Saturday, May 08, 2010

GUEST BLOG POST: Forced to Lie About My Age - by Elizabeth Coplan, author

I don’t color my hair. Have never done Botox. I do tweeze the gray from my eyebrows and my chin, and, as the mother of two sons, I’ve earned every line on my face. When I remember where I last put them, I wear reading glasses. I hold the distinction of being the oldest member in a mothers book club – by a number of years. Most of the other women were children of the ‘70s. I did more in the ‘70s than just grow up.

I have never lied about my age – except once when I was coerced, forced, denied the ability to move forward unless I did in fact lie about the year of my birth.

Why should I say that I am younger than my 56 years? I’ve worked hard to create the woman I am today. I started my career in my twenties, developed professionally in my thirties even after having my first son when I was 35. Five years later, after my second pregnancy was confirmed, my obstetrician wrote in large black letters AMA (Advanced Maternal Age) on my medical chart. I was 40.

“Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth,” so says Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. True. During my forties, I grew around my middle and my thighs. I also grew in wisdom and patience. I learned how to use technology -- computers, cell phones, PDAs and the Internet. In my fifties I learned to Tweet and Friend and to write a profile worthy of social networking. And that is when the lying began.

No, I did not lie about my age on MySpace or Facebook. Instead, I logged on to a newly launched parenting website. To register, the site asked for my age. As directed, I entered my birth month, June, and my birth day, 24, and the year 195__. I tried adding the “4” but the field didn’t take the number. So I chose the earliest year listed -- 1956. 1956! This begged the question: Are mothers over 55 too old to learn from Internet resources?

I tried to enter a “4” one more time. I only wanted to log on so that I could talk to other moms -- women like me with little time to connect socially during the day and only a few minutes at night to search the Web for parenting strategies and eBay sales.

No go. Finally, forced to lie about my age, I gave up and entered my birth year as 1956 -- the year Lucille Ball won the Emmy for I Love Lucy, the cost of a postage stamp was 3 cents, the Yankees won the World Series (against the Brooklyn Dodgers), and life expectancy was 69.7 years – all according to the Internet.

Since I first joined that parenting website, they’ve wisely expanded their list of possible years. But now I am thinking, why should I ever select my real birth year? Why not pick 1970? The year a postage stamp cost 6 cents, Cybil Shepard was on the cover of Glamour magazine, and life expectancy rose to 70.8 years. Next time I’ll choose 1970, the year both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin died of drug overdoses and The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered on CBS.

On second thought, choosing 1970 seems…well…dishonest. Maybe I should pick a birth year closer to my own, one that I do not remember with such certainty.

Hmm. I wonder what important events occurred in 1958. Let’s check the Internet.

Elizabeth Coplan began her marketing and public relations career in New York and Los Angeles over 30 years ago. Now as CEO of COPLAN AND COMPANY in Seattle, Elizabeth focuses on business consulting and on the all-important-job of wife and mother.

Well-known for her personal essays and public speaking, Elizabeth, a "later" mom, recently appeared in the anthology When One Door Closes: Reflections from Women in Life’s Turning Points and in the book In Our Prime: Empowering Essays by Women on Love, Family, Career, Ageing & Just Coping. She is also co-creator and author of A Wild Ride, a website for parents of challenging children.

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