If turning 50 wasn't bad enough I have a daughter who has taken a keen interest in my age. It's probably because she doesn't know how old I really am.
Being obsessed with aging or anti-aging is a way of life for many women, but has the obsession gone too far when you can't be truthful with your own daughter? I suppose many people would say I'm setting her up, or that my inability to tell the truth about my age is an example of self-loathing or some deep-rooted trauma that I haven't come to terms with. It's not. I just don't like aging. It's that simple. There's nothing wonderful about looking at a passport photo from 10 years ago and comparing it to the one I have today. There's a harsh difference.
A couple of years ago when my daughter Eva was in the first grade she asked, "how old are you?" I was taken aback. I had been lying about my age for so many years I wasn't sure if I should be honest with her. She's young, she doesn't need to know everything right now, I thought. Kids these days are burdened with too much information. It's my job as a mother to keep things simple and wait until she's a bit older. "I'm 26. Why do you ask?" "We were just talking about our moms today," she said. I don't understand why a group of six- to seven-year-olds are talking about age. I never thought about my mother's age until she turned 70. Prior to that I was never concerned.
Perhaps I'm an advocate for lying in order to feel better about yourself. Let's face it, it feels good when you tell someone you're 10 to 20 years younger than your real age and they buy it. Even if they don't believe you I can't imagine someone would ask to see some form of identification for proof. (Admittedly, I still get a charge when a TGIF waiter cards me.) I would argue that Botox, fillers and plastic surgery are an acceptable form of lying, so what's the big deal if I keep the truth from Eva? At least for a little while.
My sister once made a comment on my Facebook wall about my birth date. "Is there a good reason why your birth year is missing?" she wrote. Feeling betrayed by my own sibling, I deleted her comment and phoned her immediately. "I will 'de-friend' you if you ever pull a stunt like that again," I told her.
I thought I was safe. Eva thinks I'm 26 and age will not be an issue for years to come. When she asks again she'll be old enough to handle it. I failed to realize that New York City kids may be slightly different from the ordinary kids I grew up with in Detroit. I never discussed my mother or her age. What difference did it make? She was my mom and she was older. I remember my mother telling me it was rude to ask someone their age. I should have used that line on my daughter.
"Mom, Anna said if you're 26, then you had me in college. Did you have me in college?" Here we go again, another lie. "Oh, you didn't hear me correctly. I said 36, not 26." She seemed satisfied.
"What kind of math are they teaching first graders?" I asked a friend. I don't remember word problems being part of the curriculum. I can just hear it now...if Eva's mom is 26 and Eva is 7, how old was Eva's mom when Eva was born?"
It's not easy to keep up with this lie. Birthdays come and go and every year the age is altered. I wonder if she's kept track of the ever-changing number.
I've tried to tell her the truth, but find myself holding back. This past December she said to me in a concerned tone, "now wait, you're not going to be 50, are you?" This was my chance to come clean and explain to her why I haven't been completely honest. But, how could I? She seemed genuinely disturbed by the idea. "Oh no, not yet, now don't you have a Tiger Beat magazine to read?" This is a strategy I often use. Create a diversion and change the subject.
Even as I was writing this piece Eva read the top line. "What do you mean if turning 50 wasn't bad enough?" What is she doing reading? It's enough she's honing her math skills, but now she's reading my work. "I'm writing a piece from a friend's perspective, it's her story," I told her. "What else is bad?" she asks. She didn't read the next line, so she has no idea. "My friend also had cancer when she turned 50," I tell her. Oh my god!! I thought. Did I actually say that? Did I actually inject the "C" word in this cover-up? This is an all-time low and without a doubt, for those who believe in karma, I probably just cut my time on this planet.
Many of the friends I grew up with have kids in college. In Manhattan it's a different story. Women here work on their careers and wait until the last fertile egg to have a baby. I'm not alone. I have many friends in my age group with young children. Though I'm not sure how many actually go to the lengths I do to keep this information from their children.
My daughter is being raised to embrace all kinds of people. She describes most boys as annoying and the girls are sorted into two categories, "mean" or "nice." But now, thanks to me, she describes women as young or old? "How old is my grandmother?" She is 77 years old, I tell her. "Wow that's old." Ouch, If she only knew that my mother had four kids by the age of 35. She has seen all her kids grow up, finish college, get married, and enjoy grandchildren. Perhaps this is why I avoid the age issue with my daughter. While we all cherish our careers and accomplishments, of course it's at a cost. As I approach my birthdays I look at my daughter and regret not having her sooner, not having more children.
The other day Eva was loading an app on her iTouch. "I need your birth date. What year were you born?" Uh-oh, here we go again. Here's my chance, but no.... "Around 1970," I tell her. "If Eva's mom was born December 20th, 1970, how old will she be in 2012?"