Age-Guessing: Trap or Gag?

The other day when I went shopping at a local clothing store, I experienced an event which was kind of funny and at the same time not funny at all.

After I selected a couple of items, I stood in line at the cashier. In front of me, of course, there was a delay with a lady who truly believed she could pay with her husband’s credit card. You know these moments when you are under time pressure and the stupidity or confusion of others is holding you back from being a successful high achiever. Anyway, my obvious impatience was about to receive payback. I insisted that the cashier take care of me while the other lady was looking for her desperate husband who was wandering through the store or hiding behind some shelves to observe the spectacle. I don’t know if she ever found him, but I learned that impatience is not a virtue and deserves immediate punishment.

The cashier, who was either trying to be nice or obnoxious (I won’t find that out either) offered me 10% off my shopping items as a senior special discount. I was startled and told her that I am not a senior and I showed absolutely no interest in accepting her generous offer. I don’t really know what was driving my temper, but I did not want to be judged and put into the senior drawer. The cashier, a young, assertive lady, was not ready to give up. She explained to me that the senior discount applies to everybody 55 years and older. While she said that she looked at me triumphantly as somebody looks who has just won a competition. My high achiever competitive flame was ignited and I looked at her with the same confidence, “I am not 55 years old yet.” There was no way that I was going to accept a senior discount; giving in was not an option.

You might think that this ended the matter, but the dialogue was far from over yet. The cashier was not willing to move from her position. Maybe she genuinely wanted me to have the special discount, or perhaps she actually wanted to put an end to my diva behavior. She continued, “Not even close?” Well, I have to confess that I am close with my 53 years of age, but again giving in was not an option. I looked straight into her eyes and responded testily with absolute conviction: ”Not even close, sorry”. Her attempts to grant me the discount finally failed, and I happily left the store carrying the pride of victory and a bunch of clothes at regular price.

I have to laugh when I think about this little incident. What is it about age-guessing that drives women crazy and what can we learn from my story?

First of all, don’t fall into the trap when another woman asks you: “How old do you think I am?” Careful, this question means trouble. If you make a guess that is definitely too young, she will not believe you and knows you don’t mean it. If your guess makes her older, you are definitely in deep trouble. If you guess almost the exact age, you are still in trouble, because every woman wants to appear younger than she really is. As a result: You cannot win this game and should, therefore, try to find a smart way to side-step the question. “Sorry, I am not good at age guessing, but you truly look fantastic, whatever your age”. A response like this is the best way out of the dilemma.

The cashier at the clothing store was too young to recognize this fact and, in her favor, I will believe that she was just trying to be nice to me. Nevertheless, I hope that she will refrain from trying to talk women into senior rates. It would be a smarter approach to post the special offer on a sign next to the cashier, and any woman who is interested can ask for the discount. I might even have bargained for the discount saying, “I am not 55 years old yet, but close. Can I please get the discount”?  A smile from the cashier saying, “Of course, even though you look so much younger” would have made my day.

In case you become the victim of age-guessing without having volunteered for it, take it easy and don’t be as stubborn as I was. Instead take the discount and run. At least your legs will follow your lead.

Please share your story and tell us how you live your femininity.

Be a woman and act like one.

About Hertha Wolff-Arend

I am a business coach and writer located in Paso Robles, California. I am the author of the book Be a woman and act like one. Succeeding in business and life’’ and I write a blog for women with the same title. I give motivational speeches and offer leadership and personality trainings to women. I also work with business owners and managers to support them in their leadership skills and personal development. As a strategic consultant, I also help companies with their communication and marketing strategy. Born and raised in Germany, I spent most of my adult life in Europe. I have a German university degree in languages and economics and I worked for many years in the advertising industry as one of the few female managing directors in Germany for major international advertising agencies such as Young&Rubicam, TBWA and Bates. My client list consisted of mainly blue chip clients, where I was responsible for their communications strategies and the development and execution of the advertising concepts. Just to name a few clients: Lufthansa, Danone, Kraft Foods, Bosch, Singapore Airlines, Ericsson, Campbells etc. In 2004 I relocated with my husband and son to California. I graduated from New Venture West in San Francisco as a Certified Integral Coach and started my own coaching practice in 2007. I am fluent in German and English and have conversational skills in Spanish. Aside from my dedication to work and family, I am a passionate dressage rider. I am devoted to supporting women in business, with a focus on women in the lower and middle management who are aiming at a career in the higher ranks or who want to develop their own business.
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