just_Justine's avatar

@girlofscience if people display their home towns and ages freely they need a good talking to. There is an issue of identity theft. You know? I’d also be weary of using the word “everyone” as everyone does not. If they have a bit of sense. Who gets to decide which is private, the individual of course.

pearls's avatar

@escapedone7 I feel the same way you do.

girlofscience's avatar

@escapedone7: I wasn’t talking about on Fluther. I was talking about in life.

Blondesjon's avatar

@girlofscience . . . You asked, honey. I answered. Sorry it wasn’t your flavor.

Just_Justine's avatar

@girlofscience you mentioned “facebook” so we assumed you meant fluther.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Age is shameful!
It must be concealed in order to project the aura that we’re all Calvin Klein models instead of real people.

girlofscience's avatar

@Just_Justine: Uh. An issue of identity theft? It’s pretty fucking common to display your birthdate and hometown on facebook. Only your facebook friends see it anyway. But identity theft? Really?

And no, I didn’t mean Fluther. And speak for yourself. You’re the one that assumed. Also, I was using the information people display on facebook (hometown, but often not birthyear) as an example of this age-secrecy phenomenon.

Response moderated
Jude's avatar

Why do people have to get all nasty? Geez.

wilma's avatar

I would not put any of that information on here or Facebook or anywhere else that wasn’t high security protected.
Privacy is extremely important to me. If you have ever lost your privacy for some reason, you might understand this better. Perhaps with age you will understand it better.

mirifique's avatar

Because acknowledging one’s impending death is kind of awkward.

Response moderated
Jude's avatar

@jjmah it’s a great one. ;-)

Response moderated
faye's avatar

There is more nasty than nice here!!

DominicX's avatar

For me, it was never about being ashamed or embarrassed of being old, it was to avoid ageism. Online sometimes I would pretend I was 22 or something because people respect what you say more if you say you’re 22 than if you’re 16. “Well, you’re only [insert age]” was a common response I received. If I had never revealed my age, that never would’ve been an issue. I want people to see me for what I write, not how old I am (I know that varies depending on if I’m talking about something specific to my age; I talked about “teen issues” all the time).

The same of course goes for older people not wanting to be judged by their age. A whole lot of judgments are made based on age. Nothing wrong with wanting to avoid that.

Chongalicious's avatar

@girlofscience Of course lying doesn’t prevent aging, but some feel if they can pull off a younger look, they can lie and say they are of a younger age.

Just_Justine's avatar

@girlofscience your question, and then subsequent reasoning is not very well thought out. You used face book as an example? did you not? Why use it as an example when you are on another site asking a question? You assume a lot too. You assume we care a lot about our home towns, most don’t? Do you? You also assume that people are embarrassed about their ages, how do you come to that deduction? Did you study it and see a correlation? You say in your post you are “only” 24. What does only mean? Then when people reply with their answers you are aggressive and judgemental. You asked for opinions or are you punting for a new legislative act to be implemented?

DominicX's avatar

To be fair, a lot of people aren’t actually answering the question. The question asked “why do people not reveal their age” not “provide sarcastic snarky non-answers to why people don’t reveal their age”.

A lot of people seem to get huffy when asked a question that actually requires them to think.

girlofscience's avatar

@wilma: This question has nothing to do with privacy in terms of protecting one’s information from others who may use it for malicious purposes. Facebook was an example. Whatever you think about the amount of information you provide on the internet is not relevant to this question.

This question is related to people not being willing to share their ages because of shame or embarrassment or whatever the reason may be. And I was referring to interactions in real life as well.

@Just_Justine: As I just said, facebook was used as an example because it is a tool many use to communicate socially and share information with other. Many choose to omit their birthyear for a seemingly different reason than internet privacy. And as I have mentioned, I’m also referring to interactions in real life.

At what point do I say that I assume you (collective) care a lot about your hometowns?

In what I’m discussing, I have observed many people to act embarrassed about their ages. This is the phenomenon I am trying to get at.

“Only” 24 because, at 24, people haven’t really reached the point of acting private about their ages.

I have been aggressive and judgmental about the terrible, poorly thought-out NON-answers that people have been crafting. People are jumping down my throat for no reason instead of actually discussing the phenomenon of age shame my question attempts to address.

Zaku's avatar

I disagree. I don’t think anyone should ever be required to reveal their age to any person or organization.

