When You're 30-Something and "Still" Single
If You’re a 30-Something-Year-Old Woman and are “Still” Single, I’m Here to Tell You There is Nothing “Wrong” with You.
I didn’t get married until I was 38 years old. And the irony is, just over a year prior, I had come to accept that maybe I wouldn’t find the right man for me. Perhaps I would be single for the rest of my life. Once I’d come to accept this possibility, everything changed. Instead of renting with the idea that I’d buy my dream home once my dream prince came along, I started planning. I asked myself, “How can I reach my highest potential in my career so I can afford to buy myself the home I want on a single income?” (Not even getting into the wage gap here.) I began taking stock of my life and deciding where I wanted to travel, regardless of whether or not I had a companion, and prioritizing my tribe — the key friends and family in my life.
Even my dating life changed. In my younger years, I always gave everyone the benefit of the doubt, often making excuses for my then boyfriend’s bad behavior, subjecting myself to every manner of relationship, from the verbally abusive to the controlling to the passionate highs and lows, to the downright boring. My older self, however, learned to cut through the bullshit with a fine-edged sword. Consequently, I dated less. I dated purposefully, and few made it past the starting line. If I couldn’t see the potentiality of a life with them, then I preferred to go it alone.
And I was happy with that decision. After deciding I liked my life and who I was as a person, and was completely content being alone … my now-husband came into my life, and we were married a year later. That was eleven years ago.
There’s been a shift in gender stereotypes and the roles men and women are asked to play in life. And that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, many of us are still suffering the fall-out from bad relationship advice based on archaic cultural expectations.
ARE YOU SEEING ANYONE?
This was the dreaded question asked by family and friends at every gathering. If the answer was “yes,” you were encouraged to lock it down and seal the deal. This was a particularly traumatizing question if I had been seeing someone, and the relationship happened to have ended just before said gathering. Conversely, if the answer was “no,” I would get a sympathetic, “Oh, that’s okay. You’ll meet someone,” to which I’d reply, “And, it’s okay if I don’t.” To be clear, I am the world’s most hopeless romantic, but I also have a clear grasp of reality.
THE FALLACY OF FAIRYTALES
My generation, and many of the ones preceding, taught a distinct message to women: Be pretty; be agreeable, and it helps if you can sing with woodland creatures in a grotto. Don’t worry about being proactive in your own life. Just wait for prince charming to come and save you. Sadly, this is a huge disservice to men as well. Because fairytales would have us believe that men are to provide a woman’s safety, security, comfort, and ultimate happiness. That’s a lot of pressure to put on our men.
HOW ROM-COMS HAVE DISTORTED LOVE
I’ll admit it. I love romantic comedies. I love seeing people in love. I love just the idea of being in love. While the books I write are not specifically romance novels, they always include elements of relationships.
However, we’ve got to get the messaging right. Growing up, the movies I watched showed us unruly, womanizing men who mistreated women. Until, of course, the lead male met the “right girl” and completely did a 180. So, as women, we wanted to be “the one” to “change” him. And when has that ever worked out for any of us? And if he’s nice to you but cruel to everyone around him, well he’s still a jerk. We were taught that a “strong man” settled disputes with fistfights instead of demonstrating emotional control and strength of character.
And yet, there are the repeated jokes of there being something wrong with you if you’re a woman over 30 and ‘still’ single. There’s some misconception that we are each somehow less of a woman if we don’t have the “love of a good man.” My “favorite” are the cut-and-dry Christmas movies showing a high-powered career woman who lives in the big city only to discover that she cannot be truly happy unless she settles down in her rural hometown with her Highschool sweetheart, and forgoes her ambitions to have children instead. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with making the choice to be a homemaker, a career woman, or any combination in between. My concern is the repeated messaging of how women and men “should” be.
THE GOOD NEWS
The good news is how I see the messages changing over the past decade. We’re seeing more movies, fairytales, and romantic comedies illustrating a variety of choices for both men and women. And I’ve noticed the dialog at dinner tables changing too. And it’s far less “So, are you seeing anyone?” and more “I haven’t seen you in a while. Tell me what’s been happening in your life.” And, that’s a good thing.