Created By: FerdinandtheBullMay 23, 2012 Last Edited By: Noah1August 1, 2014

Guarded Age

A usually female character insists on keeping her age a secret.

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Trope
It's commonly accepted that no one wants to get old, and that a woman getting old is pretty much the worst thing that can happen. For this reason, a lot of people don't want their age advertised past a certain birthday, and "never ask a lady her age" is a stock etiquette rule. Someone's reasons for lying about their age or keeping it a secret may vary, from being in a business (such as acting) where they risk being put out to pasture if they're seen as too old, to vanity or a delusional wish to cling to a young person's lifestyle, to simply feeling that it's private information. Usually it's The Not Secret, sometimes even an Open Secret, but at any rate, it's bound to become a talking point, and they won't be happy about it.

Twenty-nine is often the oldest "young" age someone will admit to, at least for as long as it's remotely plausible. Entering any new decade will be seen as a cause for heightened security.

This character is likely to be a Birthday Hater, with jokes about them turning X for the Yth year in a row. Compare Older Than They Look, Age Inappropriate Dress, Absurdly Youthful Mother. First Gray Hair and Maam Shock will hit this character hard.

Examples:

  • This is a Running Gag with Jenna from Thirty Rock. At one point she survives a rapid-fire interrogation from Jack by rattling off what are clearly memorized answers to questions such as what her high school prom theme was. Also, in one episode Liz pretends to be in her twenties to justify a relationship with an allegedly twenty-five-year-old guy who turns out to be only twenty, and she agonizes over the fact that, for her usual feminist reasons, she's always promised herself she would never lie about her age.
  • Auntie Mame. It's a big deal when she begins "admitting" she's forty now and it's time to take on a more mature role, which doesn't happen until her fifties.
  • In Are You There God Its Me Margaret, Nancy volunteers this information about her mother.
  • Joan on Mad Men seems to have done this, as somebody in the office plays a prank on her by pinning a photocopy of her driver's license on the bulletin board with her date of birth circled.
  • Blanche Devereaux of The Golden Girls is so adamant about keeping her sex life alive that she had her age withheld by the governor.
Community Feedback Replies: 34
  • May 23, 2012
    Koveras
  • May 24, 2012
    Frank75
    It's almost People Sit On Chairs. Or do you know any culture where it's not considered impolite to ask an adult woman for her age?
  • May 24, 2012
    Bisected8
    • A rare male example was a running gag in The Dandy; Desperate Dan refused to divulge his, leading the editor of the local paper to spend a great deal of effort trying to get hold of it.
  • May 24, 2012
    Duncan
    Also a running gag with Fran on The Nanny. Examples listed in the Christmas Cake section on that page.
  • May 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Male example: Jack Benny, who was 39 for about 50 years.
  • May 24, 2012
    Dacilriel
    Theater: Lampshaded in The Importance Of Being Earnest

    Lady Bracknell: How old are you, dear?

    Cecily: Well, I am really only eighteen, but I always admit to twenty when I go to evening parties.

    Lady Bracknell: You are perfectly right in making some slight alteration. Indeed, no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating.

    ...

    Lady Bracknell: Thirty-five is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.
  • May 24, 2012
    StevenT
    Should this be changed to include characters hiding or lying about their weight?
  • May 24, 2012
    Dawnwing
    ^ I think weight would be a seperate trope.

  • May 25, 2012
    McKathlin
    • Lemont of Candorville doesn't seem too pleased about his age; he states it as mumblety-five.
  • May 30, 2012
    Noah1
    • Blanche Devereaux of The Golden Girls is so adamant about keeping her sex life alive that she had her age witheld by the governor.
  • March 18, 2014
    Chabal2
    A Running Gag in the Video Game/Touhou fandom is that Yukari Yakumo (the most powerful youkai in the series, and thousands of years old) is seventeen, anyone saying different will find themselves gapped.
  • March 18, 2014
    XFllo
    I've been thinking about this thing too and wanted to start a draft. I'm glad it's already here. :-)

    I think it's very tropeworthy if it gets lampshaded. Truth In Television, yes, but not really People Sit On Chairs.

    I don't quite like the working title. What do others think?

    Compare/contrast with Really Seventeen Years Old when a character pretends to be older in order to do things legally available only to adults. (There are many "inverted" examples on that page which should be moved here.)

    Often related to adult versions of Growing Up Sucks.

  • March 18, 2014
    KZN02
    Is there a variant on a woman's measurements?
  • March 18, 2014
    DAN004
  • March 19, 2014
    XFllo
  • March 19, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ that fits "weight" more than "measurements". :P

    Suggesting Classified Age for the title.
  • March 19, 2014
    Astaroth
    Is this already covered by Vague Age?
  • March 19, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ in this case, character makes it deliberately vague. A subtrope, so to speak.
  • March 19, 2014
    randomsurfer
    In aanother episode of 30 Rock Jack pretends Jenna is dead in order to get some cheap publicity for her upcoming film, a biopic of Janis Joplin. During a live Tribute Show on TGS Jenna comes "back" from the dead, essentially admitting to fraud, because they were about to reveal her real age. "Worth it Jack!"
  • March 20, 2014
    Illemar
    A Reader's Digest anecdote related how a woman's mother had been deliberately telling people the wrong age for several years. The woman nearly fainted when one day, the mother introduced her as being several years younger as well. When asked, the mother explained that it had occurred to her that the (apparent) age gap between them was getting smaller and it was beginning to inch into the region of socially unacceptable (ie Teen Mom).
  • March 20, 2014
    LC
    Fran's refusal to reveal her age is recurring gag on the nanny
  • March 21, 2014
    BOFH
    Literature
    • At the end of Citizen Of The Galaxy, this is a culture shock for Thorby, when his cousin refuses to disclose her age and explains that on Earth it's impolite to ask about a woman's age, unlike the women in the culture where Thorby grew up, who would try to claim to be older than they really were because of the higher status of elders.
  • March 21, 2014
    TMOverbeck
    A Radio example: Anthony of Opie And Anthony once stated on his birthday that he is now "forty-flurf" years old.
  • March 21, 2014
    woddor
    It is a common theory, due to his gray hair, that Super Macho Man is not 27 as his info states.
  • March 21, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    Guarded Age sounds like an Era which is sealed by some higher power or more mundanely, records about the era are kept hidden from the general public.

    All Women Have Age Insecurity? this is about women being secretive of their age after all.

    heck Never Ask A Lady Her Age works already, it's not a Stock Phrase, or at least, not usually used as a line of dialogue.
  • March 21, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ doesn't have to be a lady, dude.

    Again, Classified Age
  • March 21, 2014
    randomsurfer
    Real Life (or) Professional Wrestling: Martin Wright lied about his age to get into WWE Tough Enough; after the found out he was over 40 he was kicked out but he still got a WWE contract as the Boogeyman.
  • March 21, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^^ Age is also a period of time. needs a person to make it obvious it's about a person's age.
  • March 22, 2014
    DAN004
    Classified period of time falls into...

    ...Damn, guess that we don't have that either :p
  • March 22, 2014
    Diask
  • March 22, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ that's classified, yeah, but Out Of Universe. .
  • March 22, 2014
    Antigone3
    How about Age Insecurity?
  • March 22, 2014
    ShanghaiSlave
    ^ well, to confuse that with the time period it would have to be named Age OF Insecurity.

    I guess that works.
  • August 1, 2014
    XFllo

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