It seems to me that there is a lot of automatic age discrimination that is very pervasive and often subconscious and unavoidable, and much of it is not founded in reality or fairness.

Response moderated
wilma's avatar

@girlofscience I have no shame about my age. I have no shame about my hometown. I don’t think I know anyone who is ashamed of their age. ( with possibly the exception of children who want to be older)

nikipedia's avatar

GUYS SHE NEVER ASKED WHY PEOPLE SHOULD BE FORCED TO REVEAL THEIR AGE.

@girlofscience asked why people feel reluctant to reveal their age.

…reading comprehension, anyone?

Blondesjon's avatar

@nikipedia . . . wow. did you just call everyone stupid? ouch.

and why are you yelling?

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Also people do get touchy about the topic of age.
Here’s a link to an example.
http://www.fluther.com/disc/78766/why-are-people-private-about-their-ages/

casheroo's avatar

I don’t really understand it. I’ve never been embarrassed or ashamed of my age…which I guess I assume people who refuse to reveal it are. Maybe because I’m young, but I don’t ever think I’ll be embarrassed about it. People are usually shocked that I’m as young as I am, not because I look older..probably because of the whole kids thing.
(I’m 23, for those that don’t know.)

faye's avatar

Unconscious discrimination is a good point as @Zaku said.

Pandora's avatar

I don’t care. I don’t get it myself. If people won’t say, I really don’t care. Unless someone post a question, Like I want to have sex with my 28 year old boyfriend but I’m not sure I should? Then I would like to know if the person is a minor or simply a young adult living at home. Usually if they are a minor they don’t want to say.

girlofscience's avatar

@Pandora: I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS IN THE CONTEXT OF FLUTHER.

PacificToast's avatar

On facebook it’s to avoid predators I believe. But socially as you say, it’s just our materialistic, forever young media getting the best of us.

Zaku's avatar

@casheroo I’m not embarrassed of my age, but I find that very frequently when I do reveal it, that people start assuming things and relating to me in certain fixed ways because of it. When I don’t share it, I get much more varied reactions, and generally feel I tend to be treated more openly and flexibly, with more wonder and possibility. Also it is interesting to see people’s reactions to not being told one’s age, and/or their guesses about how old they think I must or must not be.

Coloma's avatar

Im 50 as of last Dec. 26th

Lovin’ it…no qualms here…who cares?

PandoraBoxx's avatar

The people that I know who won’t tell their age are rather vain, and have had plastic surgery or are contemplating plastic surgery. In spite of being thin, they look much older than me, and are surprised to find out I’m older.

Blondesjon's avatar

Oh my god! Now everyone is yelling. Ok. Ok.

I’m 39.

what was the question?

Just_Justine's avatar

@nikipedia Objectively speaking the question was based on a number of assumptions made by the asker. The question itself is a good question. Ageism is an ongoing issue in today’s society. However, privacy was also forming part of the question and some replied to this with their own thoughts on privacy as well as age. The discussion went awry when certain peoples answers were attacked “one was called a twat” to another idiocy was inferred and the word “fucking” was used for no real reason. I still think this is a dam good question. It is a pity the answerers were attacked.

I still stand by my stance on disclosure on facebook as being a bad idea. As there have been stalkers as well as identity theft caused through this. I do believe internet in general warns people about this.

So to conclude, I stick to my first answer which was, I do not want to be “boxed” by my age. Which goes quite rightly back to the askers question about ageism. I do think to some degree it has been squelched and I hope it continues to be so!

DominicX's avatar

@Just_Justine

Well, some of those “answers” weren’t really answers. Answering the question with “this question sucks, why even ask it?” isn’t rude and uncalled for? If you don’t like a question: skip it.

Pandora's avatar

@girlofscience My bust. Then I would have to say people don’t like to reveal their age if they feel they look younger than their age or look older. I’ve been told that I look young for my age. I’ve noticed a change in people when they realize I am not from their generation.
And when I was younger the same thing would happen. When I would wear make up and look about 2 years older at age 18 then boys who were 22 would lose interest and suddenly treat me like their kid sister. If I would tell someone who is my age now that I am their age, they don’t believe me and think I am lieing.

jlm11f's avatar

[mod says:] Let’s lay off the personal attacks. Thanks. Also, if you flag something, there’s no need to mention that you did so, we’ll take care of things =). Further off topic stuff will be removed by the bad-ass geek mod squad.

