It had been a lovely interview and the nice lady gave me all the information I needed plus a lot of background anecdotes with which to color my story. 

There was just one more piece of business left to cover and I could be on my way. 

“Would you mind telling me your age?” I asked. 

The lady’s face had been pure sunshine before that, but now a dark and dangerous cloud moved over it. She frowned. Her eyes narrowed. For an uncomfortable moment, I thought she was gonna start swinging. 

“What do you need that for?” she asked. 

“The editors,” I stammered. “They’re really weird about…” 


“Did the others tell you their ages?” the woman demanded. 

“Some of them,” I whimpered. “But I mean, you really don’t have to…” 

“I suppose you’ll need my home address and credit card numbers, too,” the lady said. “What kind of con are you running, boy?” 

Before I could answer, the nice lady DID start swinging. After that, everything went black. 

Okay, that’s not how it went. That’s not how it ever goes, but whenever I have to ask a lady for her age — some editors really DO insist on it, you know — that’s how I EXPECT it to go. 

Here’s a funny secret, though. When it comes to providing an age to a stranger with a notebook, women almost never hesitate. 


It’s the men who get weird. 

A few months back, I was reporting a story about pickleball because that’s the kind of hard-hitting journalism I do around here. As part of the reporting, I thought it important to get the ages of each man, woman and kid on the court in order to express how diverse the pickleball community happens to be. 

All but one of the ladies spat out their numbers as soon as I asked. They did so proudly and without hesitation, which is pretty much how it goes every time. 

“I’m 72 years young,” one woman would say. 

“Just turned 80,” another might boast. “And I still have all my teeth.” 

Then I’d turn to the men, seeking the same information, and the dance would begin. 


“How old are you, friend?” I would ask. The man in question is doing math in his head. He’s calculating the pros and cons of giving out a real number and trying to deduce how this might trip him up down the road. 

The man in front of me, racket slung over one shoulder, sweaty from a vigorous bout on the court, would just go kind of blank. His eyes, gleaming with joy for the game one second before, would take on a vacant look, like the windows of an empty house. 

I’ve seen this look before.

Did I tell that lass at the bar I was 35, he might wonder? Does my boss know that I’m pushing 70?  

I’m not saying men are liars. Some of them just seem to regard that personal number with a degree of wariness, alert, as they are, to its potential pitfalls and landmines. 

So when a fellow goes into one of those mathematical fugues upon hearing my question, I just wait him out. Sometimes a guy will need to think about my question for so long, I have time to skip out for a cup of coffee or maybe some cookies and milk. 


“I’m 45!” the man declares upon my return. “Yep, 45, that’s me. Write that down in your notebook, reporter man. I’m 45 and if anyone tells you differently, he’s a liar!” 

I exaggerate for the drama. 

Here’s another thing I’ve learned over the many years I’ve spent with that notebook glued to my hand: nobody in the world is elderly. Not a single one, man or woman. The word itself is fraught with danger so just go ahead and strike it right out of your vocabulary if you want to live a long and un-bruised life. 

I say this because I have been around so many 80-somethings and even 90-somethings who put people half their age to shame. The word ‘elderly’ evokes an image of someone so ravaged by the years that they have become slow and doddering to the point of decrepitude. And honestly, most of the people I know who fit that description are 40-somethings who spend their days drooling over game controllers and Netflix. 

The bulk of the oldsters that I know are spry and sharp. They’ve got eight or nine decades behind them and they have no intention of wasting what’s left. One of these ladies, pushing 90, is always bringing me baked goods on her way from one place to another. Just hearing about her jam-packed day sometimes exhausts me to the point where I need a nap. 

The good thing about all this is that, since I’m the reporter (sort of) in these scenarios, nobody ever has to ask me for my own age. If they were to do so, my eyes would glaze over and my face would go slack. I’m doing math in my head, bro, go out and get yourself some cookies or something and don’t interrupt. 

Of course, in the end, I’d just go ahead and tell you: I’m 35 years young. 

If anyone tells you differently, he’s a liar! 

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