Why People Lie About Their Age

I surely have a confession to make. Sometimes, I lie about my real age.

This habit started during the 1990s, the years I wore my sister’s white lab coat and walked around her campus like I was one of the medical students. Frankly, I didn’t care if anyone bought into my fake ‘medical student’ hype; after all I really wore the coat because I wanted to look older than I was.


These days, I hide my real age from a particular group of nosy colleagues at work. I gave them a ‘work age’ because as the youngest in my group, even though there are no apparent threats, I feel they might silently start viewing me as too young to manage certain people or projects. My speculation aside, they don’t even seem to remember I already told them I am…uhI need to remember what age I’ve been claiming.Despite my effort to maintain a reasonable deviation from my real age, +5 years, I clearly haven’t convinced them because I keep getting asked the same age question. Can’t they just act uninterested? It is not like I am 29 yet claiming 50. Even if that were the case, they should simply compliment me on how great I look for my age. Who knows, I might return the favor by sharing details of my age-defying regime with them.

I’m not the only one with this habit. While I add years to my age, my sister, as well as a friend of mine, take years off. During her birthday speech, my friend went on to thank everyone for attending her 27th birthday “again and again”. And until my sister’s 40th birthday party, her teenage daughter had no clue her mum was “that old”. Over the years, “how old are you mummy?” got the same response, “I’m a big 2.” Yeah I don’t know what that means either, but it always resulted in my niece making random guesses below her mum’s real age, which of course her mum took as a compliment.

While my sister and friend lower their ages for the fun of it, there are other people who do so for far more serious reasons; Like older job applicants. With the high unemployment rate in Nigeria, a 39 year old trying to re-enter the job market has his work cut out for him. Depending on the level of experience required for a job, most corporations would rather pick a younger applicant over a 39 year old one. This intense competition with younger candidates puts the older applicant under pressure to revise his date of birth and declare a lower age on his resume. You can’t blame him, can you? Even if he does not revise his age and still gets a job, he has to worry about how his employer’s retirement policy would affect him in the future since most corporations mandate employees to officially retire either at age 60 or after 35 years of service, whichever occurs first. So technically, the 39 year old applicant has only about 21 years of service before his expected retirement age. He doesn’t have the extra 14 years of service to strengthen his savings, boost his retirement plan, prepare for his children’s remaining education costs and other expenses bound to arise during his retirement years. With all these and more scenarios to worry about, lowering your real age for longer employment status is simply a survival method.

Maybe concealing my real age at work is also a survival mechanism. But someone once told me that lying about my age means that I can lie about anything and can’t be trusted. I must have pressed my mental snooze button when I heard that. Thanks ‘fortune teller’! However, whether I lie about my age or the next guy lies about his income, the bottom line is that we have chosen not to disclose the details to a particular curious person but freely tell other people. Besides, either for fun or for survival, the people mentioned above are not the only ones playing musical chairs with their ages.  Just take a quick glance at the Super Eagles Under-21 team. Please, just a quick glance; if you stare for too long you might mistake them for 30-something year old liars. Okay, okay… go Super Eagles, go!

In what situation have you lied about your age?