Victoria Cotman

Turning 30: Homeless, Unmarried, Childless, and Proud

Victoria Cotman is raising a finger to the assumptions of what a 30-year-old woman should have. And, no, it doesn’t have a ring on it.


Confession time. This year I will be turning (gulp!) 30. I added the “gulp” because it would appear this is a very big deal.

Personally, I have never cared about my age. Sure, I had a mild panic attack when I turned 29—but that’s only because I could have sworn I was 24; it had nothing to do with the pressure.

I’m sure you’re aware of the pressure of which I speak: the idea that by 30 one must have a house, a husband/wife, and at least a plan for children; and that the need for these things (if you’re a woman) hits you like a madness and makes you “desperate.”

Yes! Apparently, now that I’m in my 30th year and life is basically over, I should start clawing the walls, screaming, “All I want is a big white dress and the pitter-patter of tiny feet!” because, of course, those are the things that really matter.

End-of-days birthdays are no excuse for a ball gown silhouette. Or children.

I’ve been waiting for this madness to strike ever since my mother sent me this helpful article a few years back. The article talks about how women must find a mate in their 20s because no one is going to want them in their 30s. It’s full of lots of statistics and, most importantly, quotes from women who were shocked to find their life isn’t Sex and the City. Riveting stuff.

The author, of course, fails to articulate their conclusion: that women must, once again, lower their expectations. According to the article and its interviewees, one has a small window between finishing university and turning 30 in which one can have a career and lark about. But, before the clock strikes twelve on your 30th birthday and you’re magically transformed into a shriveled toothless hag, you must find a man—any man—to marry and impregnate you.

Also, you must own a house. Because that’s super easy to do when you’ve given up on a good career.

Now, one could argue articles such as this perpetuate the issue and could, in fact, cause the panic and desperation in its readers, particularly when there is only one mention of “some women” (weirdos, obviously) choosing a different path.

Despite stratospheric housing prices, longer life spans, the unspeakable amount of children up for adoption, and the fact there are more educated women in the workforce than men, the idea that a woman may choose to do anything other than decorate her abode and breed, with a nice bobby dazzler on the finger, seems not to have made it into popular culture.

If you’re not playing house by 30, you’re a freak.

The situation is particularly dire if you’re single. Many an Internet forum—where good taste and intelligence go to die—are dedicated to the question, “Why are single women in their 30s so desperate?” the answer to which is a resounding, “Tick-tock! Because their biological clocks are running out.” The idea of social stigmas isn’t addressed. Possibly because none of the participants can spell “stigmas.”

For unmarried women of 30, the approach isn’t much better. In my personal experience, it has taken only a year for questions to morph from, “Are you two going to get married?” (simply a question of if he’s the one) to, “When is he going to put a ring on it?!” (a question of time, because … tick-tock).

Then we get asked about children. Very few of our friends, family, and acquaintances have yet to accept that we don’t want kids—instead telling us we’ll have “at least one.”

Are we truly not beyond this?

Women have the vote! As do people of color! Interracial marriage is legal and, in advanced countries, so is marriage between same-sex couples.

No society expects a poodle-skirt-wearing Betty Draper character at home with dinner on the table by 5:00 p.m. anymore, so why are we still insisting on the rest of her life? The house, the husband, and the kids—despite all of the reasons why none of that is necessary or viable, what is missing is the individual. A diamond doesn’t fit in a square hole.

What I’ve discovered is that there isn’t a cut-off date for getting your life in socially acceptable order—you won’t suddenly find yourself incapable of buying a house after 30, or getting married, or having children—let us all just admit that is a ridiculous notion and doing things another way is just as valid.

It’s not The Big Three-O! It’s just the dirty thirty. And, frankly, the dirtier the better.

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