So, here is my insight, which has been refined over time though trial and error and much consultation. I am actually 7 years younger that everyone thinks I am.
Now, I am not one of those people who is obsessed about appearing younger than my age, nor do I see any reason to lie about my age, or refuse to tell people what it is. I really could care less, and frankly, I'm delighted in the interest. I think it's pretty well established that my goal in life is being paid attention to. And to that end, I was born on December 3rd, 1968. You can find my birthday wishlist at amazon.com.
So, when I say I am 28, it isn't vanity. It's REAL years. I noticed several years ago that although I was the same age as several of my co-workers, I felt much younger and more inexperienced. Why? Well, for one, they had more real life experience of the most obvious kind: they were married with children. Now, I've observed enough, read enough, been told enough, that being married is difficult - requires sacrifice, compromise, etc. Then, having kids requires more of the same, in addition to loss of sleep. So after a while I realized that my peers really were much older than I was, in a very practical sense.
But how much older? I was fortunate enough to pick some numbers which have been confirmed by the approbation of several of these "married with children" individuals, so I see no reason to question the validity of my random choice:
Married: add 3 years
Children: add 4 years
Children: add 4 years
So, I told married friends to tack on 3 years to their age. That's your actual maturity. If there were children, I told them to tack on 7. Now, this was not popular with many of them, since their vanity did not enjoy this additional imposed aging. But I remained firm, and despite the blow to their vanity, none truly contested my theory.
Time passed, and I reached my thirtieth birthday, and promptly sank into deep depression. It wasn't that I was getting older; it was that I was at a major threshold, and anything that points out to me that I am actually living in a real world and not an imaginary fairyland where my car never breaks down and Mr. Right is scheduled to appear at the precise moment I am my most charming, lovely, and unselfconscious so that he might fall madly in love with me, tends to frighten me rather badly. I had much the same reaction at ages 10 and 20.
This deep depression prompted much self-analysis, and I realized a significant flaw in my REAL years calculations: That at thirty, I was supposed to be married with children, but I wasn't. By thirty, the wedding is supposed to be long past, and at least one child produced. Yet I had done none of this, while the MAJORITY of my friends had. So, instead of the Smug Marrieds being 7 years older than I, in reality, I was 7 years younger than them! They were right on schedule - I was not. Upon explaining this difference to several of my test subjects, I was much cheered by their unanimous agreement with my New and Improved Theory.
So, as a 28 year old, going on my 29th birthday, what does this say? Not a great deal. It's just a clever way of processing a major difference between Singletons and Smug Marrieds, it is a fail-proof conversation starter, and it makes me seem smart and funny which to a single woman is almost as good as looking thin and beautiful. Years from now, as my married sisters enter their 13th and their 17th year of getting up before 9am on a Saturday to feed their families breakfast, while I sleep in past 10 with the help of a couple of Benadryl after a night out with my friends, it will surely be a comfort to them (as they wearily wonder if they will ever get to sleep more than 7 hours ever again on this earth,) that I am an immature baby in comparison to their rich and full lives.
I live to validate other people. It's just one of the ways I serve.
[Are you happy now, Mike in MI?]