Just_Justine's avatar

@DominicX since you addressed that comment to me can you point out where I said that?

girlofscience's avatar

Hey kids. Listen up.

I was born in 1986, and my hometown is Philadelphia, PA.

Who’s gonna be the next me??? I’m so excited!!!

(Oh, and while you’re at it, can you guys alert some predators to the fact that I have just revealed my birthyear? I bet they could really sink their teeth into this.)

faye's avatar

I was born in 1954 and my hometown is Red Deer, Alberta.

nikipedia's avatar

I was born in 1984 and my hometown is San Diego, CA!

Chongalicious's avatar

1992..Torrington, CT :D

DominicX's avatar

@girlofscience

For the record, I’ve been telling people my age and location on the internet since I was 14*. Relative location, though. Without a person’s last name, phone number, or exact location, there isn’t much they can do.

*I’m referring to Q&A sites as opposed to something like Facebook.

jbfletcherfan's avatar

Huh. Well, I was just ready to hit the answer button with a sincere answer, but since I’ve been duly chastised, I’m going to hit the old stop following button.

tinyfaery's avatar

Age implies many things to different people. Young or old really shouldn’t matter, but to many it does. Revealing your age to certain people might negatively effect you.

Anyway, I’m 36 and my hometown is South Gate, CA, which is south of downtown L.A.

Coloma's avatar

@DominicX

True, quite.

Helps if your off the grid too! lololol

There is no Google map to my house! hahaha

cyn's avatar

I’m 17 and I came out from my mommy’s vagina.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I think this thread is fascinating – how is this an issue for people? @girlofscience I have all the questions you ask in my head, I don’t get the reluctance either. I’d say that women are socialized to care about not revealing their age more so than men because their value is tied up in looking youthful and sexually appealing and to not (gasp!) express themselves or how much they weigh, what their age is or how many degrees they have. Overall, however, we (in America) are obsessed with ‘beating age’ – we separate ourselves from the elderly, we cover up, we do botox, etc. just so that we can feel attractive – it’s sad, really. I don’t have an issue revealing my age or any other information – I don’t think we should feel embarrassed about any of it. Privacy has nothing to do with it – if you don’t want to reveal something, don’t – but you shouldn’t feel like it’s something abnormal for a woman, especially, to say.

Draconess25's avatar

I hide my age for several reasons:
1.) Either I’m supposedly “too young & no nothing about the world” or I’m “too old & just don’t understand”.
2.) The more information you hand out, the more people could take advantage of you.
3.) No one ever believes me anyways, because I don’t look my age.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Draconess25 But whether or not you reveal your age, people make dumbass assumptions. So you can’t win.

Draconess25's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Heheh….dumb ass ass umptions!
Then what’s an umption?

Tell me, how old do I look?

bob_'s avatar

I’m 24. 25 on April 12.
Male.
Mexican.
Anything else?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bob_ to be fair, the OP wasn’t asking you to disclose – she was asking about people, not on Fluther, and how some are private about something like age

bob_'s avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I know. It was my way of saying I’m not private about it.

Draconess25's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Heheh….wrong! And you’re only the 3rd person who has guessed that! Try again! XD

Draconess25's avatar

@bob_ …...You’re very close….too close.

Draconess25's avatar

@bob_ …..........You were right the first time…......................

bob_'s avatar

@Draconess25 I knew it!

* does a little dance *

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I don’t think I’ll ever be too worried about hiding it. I think every flight around the sun is an opportunity to be a little better as a human – but it seems that many choose to close off at a certain age and never grow again… those are usually the same that will dismiss the opinions of the young simply because they are young… or insist they will think differently “When they’re their age.” Which, by the way, most of the young will not.

Draconess25's avatar

@bob_ I’ve gotten everything from 10 to 25. Even when I was in middle school.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Draconess25 well it just goes to show you people don’t read age well and it shouldn’t matter

bob_'s avatar

@Draconess25 Well, not everybody is as awesome as I am.

Draconess25's avatar

@bob_ Conceited much?
@Simone_De_Beauvoir When I first met my girlfriend in high school, I thought she was some idiot 17 year old repeating her freshman year again. She was (& still is) 5’6”, & I’ve been 4’11” since 5th grade. Our height differance made me think she was years older than me. I was wrong. Actually, she’s a year younger than me, & had skipped a grade & a half. I felt dumb, & I still do.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Draconess25 No reason to, it’s all cool, :)

Draconess25's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Yeah. She doesn’t think any less fo me for it. She even graduated before me!

