No, they’re not suppose to ask you, but they do.
And you need to have a response to this question ready to go – so you can avoid becoming flustered, or impulsively lying, or letting a defensive tone creep into your voice. Those types of responses can lead the person asking the question to determine that YOU have an issue with your age.
And if YOU have an issue with it… maybe they should have an issue with it too.
Conversely, if you respond confidently with a lighthearted yet indirect answer, chances are they will drop the subject and not worry too much about it. You’ll be surprised how often people will take their cue from you.
As I’ve mentioned in previous columns, it helps to consider why they are asking the question… what they are afraid of?
I had a male client who was a professional editor/director but, because he looked about 16, he was always getting the age question. People were confused by his youthful appearance and were doubtful of his capabilities and level of experience. I suggested that he reply: “I know, I look like the Doogie Howser of editing, but trust me, I’m old enough to vote.”
Without answering the question directly, he could acknowledged the issue and assure them he was over 21. Which is really all they need to know.
For all women over the age of 25, I suggest an answer that assures them you are full of youthful vibrancy. Something along the lines of: “Trust me, I have the ambition and energy of a college freshman but I’m much smarter.” This line is a nice, humorous way of saying that you are NOT a burnt out actress considering leaving the biz (which they actually might be worried about) – but, sorry, you aren’t getting more specific than that!
The essential element is to deliver all your answers in an even, lighthearted tone. Don’t get the slightest bit challenging or defensive or bitchy. (Believe me, people can sense – even subconsciously – if you have a chip on your shoulder about this subject.)
Ahhh, but what about the handful of people who won’t accept your pithy answer? I’ll suggest how to deal with them in part 2…