A little while back I wrote an op-ed for a German newspaper. I was on the phone with the editor, going over the final draft, when he said to me, “Now, I have to ask you something, and I want to apologize in advance. I would never normally ask you this, but unfortunately our newspaper insists. It is standard policy and so please forgive me…” He was so embarrassed and stumbling and apologetic that I got rather worried and was thinking, my God, what on earth is he about to put me through? – and he finished with, “How old are you?”
I was so taken aback I burst out laughing. I said, good grief, I have no problem telling you that at all – I’m 58.
I don’t have a problem saying my age. But society does.
I recently went into a store to buy a birthday card for a friend. I came out empty-handed – because every single card I looked at was ageist. Other than the overly serious affectionate birthday greetings, which were not what I was after, every single card made a joke about getting older that presented aging as a bad thing and your age as something you should never own up to.
I tell everyone how old I am as often as possible. I shout it from the rooftops. I consider myself a proudly visible member of the most invisible segment of our society – older women. And I want to help redefine, in the way I live my life, what society thinks an older woman should be like, talk like, look like, dress like, work like, and date like.
That’s why I coined the hashtag #sayyourage. Because I want to ask all of you to do that too.
I want you to start saying your age, unashamedly and with pride. Because I believe the opposite of ‘Age is just a number’. Your age is a very special number. You are the sum total of all of your learnings and life experiences to date. Your age is a fundamental part of who you are. It represents your true value, in business and in life – the older you get, the more valuable you get, and the more your age represents that. #sayyourage – and own your age. Your age is you. Your age is what makes you as valuable, special and unique as you are.
I want you to #sayyourage no matter what age you are – because ageism exists at every point along the age spectrum. You can be dismissed for being too young – especially if you’re female – as much as you can be dismissed for being too old. Be proud to #sayyourage however young you are, and keep saying it and owning it, all the way through your career and your life, because that’s one way we can change ageism for all of us.