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Sometimes people ask me how old I am, I think just to make conversation or get to know me better. I don't know why but it seems to be an increasingly common question. If I don't know the person well I'd prefer not to answer. How can I do this without making the rest of the conversation awkward?

One example is someone at work asked me what my age was. I had mentioned I had a friend where he was from and he was trying to figure out if he knew them. Especially with a coworker I don't want to bluntly reply "I'm not telling you".

My gender is male and I don't like answering the question because I don't think someones age says much about their character. Perhaps I'm paranoid but it could also be an identity theft issue.

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    Would giving a ballpark figure (“early 20’s”, “mid 40’s”) be an acceptable alternative? – AsheraH Aug 12 at 4:51
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    Have you already tried something? If so - what was the response? – Jeroen Aug 12 at 6:45
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    In your example the question about your age was to help someone determine if they knew someone (shared age group, attented same school, etc.). So telling something about that friend would be more helpful. You can always give a hint about your age "I couldn't vote for Clinton. But I like HIS running mate" or something like taht. – SZCZERZO KŁY Aug 12 at 7:03
  • @JeroendeK nothing, I drew a blank – abc_me Aug 12 at 10:08
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    @abc_me I don't think "why you asking" is rude. It's just being curious. You would like to know why someone want to know your age. Otherwise YOU might assume anything you want about the question and answer "Old enough to drink" or "Old enough to run for president". Which wouldn't help the asker in any way. But by answering your question they would get much more precise answer. – SZCZERZO KŁY Aug 12 at 10:15
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Two approaches:

First, expanding on Scoots' approach of gently deflecting with humo(u)r, and taking note of your comment about how you drew a blank when the question came, the key is to have your answer lined up ahead of time so you are not caught off guard next time. It's much more effective to immediately fire off a witty response than to fumble for one. I use these two when I don't want to tell someone my age:

Old enough to know better than to answer that question!

and

One hundred forty-seven. And today I'm feeling every bit of it.

I had a colleague once whose stock response was:

18 and some months.

(This one works best if your actual age is not near 18. My colleague was - I think - in her 30s at the time.)

There are dozens of other suggestions on the web. Search for "witty responses to how old are you" and you'll find sites with lists of responses that run the range from self-deprecatingly clever to downright rude. Choose one or two that work for your personality (preferably not the rude ones!) and have them ready to go for when the question comes at you. Use a cheerful tone of voice - this conveys that you are not offended by the question... but you are also not interested in answering it.

Much of the time, this is enough to stop the asker. Sometimes, people persist, so again, prepare in advance. Have a couple of fallbacks ready in case a followup comes and choose the appropriate one for your situation. It could be a serious explanation of why it's your policy not to give out your age (clarifying that "it's not you, it's me"), or it could be a range ("thirty-something"), or it could be another joke ("my mother doesn't like me to tell people because she thinks it makes her look old"). Once again, the key is to have them ready in advance.

My fallback, in case it's helpful to you, is to explain - at length - why I'm old enough to know not to give out my age. I tell a long, boring story about how a woman once asked and I responded honestly, and she outright cackled at me, crowing loudly "YOU'RE JUST A BABY!" even though my hair was already starting to go grey and she could only have been a few years older than I was.

The details of the story don't matter (though they are true). The real point is:

  • the reason has nothing to do with the person I'm currently talking to.
  • the story contains nothing they can object to or argue with (which they would be very likely to do if you said you were worried about identity theft).
  • it's a boring story that they are not interested in pursuing further.

Once I see they've lost interest in the topic, I end the boring story and we move on to something else.


Second, whenever someone asks you a question about your age, see if you can answer it with a date instead. Many age questions are really date questions in disguise. Your colleague's is a prime example. What he really wanted to know was whether he would have overlapped with your friend, and so you might have said:

You mean when was my friend living in Anytown? Up until 2012. Then he (she) moved to Otherburg.

In this case, that would probably have worked. Of course, you didn't know that for sure until after you had already answered with your age. But be on the lookout in the future - sometimes a question about your age can be answered with a date.

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A bit of humour can sometimes get you out of answering a personal question you don't wish to answer without coming across as confrontational. My personal favourite for "how old are you?" is to counter-ask "how old do I look?" with a cheeky grin.

Of course if they persist I have to fall back to asking why they wish to know, or even to flat-out stating I don't wish to share that information, but I've found most people are able to take the hint.

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  • +1 : I personnally use that counter-question myself with great effect, though the question itself doesn’t bother me as much as OP. If the person is right(-ish), I’d reply "Not too far from the truth", otherwise "Not quite there but it’s okay", and in both cases I can conclude with "That will do/that’s precise enough for now" if they insist. :-) – breversa Aug 12 at 15:02
  • I think this is what OP already tried, right? – justhalf Aug 13 at 2:37
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I find it utterly annoying when they ask that.. as well as 'where are you from'. Why does it matter so much? I never ask those questions. I usually say 'How old you think I am' I look much younger, so, whatever they say, I'd be like 'yeah, let's go with that'. But if over a call they can't see me; 'I'll never tell' with a laugh.

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