“How old are you?” The person asking the question is anybody. The respondent is a woman, a woman “of a certain age,” as the French say discreetly. That age might be anywhere from her early twenties to her late fifties. If the question is impersonal-routine information requested when she applies for a driver’s license, a credit card, a passport-she will probably force herself to answer truthfully. Filling out a marriage license application, if her future husband is even slightly her junior, she may long to subtract a few years; probably she won’t. Competing for a job, her chances often partly depend on being the “right age,” and if hers isn’t right, she will lie if she think she can get away with it. Making her first visit to a new doctor, perhaps feeling particularly vulnerable at the moment she’s asked, she will probably hurry through the correct answer. But if the question is only what people call personal-if she’s asked by a new friend, a casual acquaintance, a neighbor’s child, a co-worker in an office, store, factory-her response is harder to predict. She may side-step the question with a joke or refuse it with playful indignation. “Don’t you know you’re not supposed to ask a woman her age?” Or, hesitating a moment, embarrassed but defiant, she may tell the truth. Or she may lie. But neither truth, evasion, nor lie relieves the unpleasantness of that question. For a woman to be obliged to state her age, after a “certain age,” is always a miniature ordeal.