Author Topic: Why is it rude to ask about age?  (Read 2597 times)

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Redsoil

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Why is it rude to ask about age?
« on: April 08, 2014, 09:15:50 AM »
Following on from another thread, I wondered exactly why it's considered rude to ask someone's age?

In this "modern era" we're far less coy about so many subjects that were once considered crass to discuss, so why has age remained one of the social taboos?

What's your personal take on it?  Are you happy to disclose your age, or do you find it an uncomfortable question?  If so, could you expand a little on why?

Me?  I'm 48 and don't care who knows it!  I tend to see the question much along the lines of things like "What do you do for a living?" or "What hobbies do you have?" 
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Thipu1

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2014, 09:19:53 AM »
I have no problems being asked about my age if there's a reason for it.  Reasons would include eligibility for a Senior discount or a discussion in which I mentioned something I remembered about the 1950s. 

I would think it a bit odd to be asked my age out of the blue but I'd probably still answer. 

cicero

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2014, 09:27:08 AM »
*I* personally don't care - and I'm told i look much younger than i am (I don't know how i would feeli if i looked much older than i am).

I think that it's still considered rude becuase it's a very personal question.

So to use your examples - it's OK to ask someone "what do you do for a living" but not OK to ask someone how much they make (even if that information is "out there").  or it's OK to ask someone what they do at the gym (if the subject comes up in a conversation) but not OK to ask someone how much they weigh.

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I'mnotinsane

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2014, 09:31:07 AM »
I don't mind so much if it is not asked in order to make judgments about the person being asked.  When it is I refuse to answer.

TurtleDove

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2014, 09:32:02 AM »
I don't have a problem with disclosing my age (or my weight, or height, or job, or marital status, or ____ for that matter).  I agree with previous posters that context matters though - in some situations it would be odd to be asked my age.

I have never understood people who lie about their age, especially women who claim to be younger than they are.  I am 40, and am frequently told I look quite young for my age.  I am always honest about my age, but I joke that if I were to lie I would skew my age up, not down.  "I'm 57 - don't I look FANTASTIC for my age?!??" would be far more impressive than "I'm 24 - I know I look closer to 32, but still, put me down for 24."

TootsNYC

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #5 on: April 08, 2014, 09:33:52 AM »
I don't mind so much if it is not asked in order to make judgments about the person being asked.  When it is I refuse to answer.

Because people *do* ask this in order to make judgments. Even though we are a little less coy about other things.

In fact, in the thread you referenced, that is exactly what is going on.

So, if I'm making a new friend, and we are checking to see where we're compatible, I may mention my age on my own.

But even in that situation, I don't think it's really polite to ask it.

TurtleDove

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2014, 09:39:20 AM »
So, if I'm making a new friend, and we are checking to see where we're compatible, I may mention my age on my own.

But even in that situation, I don't think it's really polite to ask it.

I have friends (close friends even) from age 26 to late 50s, so I don't really find age to be a factor in compatibility as much as activities enjoyed.  That said, as I think about this, I don't mind telling people my age but I rarely ask anyone else's age, unless they are obviously under age 8 :).  Although it isn't difficult to ballpark an adult's age based on graduation dates from schools attended or stories about having run a race in a particular year or whatever.

TurtleDove

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2014, 09:40:57 AM »
For colleagues, most everyone can be found on the internet with their graduation dates and bar admissions so I generally know roughly how old most everyone is anyway!

Jones

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2014, 09:41:38 AM »
If I said that next week was my 10th wedding anniversary is next week, and then after a little chit chat you asked me "oh, how old are you?" Would you be able to stop yourself from making a judgment if I said 28 instead of, say, 34? If a person has an 8 year old daughter and is only 23 years old, what kind of difference does it make to a perfect stranger, except for judgmental purposes?

TootsNYC

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2014, 09:45:06 AM »
So, if I'm making a new friend, and we are checking to see where we're compatible, I may mention my age on my own.

But even in that situation, I don't think it's really polite to ask it.

I have friends (close friends even) from age 26 to late 50s, so I don't really find age to be a factor in compatibility as much as activities enjoyed.  That said, as I think about this, I don't mind telling people my age but I rarely ask anyone else's age, unless they are obviously under age 8 :).  Although it isn't difficult to ballpark an adult's age based on graduation dates from schools attended or stories about having run a race in a particular year or whatever.

