Should You Always Lie About Your Age?

Who has not sat through a movie where a perfectly lovely heroine has been maligned with comments such as Boori ho gayee hai, thakhi wee lag rahee hai, uus kee Ma lag rahee hai, She looks aged, she looks tired, she looks like his mother’.

During a recent trip to Pakistan, I had the pleasure of watching with a group the Indian film Bhoothnath starring Amitabh Bachan, Shahrukh Khan and Juhi Chawla. Part way into the movie, the men, all around forty years of age, began confirming with each other that indeed Juhi was looking older, much older, indeed she had become decrepit.

“She’s looking like Shahrukh’s mother,” they remarked to each other, “Shahrukh kee maa lag rahi hai.”

The women at the gathering were all in their mid to late twenties though the fact is they’ve been celebrating the same age for quite a few birthdays. They all glanced at each other almost guiltily, perhaps wondering what I was wondering.

“Really?” I said out loud. “She’s looking like Shahrukh’s Mom? You men are welcome to your opinion but do tell from where exactly which angle does Juhi look old or like his mother?  Because I think she looks gorgeous. Better than any of you any day. And how come she looks old enough for you to merit comment but Amitabh Bachan who is actually old enough to be her Dad and looks it never-the-less merits not a single comment from the collective-you. I suppose Sean Connery, and Clint Eastwood, and Robert Redford, and Mel Gibson playing strapping, nubile heroes is also perfectly kosher even if they should be babysitting their leading lady rather than romancing her.”

The men tell me, all good humor, that I’m insane. I am advised that, while in Pakistan to shut up and please get with the program and that once I returned to America (where, by the way, these gender double standards exist in Hollywood too: see above list of aged actors who star with way younger leading ladies) to shout out my grievances from the rooftops.

And yet, as more popcorn and Sprite and Black Label is brought out, the men do look sheepish and the women decidedly smug even if, come tomorrow, they’ll be hushing me if I tell the truth about my own age. Since the truth about my age will allow people to calculate the truth about their ages.

(published 2012)