For once, this isn’t about cake (although we love it dearly). We mean “we’ve got to have another ten years of pure fun before we can possibly consider growing up”. Here are our thoughts as we come to terms with being in our thirties, and wonder what the next decade will bring.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Life, oh life...

God yes, now I am in my thirties and life has certainly changed. Modern technology aside (does anyone reading this remember the pre-Facebook days, let alone Before Internet or even pre-PC?), people appear to have swapped drunken stupour for baby talk.

Speaking of Facebook, the majority of my friends' status updates appear to have transformed from 'Hanging this morning, got in at 5 this morning, how the fuck am I meant to function?' to 'Yasmin has cut her first teeth / has shit in her nappy for the first time, yippee / has slept through the night', before I could even say Jack Robinson.

Thankfully, not everybody has yet set up camp in Babyville. Even some of our married friends are 'waiting', clearly recognising that there's more to life than reproduction. Yet I can't help but feel the pressure. Family members ask for 'news', even colleagues make subtle enquiries about 'future plans', and I - I - remain torn between my current selfish, not quite spontaneous but relatively simple life, and that which lies ahead. Relishing what we have here and now, but equally excited about the future.

Because these days, we simply have too much choice. This generation benefits from an option, but suffers from an expectation: that we do it all. It's a decision that sometimes feels like a burden, and otherwise a revoluton. Has anyone decided just where it sits just yet? A path that leads us anywhere we like, but upon which the footsteps of a career woman are that little bit too harsh, but those of a mother almost too emotional...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Venus Envy

Most men (and I use the word ‘most’ to avoid stereotyping) won’t understand this post, because male friendships aren’t normally quite as complex as female ones are.  They go to the pub, have a beer, if there’s been a break-up maybe they’ll slap them on the back and give a few words of consolation in a ‘dry yer eyes mate’ kind of way.  Not always, but in a nutshell, that’s how it is.  We women, on the other hand, may overcomplicate things.
I was shopping in H&M on Saturday and witnessed an argument between some teenage girls which started when one girl spotted another pair and said, “I can’t believe you two have come to town without me”.  There was awkward silence and a bit of a stand-off as the two ‘cheats’ recognised they had been caught in the act of their secret shopping expedition, and the other girl stared in shock.   I felt too much of a voyeur to stand and listen to what happened next, but I saw them half an hour or so later in Next, the two cheats skulking around the shoe section whispering, while the discoverer spied on them from behind the handbags.
Girl World can be cruel.  Even our teenage friendships are like test love affairs, often even involving threesomes, infidelity or downright dumping.  When boys come into it, it gets even more complicated.  Even as adults, some friendships are tainted by competition, mistrust or one-upmanship.  Scratch the surface and those two girls chatting across the street might secretly not want what’s best for each other.  
How very sinister.
Am I being cynical about friendship?  No, because my next point is that some friendships manage to transcend this hideous boundary of female ego, into the realms of true sisterhood (you go girlfriend!).  When one turns up for a night out looking like the hottest thing since GHDs, the other one doesn’t feel a pang of envy, only admiration.  If one of them gets a promotion, the other one’s pleased for her.  Friends who have reached this level can trust each other with each other’s man, regardless of whether they trust him.
So what about those sinister friendships where it’s not like that?  Can they really be called friendships at all?  They’re people you’ve spent time with and at some point bonded with, or perhaps people you just can’t get dispose of because they’re associated with others you mix with.  Maybe they’re colleagues, relatives, friends-of-friends, or like nasty veruccas you can’t get rid of however much Bazooka you apply.

Turning 30 made me reconsider my priorities.  At the same time as realising how amazing it was that my friends and I had lived through all the fun of our teens and twenties together, I also encountered pressures on my time which I have no doubt will continue to grow over the next few decades of working life, especially if /when I become a mother.  Juggling the work life balance, trying to fit in some down-time, spending time with your partner and with your close friends, and seeing family, is quite a mission in itself, let alone the umpteen (or rather, umptmillion) other things we all have to squeeze in.  I became more aware of who I needed to prioritise, and I learned to say no to some of the friends I would previously have driven for an hour to meet for lunch once in a blue moon, but who were never really around when it mattered.
As Kelly Rigman puts it: “It sounds harsh, but you cannot keep every friend you have ever made. No one has the time and energy for that. If you don’t consciously choose which relationships to focus on, you’ll spread yourself too thin and you’ll have less to give to those who deserve it most.” 
That probably links back to the teenage practice I mentioned earlier in this post, ‘downright dumping’ - but that's a story for another day.

(Just very quickly before I go, I'd also like to point out how much I love the opening quote of that post of Kelly's: "A good friend is a connection to life – a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world" - Lois Wys.) 

Thursday, 19 May 2011

30 - Just a number?!