Maybe compatible isn't the word I wanted--more, "where we correlate," bcs if we're both in our 50s, I can make jokes about TV commercials from my teen years.

But you're right, in almost all cases, I can get a ballpark from context clues, and that's really enough for almost anyone.

I don't even really need to know my siblings' ages.

Redsoil

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2014, 09:50:53 AM »
I guess for me, Jones, it helps round out the possible life experiences a person may have had, along with other "getting to know you" stuff.  (Which is why humans tend to want to know these things, I guess.)  Like where you grew up, what sorts of books or films you enjoy, if you ride motorbikes, do you have siblings, have you travelled, what sorts of jobs you've had and other "what type of person are you on the surface" questions.  The era in which you grew up would definitely impact on your outlook, as does the area you grew up in.

So, if you married at 18, I'd possibly think that was interesting, to have been so certain at a young age that you'd found your soul-mate.  Obviously, your perspective on life would be different to another person who may have married at 35, or one who decided not to marry at all.  We are all many parts, and age is but one part.  However, we can't really say it doesn't matter, because clearly, it does.
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cicero

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #11 on: April 08, 2014, 10:06:45 AM »
If I said that next week was my 10th wedding anniversary is next week, and then after a little chit chat you asked me "oh, how old are you?" Would you be able to stop yourself from making a judgment if I said 28 instead of, say, 34? If a person has an 8 year old daughter and is only 23 years old, what kind of difference does it make to a perfect stranger, except for judgmental purposes?
i don't know if i would say "judgmental" but i wouldn't be able to stop my mind from doing the math. from a sociological point of view, i find it interesting to talk to young vs. older moms, or young brides vs. older. (who am i to judge, anyway? i got married at 21 , my then husband was 22. for me and him it was way way way too young but i know many couples who met in HS, got married at 18, 19, and have been together for decades so it's really not a judgmental thing. for me, anyway.

but then again, i wouldn't ask a complete stranger what their age is.

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TurtleDove

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #12 on: April 08, 2014, 10:20:50 AM »
If I said that next week was my 10th wedding anniversary is next week, and then after a little chit chat you asked me "oh, how old are you?" Would you be able to stop yourself from making a judgment if I said 28 instead of, say, 34? If a person has an 8 year old daughter and is only 23 years old, what kind of difference does it make to a perfect stranger, except for judgmental purposes?
i don't know if i would say "judgmental" but i wouldn't be able to stop my mind from doing the math. from a sociological point of view, i find it interesting to talk to young vs. older moms, or young brides vs. older. (who am i to judge, anyway? i got married at 21 , my then husband was 22. for me and him it was way way way too young but i know many couples who met in HS, got married at 18, 19, and have been together for decades so it's really not a judgmental thing. for me, anyway.

but then again, i wouldn't ask a complete stranger what their age is.

I agree.  I think people who are going to be negatively judgmental will be that way whether they ask and then know your age or not.  For me, I don't negatively judge people based on age and actually might positively judge people for having done things at a relatively older or younger age.  But my reason for being curious about age would be to better know the person, not to negatively "judge" them.

For example, one of my friends is 42 and has a 6 year old grandson.  She is an extremely accomplished and active woman, and I admire her greatly for raising her daughter on her own as a teenager and still managing to do and be all the things she is today.  I certainly don't look at her and think, "heh, teenage pregnancy, what a horrid person" or whatever people might fear.

Jones

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2014, 10:29:05 AM »
(All Yous are general) I definitely think there's a difference between asking a complete stranger you'll never meet again and asking someone you'll be seeing regularly for work or similar interest groups. Wouldn't suggest asking a new friend until you've hung out a few times and you can gauge their reaction, for sure. By which time, you'll probably have a general idea anyway based on all the other conversations you've had in the meanwhile.

Full disclosure, I used to not mind the question, but as I am 28 and will celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary next week and have had negative reactions from various people when they find out I married young it has developed into a sore spot over the years. There are a couple other "young marrieds" I met through a mom's group last year and it's been a tremendous relief.

Ms_Cellany

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Re: Why is it rude to ask about age?
« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2014, 10:38:20 AM »
My sister (HungryHungryKitties) recently mentioned to a co-worker that she and her husband were going on a trip for their 25th anniversary.

Co-worker looked at her and blurted out "How old were you when you got married?"

She said "Twelve."

(She was 21. We're a baby-faced family)
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