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Oh, shit, are they? Damn, I’ve been outed again. All those posts where I’ve said that I’m 56, please delete them, okay?

People are going to think I’m not human.

BoBo1946's avatar

At 85 years of age, Morris married LouAnne, a lovely 25-year-old. Because her new husband was so old, LouAnne decided that on their wedding night, she and Morris should have separate bedrooms. She is concerned that her new husband may overexert himself if they spend the entire night together.

After the wedding festivities, LouAnne prepared herself for bed, and waited for the expected “knock” on the door. Sure enough, the knock comes, the door opens, and there is her 85-year-old groom, ready for action. They unite as one. All goes well, whereupon Morris takes leave of LouAnne, and she prepares to go to sleep.

After a few minutes, LouAnne hears another knock on her bedroom door. It’s Morris! And he’s again ready for more action. Somewhat surprised, LouAnne consents to further coupling. When the newlyweds are done, Morris kisses LouAnne, bids her a fond good night, and leaves.

LouAnne is set to go to sleep again. However, after a few short minutes, there is another knock at her door, and there he is again. Morris, as fresh as a 25-year-old and ready for a bit more action. And again they enjoy one another.

As Morris is once again set to leave, the young bride says to him, “I am thoroughly impressed that at your age, honey, I’ve been with guys less than a third your age who were only good once! You’re a great lover, Morris.”

Morris, somewhat embarrassed, turns to LouAnne and says, “You mean I was here already?”

faye's avatar

@BoBo1946 I need to pass that on!

aprilsimnel's avatar

I’ve been told not to reveal my age, that in the business I’m in, studio execs and production company execs are extremely reluctant to accept work from a new writer who is my age. Apparently, people older than 35 (unless they’ve already been a wunderkind) are somehow out of the loop as to how to write for the prime audience, which seem to be 12–34 year olds.I don’t know what to think, except that that’s crazy. I’m not sure that it’s true, either. IRL, however, I don’t reveal my age unless I’m asked, and never at a job interview.

The imagining is that older people are “past it”, Willy Lomans, or like the dude in that “He’s Hip, He’s Cool, He’s 45” sketch from Kids In The Hall. But if you happen to be older, and you are nowhere near “past it” or trying too hard and embarrassing yourself, well, then what? Being an author of a novel is still the only arena where, in popular culture, one is allowed start older and to age.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@aprilsimnel That does sound crazy. Oh, my supervisor told me she almost didn’t hire me because I seemed young and she didn’t think I can handle the job but that she was completely wrong about me and is glad that she didn’t listen to herself.

faye's avatar

@aprilsimnel I have to say JK Rowling.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I honestly can’t remember. I’m either 27 going on 47, or I’m 47 going on 27… I forget.

Coloma's avatar

“But I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”.....( the oldsters will remember that tune! ) lol

meagan's avatar

No idea! I look really young, though. I’m 21. While I worked at a Walgreens a few years ago, someone asked if I was old enough to sell cigarettes when I was old enough to smoke them.
Being told you look younger than you are is kind of insulting in a way ;P

Neizvestnaya's avatar

What people see when they look at you and then what they see when they look at you and have a number to attach can be very different because we all have some preconceived notions of what people are at different stages. I don’t like to give strangers much advantage when sizing me up, I like to call the how and when and who will know.

Coloma's avatar

@meagan

Haha…cute!

The day will come when you will really appriciate that!

sEventoRii's avatar

i guess it’s because that when people know your age, they tend to judge you by your age, and think what you should and should not do. that feels uncomfortable sometimes.

bob_'s avatar

@Draconess25 Just a tad XD

BoBo1946's avatar

@faye LOL…......

chelle21689's avatar

Besides being embarrassed about the page I think some people hide it to avoid “discrimination” in some sort. People avoiding talking to them or you know…just even the smaller things. Not necessarily discrimination but just avoiding the person cuz of their age. Let’s say I was giving you advice on the internet and you take it, but if you found out it was comin from a 14 year old you’re gonna be like “Umm nvm” not that I’m 14 or ne thing lol

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