How old is 30?
August 9, 2010 4:45 PM   Subscribe

I'm a woman who turned 30 this year. Some parts of my life are great; others aren't quite where I'd like them to be, and I'm starting to worry that 30 is Too Old to change that, especially in terms of relationships and future families (I'm currently single, would like in the future to be married with kids). I'm having some trouble telling the difference between 'reasonable concern' and 'worrying about nothing' here, and could do with some assistance.

So. I grew up in a pretty working-class area where lots of people get married and had children young. My parents have been together since they were teenagers; my mother was happily married with several kids by the time she was my age. Many of my friends, male and female, are in that same position now. I was engaged at 21 myself (and thank God I broke it off before marrying him, although that's a whole other story!).

I'm happy with the decision I made at 18 to get out of my small town, move far away, and pursue my dreams; I now live in a great city, doing a job I love. I've had several serious relationships in the past, as well as one lengthy spell in my 20s when I wasn't at all interested in anything serious, and enjoyed being single. I don't regret any of that - I have great memories of travelling all over the world for academic conferences, sitting out until the early hours drinking wine with colleagues in France and Italy, and having nobody to be accountable for other than myself. I took up all sorts of hobbies, I got a PhD, I listened to the Magnetic Fields singing 'Papa Was A Rodeo' and I was happy with my life. Hey, I had my whole future to settle down and have a family in whenever I wanted to, right?

And now it's that future. My last serious relationship ended (nastily and messily) at the beginning of this year - the breakup shook me up for a while, but the relationship itself did confirm to me that yeah, that's what I want from my life now. But… I'm 30. I'm single. I have a bunch of friends with kids who are school-aged already. And while I'm not horrendously picky when it comes to prospective partners, there isn't anyone in the picture at the moment, and of those who have been interested recently, nobody suited (an ex I didn't want to go back to for many reasons, a friend I'm not attracted to, another friend who's significantly older and doesn't ever want kids). In addition, it seems that a lot of men I meet aren't interested in women who like sci-fi geekiness and books and photography but don't wear makeup and can't walk in high heels, and while that's cool and I don't expect them to change for me any more than I'd plan to change for them, it's making me vaguely wonder about just how limited my options are.

I don't hate being single. I'd much rather spend my life single than in an unhappy relationship. And if my choice really was "settle down aged 19 in my hometown with someone I wasn't too crazy about, have kids early, and not get to live my dreams" and "stay single for the rest of my life, take up painting and adopt copious amounts of cats", I'd go for option B every time. It's just… really, I've always believed there was another option, the one where I get to have the life I want and share it with someone awesome and we raise a family together. And now I'm thinking maybe there isn't, for me, or maybe there was but I should've chosen it in my 20s, because 30 feels so definitively Grown Up now, and everyone I know who wants to settle down already has.

I'm aware a lot of this might sound ridiculous. Or maybe it doesn't. That's the problem, really: I don't know how much of this is rational and how much isn't, how much is a kind of oh-God-where's-my-life insecurity that hits lots of people around this age, and how much is a fair evaluation of my own circumstances. I suspect there's a good chunk of the former in there, but I don't know where my reasoning on this is going wrong, or indeed how to stop it if it is.

So, people who've been through something similar: how did you learn to distinguish between the rational and the irrational when evaluating where you were in your life? Are there any good ways you've found to make a distinction between 'this wasn't quite what I wanted from my life, but I can accept that and make the best of it' and 'this wasn't quite what I wanted in my life, so dammit I'm going to seek out what I do want'? And is 30 really the life-changing weight-of-all-past-expectations age it's feeling like?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
It's irrational and not very uncommon - we probably all do something like what you're doing. I think it's pretty healthy to do what you're doing: putting your life on a little pause after an emotional storm and wondering what to do from where you are and if it's too late to do.... whatever.

What you're doing though, is passively attempting to discourage yourself from doing something, soley based on your age and your age is an imaginary obstacle. It's quite easy to figure out if what you're thinking is imaginary or not. Like this:

* If you think you're too old to find someone, be happy, have a kiddo or two - yeah, at 30, that's irrational.

* If you're worried that you won't win a gold metal at the 100 meter at the next Olympics - and you're going to start training, for the first time in your life, tomorrow AND you have a drinking AND a fast-food "problem", I'm telling you you're probably quite rational in your worries.

I think the, "be the old spinster with all the cats and who makes weird paintings" is your small-town stereotypes peaking out. 30 is pretty frickin' young, these days.
posted by alex_skazat at 4:58 PM on August 9, 2010

Well, I'm 27 and am now common-law married to a guy I first met when I was 17, so my advice isn't coming from my own personal experience, but my older sister didn't get married until she was 32 and got her first kid at 34 (and my parents, in their 50s, have just adopted a pair of toddlers and started a second family), so it's not as if it's impossible to settle down at an older age. Honestly, most of your worries sound like what I hear everyone say when they hit 30 - it's a landmark age, our society attaches a lot of importance to it ("don't trust anyone over 30" and so on), and it's perfectly ordinary to feel the way you do right now.

