I was still in my third standard when my original date of birth was deferred by a year in my birth certificate so that I remain a year younger throughout my life. At such a young age, when I rarely knew much about life, I was aware of the fact that age is an important factor in a woman’s life. Whether it is about marriage, education or employment, being younger is considered equal to being more capable. But why are women judged on the basis of their age, youthfulness and looks? Why are young women forced to hide their age? The emphasis on younger women also raises a question of why older women are considered less capable?
I am now going to complete 23 years of my life but I still don't celebrate my birthdays. Not only because I am forced to hide my real age. But also because I fear growing older and reaching an age when it is high time to get married and settle down and quit experimenting with life. And I am sure there are many women who are still reluctant to accept their age, even if they are still in their 20s. It is only unfortunate that even young women face ageism and are forced to live in the dread of growing older. The patriarchal society that we inhabit has always correlated femininity with youthfulness. The more younger a woman, the more desirable and acceptable she is. After a woman attains a certain age, she is forced to get married as soon as possible because if she grows older, she won't get an agreeable match. Even at workplaces and competitive exams, age is still a criterion to decide whether the woman is fit for the job.
Women hide their age but why are we forced to do this?
Moreover, friendship is also based on age because it is seen as a determinant of how funny and interesting a person is. Aren’t most of us inclined towards befriending people who are of same age group as ours? In fact, hanging out with friends is not seen as normal among people who are of older age. Even today there are pubs that do not allow people who are of age above 35 years. Consequently, women hide their age to be considered younger and not be alienated from their own friend circles.
An older woman, say 30 or 40 plus, is denigrated as unattractive and hence less capable for job, marriage, dating or anything for that matter. Growing older becomes equivalent to losing one’s own self-worth, acceptance and desirability. And ageism is worst for women because they are already judged on the basis of their looks and are at a disadvantaged position because of the male-dominated society.
Consequently, for women, hiding age or appearing younger becomes a medium to preserve their self-worth and individuality. But why a woman’s self-worth should depend on her age at all? Why are we so obsessed with the age of a person in almost every aspect of life?
Let us understand that age has nothing to do with the personality of a woman. However younger or older, a woman is an owner of her individuality and capabilities. Growing old is a natural phenomenon. Let us not enmesh it in gender-based prejudices and ageism. Rather, let us embrace growing older as a signifier of how far we have come in our lives, struggling, defying and yet holding on to our dignity.
Women hide their age - why a woman’s self-worth should depend on her age at all?