I’m sneaking in the back door of my thirties, single with no kids, without mortgage or pension plan. The only thing I nurse is a weekly hang over. I have more in common with my 19-year-old sister and her friends than with some of the people my own age, who have settled down with houses and children and professional careers. I, on the other hand, spend most of my free time mooching on Facebook (how else do you think I know about my married and high-powered peers?), cracking up at FAILBlog videos, browsing Penneys and River Island for this weekend’s outfit, and watching episodes of True Blood and Glee.
I know I haven’t grown up in the conventional sense but tell that to my body. Yes, I can still climb a flight of stairs but two consecutive nights on the tiles now takes me up to four days to get over. And yesterday, I spotted an unwelcome patch of grey hair. I had prepared myself for this moment for a long time. I’d had visions of myself wailing as I yanked the wiry feckers out with break-neck speed. But I was surprisingly calm. It was an observation rather than a critical self-assessment. And there is such a thing as hair dye. This is a normal part of growing older, I thought maturely. I’ve had so many life experiences. I’ve lived, suffered, enjoyed and explored. And I’ve gathered awareness and wisdom along the way.
We can accept (or ignore) the approach of old age but, as women, it’s pretty difficult to mute the deafening ticking of that infamous biological clock. In a loud night club, an old friend informed me of her plan to bear a child when she was no older than 35 years of age. “But I want to be married when it happens. For at least a year. And I’d like to be engaged for a year before that, and with the guy for at least two years before he proposes. Which means,” she realised in panic, “I need to find my husband NOW!” Talk about taking the fun out of Copper Face Jacks!
I prefer to avoid thinking about growing older by joining randomly amusing Facebook groups like: “All my friends are getting married and having kids. I’m just getting drunk!” Hilarious, right? Until you’re the last one standing. On a lonely, dusty shelf. A single girl I know is part of a close-knit group of college friends. Everyone else in the bunch is now enjoying marital bliss. At the wedding of the last of her friends to tie the knot, an old woman asked her, “Are you married, missy?” “No,” she retorted crossly. The lady looked confused, “But you’re engaged, right?” She turned to the woman and answered sweetly: “I’m going to get married later in life. Then, at least it’ll have a chance at lasting!” Good point.
What is it with society and the pressure enforced upon us to follow a set schedule as to when we should settle down? Shouldn’t we enjoy our freedom for as long as it lasts? I’m delighted that I’m single and childless at the moment. How else could I enjoy the luxury of writing this blog every day, of heading off on a weekend away at a moment’s notice, of going back to college as a mature student, of worrying about fake eye lashes and yoga classes instead of nappies and jaundice and mortgage repayments? Opportunity and possibility presents itself at every street corner. I could backpack in Peru, spend a year in Oz, teach for a semester in Vietnam, party a long weekend away in Berlin. I can have a summer fling with a younger man, and spend an entire Sunday in bed chuckling at laughing babies on YouTube rather than crying at screaming babies in real life. I don’t doubt that the life of the settled person is extremely rewarding but I don’t have that yet so why not enjoy the liberties I do have?
Our grandparents’ and parents’ generations had to wait for all their children to grow up before they could go off and enjoy themselves. For us thirty-something single folk, why wait for retirement to live it up? Why not go travelling or take up salsa lessons now, when we’re still young, and mobile, and are the proud owners of healthy and functioning sex drives?
Getting hit by your thirties doesn’t have to hurt. Here’s how to soften the blow:
Rather than turn it into an embarrassing and clandestine affair, have a party! Rejoice in the fact that you’ve left your twenties and entered your thirties as a wise, mature, confident (wo)man. It’s not something to be ashamed of. It’s something to be embraced.
2) Look after yourself
The less pressure and stress you put yourself under, the better your body, mind and appearances will keep. Take time out of your busy schedule to relax, exercise, and have fun. Try to eat natural foods, get out in the fresh air as much as possible, take up a hobby you enjoy, and laugh long and hard and often.
3) Be childlike
Spending time with children will help you reconnect with that child inside. Even alone, you could make a jigsaw, paint a picture, take out the skipping rope, or blow bubbles. Root out your favourite childhood movie. It’s guaranteed to take you back in time.
4) Don’t worry, be happy
The less you worry about growing older, paying bills, finding “the one”, and moving up the career or property ladder, the better. Yes, you have to be responsible at times but not all the time. Let your hair down every once in a while. Go dancing. Drink cocktails with your friends. Try paint-balling. Play charades. Forget about deadlines and putting the bins out and just have fun!
5) Accept that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be
You may think that, at this age, you should be five years married with three kids and a beautiful home but that’s not the case. Life has other plans for you right now. That’s not to say you’ll never have a family but there’s a reason you’re unattached at the moment. Accept it and recognise that everything is in perfect order. Sit back and enjoy how it all unfolds.
6) Be a trailblazer
Why listen to society, follow tradition, and listen to “shoulds” and “musts”? Be the renegade who does things different. Do exactly what you want when you want. Leave your job as an accountant and set up your own business. Take a class in cocktail making. Give stand-up comedy a shot. Date somebody totally unsuitable. Move to Buenos Aires. Others will be relieved that someone else isn’t conforming and will be dying to follow in your adventurous footsteps.
7) Update your CV
I’m not talking about the CV you type up for a potential employer, I’m talking about the CV of your life. Curriculum vitae is a Latin expression meaning “course of life”. You have over 30 years experience in dealing with this life. Use it to your advantage. You now know a lot more about what you want and don’t want, what works for you and what doesn’t. Use this know-how to make your life more positive and manageable. Your age is a sign that you’ve lived and learned. So, don’t look on it as a bad thing. Once, I overheard a man in his sixties being asked his age. He replied proudly: “I’m 21. With 45 years experience.”
8. Do it all!
Now is the time to grab on to life and do all the things you’ve ever wanted. Turning 30 is an inevitable milestone and it makes you think about your life, what you’ve done with it, and what you’d still like to do. You’ve probably come to a lot of realisations and are living in a place of more awareness. Wonderful! When better to appreciate experiencing all life has to offer than right now? However small or monumental the step, just do it. So, take a year out and experience a new culture. Write a novel. Audition for a musical. Learn how to play the guitar. Write a song. Study Italian. Go skiing for the first time. Tell your crush how you feel. Have a dinner party. Take up belly dancing. Go scuba diving. You owe it yourself to live life. Really live it. Because that’s what it’s there for.
Living life: Backpacking in South America. Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro.
And if it’s your birthday, this one’s for you…