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How old are you?

by on December 3, 2013

This piece in the FT by Lucy Kellaway reflects on the issue of asking, and of being asked, How old are you?  Lucy (54 1/2) considers the issue of whether the different genders react differently to the question of age.  There is some interesting anecdotal evidence reported including the idea that suddenly people stop asking except under specific circumstances: she suggests “The only people in their thirties who still get asked have either been wildly successful (I know someone of 32 with a board position who gets asked her age a lot) or pregnant women, who are asked by other women anxious about their own dwindling fertility”.

This is of course not based on particularly robust research (other than asking around the office).  I can think of several instances of having been asked my age both directly (and indirectly via my dob) recently and I am neither wildly successful or pregnant!      However, it is interesting to reflect, as Lucy does, on what is inferred by asking someone’s age.  For instance, she suggests “If nothing else, their age gives you a clue about their taste in pop music“.  Which does make me wonder if that is the aim, why not simply ask “what is your taste in pop music”.  The issue at stake here is what we assume age tells us, how we regard age as a proxy for many other things and the extent to which it is seen as a neutral fact that should be easy to ask and freely given.

Reading the comments posted for the article, one reader suggested always reporting your age as a percentage based on your life expectancy.  I warmed to this idea except that somehow 54.2% sounds older than 47 11/12!

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