Heck, I'm three years your junior and happily married and I still feel like I'm coming up on OH LAWDY, THE BIG THREE-OH, WHAT HAVE I DONE WITH MY LIFE. I don't think the distinction you're looking for in your last paragraph is a fair dichotomy: what you need to do is hit the balance of "this wasn't quite what I wanted from my life, but it's alright so I'm going to enjoy it while I seek out what I do want." Especially since it looks like a big part of what you want is a Relationship and Family, which is something that happens organically and not something you can obtain by brute force. Don't give up on looking for what you want, but take the time to enjoy what you already have, too. (This sounds painfully like crappy self-help book homily, and I apologize for that.)

And I'm looking at 30 from the wrong side of it, but I don't think it's actually as much of a huge life-changing age as people expect it to be. My friends who are over 30 are not significantly different people than they were five years ago. It's more of the same, and you'll survive it. It'll probably be easier to be happy once you've passed the milestone and stopped worrying about whether or not you'll be able to be happy.
posted by titus n. owl at 5:04 PM on August 9, 2010

I am too young to offer advice on most of this post, but I can assure you that 30 is not very old and certainly not too old to get married and have children. My grandmother got married at 35, my mother at 33, and my aunt got married and had a child at 42. Just because your small town friends got married in their 20's doesn't mean that you should have, too.
posted by vanitas at 5:04 PM on August 9, 2010

We were both closer to 40 than 30 when I met my spouse, who is in a years-long adventure of finding and changing who he is after being divorced from the person he'd married before hitting his 21st birthday. I'm steering in the general direction of where I want to be in life, which is very different from where I was when we met about 7 years ago. I expect I'll be ready for another sea change some number of years after my current one is complete.

You need to decide what's important enough to work on changing and what in your life you're willing to accept: listen to advice, but only accept what feels right for you.

Where human relationships and the possibility of pairing off is concerned, try to be willing and able to change in areas where compromise, communication, and other hard work are rewarded with the friendship and good will of those whose company you value. Know what is unacceptable for you and don't accept it under any circumstances.
posted by thatdawnperson at 5:07 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

30 is relative. Like you, I came from a place where if you made it to 19 without a child and a husband (or a divorce), you were somehow behind the curve....I felt like a failure. Then I moved to place where my friends are now in their mid thirties and just starting to figure life out.... and you know what? We're all having a great time, and slowing getting things that we want- some of us bought our first places. Others got married. Some did not do either and they are totally happy traveling and doing what they want when they want.

Frankly, I enjoyed not being tied down in my 20's and seeing all of those people back home struggle with kids, homes, cars, and such that they can barely afford lets me know I am not missing much. And I finally met someone who compliments my tastes and ways (and my copious amount of cats) very well and we got 31! So there is still hope for you :)

The point is there is nothing wrong with not being in a rush, and you don't have to keep up with the Joneses, the Smiths, of any other neighbor who makes you feel like at 30 if you don't have "Everything," there is something wrong with you. Maybe your Everything will never be a home & 2.5 kids- maybe your Everything will be world travel. Maybe your Everything will be counting grass seeds- the point is that as long as you're happy, and you have goals that matter to you to move toward, 30 is just a number.

Are there any good ways you've found to make a distinction between 'this wasn't quite what I wanted from my life, but I can accept that and make the best of it' and 'this wasn't quite what I wanted in my life, so dammit I'm going to seek out what I do want'? And is 30 really the life-changing weight-of-all-past-expectations age it's feeling like?

I talk to all of those people in my hometown. I think about where they are and where I am and if I am honestly envious of any of it, and I re-evaluate my options.
posted by haplesschild at 5:10 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think you're worrying way too much, but it makes sense given your acquaintances. I'm 33 [and recently divorced, so I have been on both the married-before-30 side and the single-after-30 side], and I have friends who are married with kids, friends just getting married, and plenty who are not married at all. Where I live (SF) getting married post-30 is pretty common. Where I grew up (Georgia), everyone was married by 25 and had kids by 28 or so. You don't know anyone you want to get married to yet, but thats fine, no one knows that person until they meet them (if that makes sense). Specific advice on how to meet people can be found on a million other AskMe threads, but there are a lot of single people post-30 who want to get married and have kids. It is possible you don't live in a great area for that --- if you're in the South, for example, there will be far less of those people than in a city like LA, NY, or SF.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:10 PM on August 9, 2010

I think you'll be okay and that your worries, while understandable, are not necessarily rational. But worries are emotions and emotions are, by definition, not necessarily rational and sometimes using reason to try to get rid of a deep worry in your gut feels like using your emotions to do your taxes. At least for me.

