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Admit it girls... we've all lied about our age at some stage

WE'VE all done it, haven't we? Well, most of us. Lied about our age - even if only to get into a nightclub aged 17 and three quarters.

Derry singer Nadine Coyle is a prime example, with the Girls Aloud singer lying about her age to get on the TV talent show Popstars, saying she was 18 when she was 16.

Upping my age was a repeat feature of my youth, all the more so when, aged 20, I moved to America and was unable to order a glass of wine without my (fake) driving licence. Of course, inflating your age doesn't last forever - and it doesn't hold quite the same stigma as shaving the years off!

Now I find myself nearing that end of the spectrum, I have removed my date of birth from my Facebook account.

Much of this is vanity. But lying about your age has to have some practical benefits, too. Otherwise why else would an anonymous Texan actress be suing both Amazon and the Internet Movie Database for listing her age as 40? She is 40, by the way - she has just never told anyone. Now that the fact is out there, she feels that it is damaging her career - to the tune of €56,000 in compensation.

If the actress is right and revealing her age really has damaged her career, it says as much about Hollywood's ageism as anything else. We've all heard the tales of actresses who pass out of their 30s and find roles drying up, and parts going to younger stars.

TV presenters and news readers have complained of the same thing. Think Selina Scott (60), who bought an age-discrimination claim against Channel Five a few years ago and was awarded in the region of €290,000. Yet, there's immense disappointment that Anne Doyle (59) has decided to leave as RTE's foremost news anchor. Indeed, when it comes to showbusiness it seems that lying about your age can have real material benefit.

Pressure

"It is becoming increasingly obvious that age is an important part of getting a job," agrees PR supremo Max Clifford, whose clients include Simon Cowell and Kerry Katona. "Broadcasters are aiming for a younger audience."

It's not just women who suffer. Within music, there's as much pressure on the boys as the girls. Alex Kapranos, of Franz Ferdinand, was on the receiving end of more than a few snarky jibes when he revealed he was 30 at the time of the band's chart-topping Take Me Out; frontmen in bands and singer-songwriters are routinely marketed as being younger than they really are.

One theory is that since it is teenage girls whose tastes dictate the pop charts, it's thought you need to be within a certain age bracket to appeal. Music, whether you like it or not, continues to be seen as a young person's game.

Ageism was evident in our recent presidential election, when much was made of eventual winner Michael D Higgins being 70 years old. Mary Davis (57) was ribbed for having what looked like an airbrushed poster.

Former RTE presenter Caroline Morahan was once accused of knocking years off to fool "ageist" media bosses. A celeb magazine had her down as 30, yet a showbiz website claimed the beauty was just 27, and those in the know said the Hollywood wannabe was 32.

We're none the wiser, and her age isn't listed on Wikipedia. When she burst on to the scene in the mid-Nineties Sheryl Crow was conspicuous in her repeated refusal to hide her age (she was 32).

Stunning

As a journalist, I'm all too familiar with interviewees who, asked their age, respond with a terse: "I'd rather not say." "Never ask a lady her age" still holds. Certainly, when it comes to romance, lying about age to appear more compatible is, if not necessarily advisable, not uncommon.

Miriam O'Callaghan looks stunning at 50, and the mum-of-eight had no chance to hide her age from younger husband Steve Carson (43) because of her high profile. It did her no harm, though. In the workplace, though, such fibs can take on more significance. With so many people unemployed it's not, perhaps, all that surprising to find that up to a third of people admit to "embellishing" their CVs. And when it comes to lying about our age we may well have something to gain.

According to American think-tank the Urban Institute, younger employees are more likely to lose their jobs to redundancy. But when it comes to finding a new one, they've got the edge. Over 50s are a third less likely to find work than jobseekers aged 25-34. Over 62? You're 50pc less likely to be employed.

Of course, the benefits only count if you're not found out. As more of our lives are recorded online, the risk of discovery is all the greater. And if you are found out, the consequences can be severe. "People don't realise how serious it is," says Charlie Ryan, founder of a recruitment agency. "Some companies will understand -- but they are few and far between. What happens to trust?"

Similarly, even for actresses and musicians, the potential downsides may well outweigh the advantage. "I'd never recommend any of my clients do it," says Max Clifford, "because there will always be plenty of people out there who will say, 'hold on, I was at school with that person', and ring up the papers."

Damn those old mates. Yet if they do ring the papers, the ridicule you face may be worse than telling the truth.


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