Pairs Well With…”Act as young as you feel. You’re not getting older, you’re getting more entitled to be your fabulous self.” – Gwen Stefani
I love birthdays. If I have to get specific, my birthday. Growing up, we had a tradition in my house that you got to eat cake for breakfast on your birthday. At 35, I still eat cake for breakfast.
Today is my birthday, a birthday that I’ve not so positively anticipated over the last few years. I have fallen short of society’s expectations of me to have a husband and pop out a few kids. At times, I’ve felt anxious, stressed, judged and sometimes even flawed because I haven’t met what American culture deems as successful for a mid-thirties woman. And by successful, I specifically mean the marriage and kids bit.
Despite a booming career, deep social circles and a worldly background, much of what people seem to fixate on is why, “at my age” with “all I’ve got going on for me,” I am unmarried and without children. It’s hard for me to believe that people may be so narrow-minded that they think there’s only one path to happiness. But you know what they say, you can’t fix stupid.
Marriage and children are two life events I don’t take lightly and view as huge choices. Key word being choices, not checklist items, as some choose to approach them. Admittedly, I used to beat myself up for not being locked down, when in fact, I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I still don’t fully. If I want either of these things at all, I want them with the right person, not because everyone else has them. It took me a while to realize that all of this is okay, and I’m not less of a person for taking more time for myself to decide than others.
For so long, I’ve fought and defended myself against the questions and speculation as to what is wrong with me. For there must be something wrong with me. The hardest part over the years has been working to overcome the stigma of what it means to turn thirty-five because let’s be honest, I am not undateable. In fact, I’m pretty fucking awesome.
At twenty-seven, I was at a girlfriend’s house. I’m not quite sure how the topic of conversation came up, or what I said to elicit this response from her boyfriend, “Look, here’s the deal for guys. If you’re not married by 35, you’re considered washed up and undateable. Guys don’t want to date some old chick.” The idea that someone wouldn’t date me because of my age, because I hadn’t settled for a situation that wasn’t for me, baffled me. Besides, I was a young twenty-seven. The odds of still being single at thirty-five wasn’t even a thang for me. Plenty of time to find a person, get married, live happily ever after. I’d kill it in the wifey department in no time. No sweat, right?
Throughout my earlier 30’s, I put a lot of pressure on myself to “land a man” and “move my life forward” with the intent to “settle down,” whatever those things mean. I found myself in a series of relationships: right person wrong time, great guy but not for me and a few of the “what was I thinkings.” In between relationships, I also went on a fair amount of dates.
In conversations with my dates over the years, I’ve listened to men share their views that it is more attractive to date someone who has either been married or has kids versus a baggage free, diamond in the rough, has-her-shit-together, thirty-five-year-old. Why? Because it goes to show that someone wanted her in the first place. And this wasn’t just a one person view. Guys? Tell me I’m wrong here please, and excuse me if I think this is the craziest notion I’ve ever heard. One of these dates landed me in a relationship which I had higher hopes for, but ultimately, it didn’t work out. After the relationship crumbled, my already planned trip to Europe couldn’t have come at a better time.
In October 2015, I took a two-week vacation to France and Spain, one of the best trips of my life. One night in Spain, my sister and I were at a pub and met a few interesting guys who chatted us up. The screaming of girls who’d had too many shots was becoming a lot to handle, and I was asked to step outside with one of them to continue our conversion. The guy proceeds to ask my age. “Thirty-three,” I replied. “Do you plan on having kids?” he asked. “Honestly, I’m not sure. Some days I think I might. Other days I for sure don’t. I go back and forth. We’ll see where life takes me I guess.”
Next, the most shocking statement came out of his mouth. “I can’t believe you’re thirty-three and are still even considering kids. I mean, anything after twenty-six is cruel.” Anything after twenty-six is cruel. Cruel? Seriously? Are you kidding me? WTF. Speechless, I walked back inside, my head spinning and my nostrils flaring. I thought I might lose my shit. Ignorant asshole. Since when did someone’s childbearing age define their worth as a partner?
By the time I neared thirty-four, I had moved past being concerned about #relationshipgoals and had been doing me for quite some time, and well at that. I quit my job, decided to travel the world for a year as part of the Remote Year program and embrace where I’m at in my life today. Over the last year, I’ve been the most comfortable in my skin as I ever have.
A few weeks ago, I was in Ha Long Bay for a writing assignment. I took in a day cruise as part of my trip. The boat’s guide was interested in my friend’s and my background and our reason for traveling to the bay. He asked if each of us was married, and both of us replied no. The guide then proceeds to ask our ages, and we shared we were both mid-ish thirties. “Over thirty!” he exclaimed laughing with surprise and shock. “You’re too old to get married,” to which my friend replied, “Too old? No, no, no. We are too young to get married.”
Her response, a great one at that, gave me a moment of clarity: had I taken the traditional route, the one that society has been on my heels about and pressuring me to take, I wouldn’t be able to travel the world as I am today. What I’m doing, this travel the world bit is crazy, I know. It’s also a way for me to do more self-discovery and perhaps gain clarity on answers I don’t have. Today’s lifestyle might not last forever, but this is my now.
Happiness isn’t dependent on your age, but it is reliant on you to receive it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: your life is however you want it to look. Don’t let anyone else dictate it, and don’t take people’s shit. Don’t let anyone tell you you’re too old for anything, especially traveling the world.
And 35? Well, I guess I feel old enough to know better, young enough to do it anyway. Like eating birthday cake for breakfast, party hat and all.
A dedication to anyone who has ever been told that “at their age” they are “too old.”
Photo Credit: Cari Hill
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