Monday, July 16, 2007

Age Is Just A Number On My Space

After A While, Age is Meaningless Except for the Milestones

On MySpace (the internet social networking website) you have to put your age in your profile. But on the net, you're only as old as you say your are. Most MySpacers lie about their age. Some lie up, some lie down. For example, if the profile says 15, they're probably eight. If it says 24, they're probably 15. If it says they're 30, they're probably 45. The only people who might put their real age on their MySpace page are folks in their 20s because apparently it’s cool to be in your 20s, but it's hard to tell them from teenagers so it doesn't count.

And then there are the people who lie way up. That's me. According to my profile I’m 96 years old. I’ll be 97 in September and I think I look pretty damn good for a budding centenarian. If I eat right and exercise I should make it deep into the triple digits.

Why 96? Well there are a few folks who visit my MySpace who don't get that I'm trying be coy. "Leighann, I think somebody messed with your profile. It says you're 67? Is that a typo? If not you look great." Thank you.

The manager in my doctor’s office saw my page and was so concerned, she called me at home. "Leighann, you’re not 52! I checked your chart." Really? That must mean you finally found it. It’s been missing since the turn of the century.

And so now I'm 96. Hopefully this leaves no room for ambiguity; a not so subtle way of saying, "I’m not telling."

The thing is I don’t have a problem with my age, but other people do. By other people, I mean "The Industry." In entertainment women have a very short shelf life. Telling people how old you really are is like putting an expiration date on your career. The rule of thumb is, you’re only as old as you look, and with the right clothes, hair and makeup I could be a high school girl or Miss Jane Pittman.

What does this have to do with MySpace? Well you never know who's visiting your page. It could be a fan, an old college friend or someone in The Industry. Most fans don't care how old I am, friends already know, and The Industry doesn't need to know. What they know can hurt me. If I look like I can play 18, but MySpace says I’m 29, they’ll no longer think I can play 18. I’ve decreased my opportunities for work. Is The Industry being unfair? No, they just don’t have the time to be open minded. The Entertainment Industry is a fast paced business with not a lot of room for imagination and creativity. These are very, very busy people.

I think after a while age becomes meaningless except for the milestones. At 18 you can vote. At 21 you can drink. At 25, if you’re a responsible driver, your auto insurance goes down. It’s worth noting that my insurance went down again when I got married. At last, a convincing argument for polygamy. A few more husbands and I might actually be able to get a nicer car. This also explains why gay marriage is such a hot issue. Shouldn’t they too receive the benefits of lower car insurance?

Thirty-six is an overlooked milestone. That’s when TV shows no longer care if you’re watching. The coveted commercial demographic is 18 to 35. At 36 you’re in the no man’s land between Comedy Central and AARP. In a real advertising sense you’re dead to everyone except bill collectors and divorce attorneys.

They say 40 is the new 20; maybe if you substitute student loans for mortgage payments, but I disagree. You can look good for 40, but you’ll never be 20 again. All the makeup, clothes, personal training and cosmetic surgery in the world can’t change your eyes. Most 20 year old eyes have not experienced the vagaries of adulthood: IRS audits, divorce, child support, ungrateful teenagers.

You can clearly see in a 40 year old’s eyes that sometimes life isn’t fair, things don’t always work out, shit happens and it happens hard and fast, for no reason. That’s why sun glasses are so much cooler after 40. They hide the simmering anger that you have at 20 year olds.

What’s more significant and yet overlooked about 40 is that you no longer have a place on a combination lock. Combination locks go from zero to 39. Go ahead, look. I’ll wait. See. Disturbing isn’t it? If a combination lock went up to 40 or even 50, wouldn’t it provide more security? But it stops at 39 perhaps in a partial homage to
"Logan's Run."

In high school I had a lock with the combination 19, 37, 15. To remember it I used to say to myself: "In 1937 my mother was 15." When I shared this wonderful memory device with my Mom she didn’t seem all that pleased. Now I know why.

At the milestone of 65 you can retire and begin receiving those lucrative Social Security payments I've heard so much about. Party time! At 72 you can enjoy the mandatory disbursement of your IRA, that is if you haven’t already tapped it to help supplement your social security windfall. At 78, you’ve officially gamed the system by exceeding the average life expectancy of an American Adult (by one year) and you've doubled the highest number on a combination lock age. (Thirty-nine times two is 78.)

Now if my real age is 78, what should my MySpace age be? I’ll have to start counting in dog years. Maybe then The Industry will finally be impressed with my range, but my dog's Vet may call and say "Leighann, you're not 9 1/2."

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