Have you ever noticed that news stories and magazine articles ALWAYS refer to the ages of the people involved - whether or not it is at ALL relevant to the story being told? Whilst age is something we are increasingly more aware of, it seems to be less and less relevant to our daily lives.

Like Alice, I used to think 30 was 'grown up'... I too imagined being a mum with 2.4 children, having already achieved any career aspirations, settling into life with a Labrador, long walks in the country and attending strictly only dinner parties for social events.

But somewhere between being 20 and 30 things changed.

When I was growing up my parents were 'old' - "your mum has grey hair" my friends would laugh. Her age was not something I noticed until senior school when everyone boasted of their mother's youth, and age just became a point of reference to which everyone referred. Looking back my mum wasn't *that* old and my childhood was definitely no different to any of my friends. But my mum WAS on average 10 years older than the average mother in the school.

When I went clubbing aged 18, if I saw someone I thought looked even a fraction over 28 I would point to my friends and label them 'mutton dressed as lamb', sad, depressed and everything else associated with someone being over the hill and 'trying to have fun'. The feeling was they should be at home cooking and let their daughters have fun - we assumed they must have them!

Now I look at my mum and think how young she looks. At 62 I'd say (although I'm biased!) she doesn't look a day over 45 - ironically she now dyes her hair :-) My parents are fitter than me and most of my family - as they walk for hours each day and are incredibly active. They don't go clubbing, but they DO go dancing, they use Skype and Facebook, and.... well!

At 30 I am still a regular clubber, and I don't feel *too* out of place :-)

My Uncle recently told me he would soon be celebrating his 70th birthday. This Uncle looks pretty much the same as when I first met him somewhere in toddlerhood. I was shocked! My mental image of a dishevelled 70 year old hunched over the walking stick no longer fits, though I struggle to re-frame these stereotypes, born out of my teenage years, but which do not compute any more.

Need you more evidence - I've just returned from a holiday where a stranger asked me whether I went to the local school - YES, SCHOOL! OK, so they could have meant sixth form - either way - this puts me at no more than 18 years old. *SMUG*

Perhaps this is why 30 is being dubbed the new 20, why my boyfriend thinks I'll be able to have babies well into my 40s and why I'm confident my parents will be around for a long time to come.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Where I thought I'd be at 30

When I was a teenager I guess I had the same dreams as any other girl of my age about what my life would be like at 30. I imagined I would be married to a gorgeous man who would treat me like a princess and love me unconditionally, live in a gorgeous house (preferably in a warm country) and have a child or at least one on the way. Well it didn't quite happen like that.

I also remember having a pact with my gay male best friend that if we hadn't met the man of our dreams by the time we were thirty we would get married because surely it is better to have a companion in life than nobody? Well that hasn't happened either.

I've never had a shortage of boyfriends, in fact I can't really recall a time I was ever single. Perhaps that's where my problems have stemmed. I have just flitted from man to man all my life with hardly a break in between. I have never 'dated', therefore I have never actually given myself a chance to meet Mr Right, as I have just given my heart to anyone who would have it.

Now at 30 I am actually embracing being single. No longer am I insecure and desperate. No longer do I feel that I need to get into a huge relationship with the next person who shows me attention because I 'may not' find someone else. Instead I am enjoying life, spending loads of time with friends, meeting new people every week, and enjoying just talking to and getting to know men without giving my heart to them after one conversation.

I still dream of meeting the man of my dreams and having babies but the funny thing is that although I'm now 30 I don't feel that I am in the same rush as I was in my 20's!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Who Could've Known?

When I was eighteen, and hadn't heard from my long-distance boyfriend in days, I sobbed inconsolably to my mother.  As a consolation, she implied that perhaps he might not be the only boyfriend I'd ever have and possibly the relationship might have run its course?

Teenage Me cried into a pillow, declaring point blank that I'd never want anyone else and all I wanted was to get married and have his babies. 

How I laugh now.  I can imagine my independent, driven mother being absolutely horrified at the notion, but she probably knew that the more she protested, the more defiant I would become. 

Part of the beauty of youth is that you don't know what lies ahead (at the time I just wanted to know my fate).  The beauty of being thirtysomething is that you've got a degree of retrospective wisdom.  I'd love to go back and shake that girl and tell her she had much more of her life to live before she did any such thing - but then I would sound just like my mother, and that girl would not have listened even to herself.

Would I have been tempted by what lay ahead?  Could I have imagined the fun and freedoms that awaited me?  When I count back through the years, each is marked with fun and friendship, holidays, the memorable nights out, the laughter.  At eighteen I thought it was all over already and that all that awaited was boring old adulthood.  Now, that's too much to consider giving up.

Maybe when we're a decade or two older, half a century even, we'll look back and mock our thirty-year-old selves.  'Pah, we thought we'd seen it all?  Idiots!'.  I'm sure the best is yet to come, although in different ways.  I'll never forget the people we were in our teens and early twenties, and the past decade is something I wouldn't exchange for anything in the world.