My name is Allison, and I'm a "lying about my age" addict. Or, I should say, I used to be. I was that woman who never answered the question directly. I'd ask how old the person thought I was to satisfy my ego before I gave some vague answer, or I'd be jokey about it, all the while giving away that I was older and that I was letting on. But I never revealed The Real Number. That I guarded with Zsa Zsa Gabor-like secrecy. (Just that reference should give you a ballpark.) Remember when you couldn't hide your age on Facebook? I put my birth date in as 10 years after my actual one, much to the chagrin of my sister who is nine years younger than I am. I'm a performer, and I was terrified that the people in that youth-obsessed world would find out how old I was and judge me harshly. I was a woman dancing as fast as I could to cling to my youth, just like I'd been instructed to. Because I'm nothing if not a good student. And, you know, because I hear dancing takes 10 years off your ass.
Then one day, I went out with a couple of women friends and new acquaintance, all of whom are at least 10 years younger than I am. This woman, in her 30s, confided in us that she was dating a significantly older man. They had agreed they could both see other people because they ultimately wanted different things. She had just one caveat: He had to date 45 and up. We all got that, right? The three of us broke into laughter. Confused, she asked why, and I confessed that I was 45. She did a double take, immediately called her boyfriend, and changed the age to 50.
I realized that day that by not owning up to my real age, I was buying the bullshit the world was selling me. It wasn't cute to giggle and hair toss and sidestep the question anymore. I hadn't considered that people believing I was 10 years younger might make me feel worse for not being valued for who I actually am. I am a woman in my 40s, with a lot of life experience, and if I'm not OK with that, who will be? I have to say: This is what a woman in her 40s looks like. We all look different, just like men do! Why do we allow the world to tell us that men get better with age, like fine wine, and we should be thrown out, like those little plastic cups you drink it in when you pretend you're having fun at a party? Men are "silver foxes." Why aren't we "gray goddesses"? (OK, I admit that sounds like an unappealing salad dressing. But you get where I'm going here.) Why would I help send the message that younger women are better than I am, all the while paving the way for them to feel worse when they're older?
The older I get, the more intensely I feel like the world is asking me to disappear. I receive lower pay for the same work, despite my experience. I told myself I should literally make myself physically smaller or I'm unattractive. (I've seen famous actors close up, and that extreme thinness we're all aspiring to is not cute, unless you have a horror movie fetish.) And in the last few years of dating, I feel like a can on a shelf whose sell-by date has passed. (I'm looking at you, guys in your 40s who are looking for women in their 20s and check the box marked "might want kids" online.) The only thing I can do to combat this is to not give into it, to stand firmly in my years and say how many there are. Believe me, I find it frustrating when I tell someone my age, and they gasp and CANNOT BELIEVE IT. And I love being reassured that I look good for my age so I shouldn't worry. But there is satisfaction in being unapologetic about who I really am. So let's all do this. I'll go first.
My name is Allison, and I'm … OK, just—how many people are going to see this?? Oh, fuck it. My name is Allison, and I'm 48. There. That wasn't so bad.
From: The Mix
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.