However, when I worry about this (and I do sometimes, too), I remember that if I really wanted just to get married and procreate ASAP, I could do it. So could you. There are absolutely men out there who would marry you and get you pregnant, probably within the year. Some of them are probably pretty decent. However, there's an emotional calculus involved--Is it better to just do it, or to do it with exactly the right person. I decided awhile ago that it has to be exactly the right person (even for relationships), because I would rather be alone than be with a person I did not love enough. Yes: I would rather be the stereotypical old cat lady (WHY ARE THERE NEVER ANY STORIES ABOUT CAT MEN) than every. single. day. deal with some guy I settled for. Yes, I hope to find the perfect man someday, but if I don't, I'd much rather be alone than be forever irritated. (I am an introvert).

For some people, it is better to be alone than to be with a person they do not love enough. For some people, it is the other way around. It's important to realize what kind of person you are.
posted by millipede at 5:20 PM on August 9, 2010 [7 favorites]

You're framing it as, "OMG not only do I have all these problems but I'm 30," but you would also be 30 if you had everything you wanted in life ten times over, plus a unicorn that shits rainbow cupcakes.

For some reason everybody I know has been going around incessantly wangsting about their age lately. 30-year-olds complain that they're 30. 81-year-olds complain that they're 81 and will probably never get another movie role. (Notice that you don't complain about not getting another of something that you haven't had the first one of.)

Now that I'm satisfied with my life I'm no longer tempted to wangst about my age. This could change and stuff could go wrong in my life and next year I might be wangsting about having all these problems and being n+1 years old, but the anxiety would be coming from the problems, not my age. Everyone who complains about their age is actually complaining about something in their life that isn't satisfying.

If you were dead, I'd agree you had legitimate reason to think your problems unsolvable. As it is, you address the problems the same at age 30 as you would at age 29 or 31 except the older you get the better you usually are at solving problems. You break the issues down and you tackle them one by one. Over time, your efforts will most likely pay off, even if they seemed to fail at first. This is known as reaping what you sow.

Go for it. You'll probably succeed.
posted by tel3path at 5:21 PM on August 9, 2010 [12 favorites]

Give it another four years or so before you start freaking out that your life didn't turn out the way you wanted, but have a Plan B in place just in case of that eventuality. At 26 years old, I decided that if I didn't meet the right guy and get married by a certain age (at first it was 37, but it changed a little over the years), I would have a kid on my own with a sperm donor. I made some changes in my life to make that choice possible if it came to it. Knowing I had options all along was a huge comfort and took a lot of the pressure off.
posted by amro at 5:23 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I just turned 30 a couple months ago. Then a few days later I broke things off with my wife. You want to talk about questioning your life...I don't like my job, I still live in my small hometown and my personal life is definitely in disarray. However, I look at my friends and I don't necessarily see that they have their shit together any better than I do. I think a big part of it is that lovely biological clock. I know I am having a sudden attack of, "I don't know if I want to have kids but I'm running out of time to have 'em at all!" Hang in there. You're not out of the ordinary.
posted by CwgrlUp at 5:39 PM on August 9, 2010

I felt this way a little bit when I broke up with a long-term boyfriend close to my 29th birthday. In retrospect, I think the panic was a little silly.

If you look at this like a life goal, then it makes a kind of sense to construct a plan on how you will achieve that goal. Somehow knowing I had a plan to achieve my goal made me feel much better.

So the first thing you need to do is define your goal a little bit. Are you one of those people who absolutely must have your own biological child or would you be comfortable adopting? If you are comfortable adopting, you've got a lot more time.

If not, then I think you've got probably eight years (advanced maternal age starts at 35, but many women have healthy babies in their late thirties).

Well, then what do you need to do to find someone to marry in the next eight years? The answer to that is to meet as many men as possible (preferably at places where the men will have interests common to yours). You can do this in a number of ways (join single groups, go on ___ many dates a week, join a sci-fi group if that's your thing, join a hiking group). Make it a goal to meet and talk to five men a week. Maybe even make it a specific goal (I will go to three group meetings and one date a week). You get the idea.

When I broke up with that boyfriend when I was 29, I made a list of all the places where I could meet men (a ski club, an outdoor club, a young professional club a single volunteer group, groups on craigslist) and then I went to at least two outings a week and three months later I met my husband at a dinner for the volunteer group. The process was fun (I went on a lot of hikes and picnics and wine festivals and met some cool people). Of course, I ended up meeting a lot of men I didn't like, but that's just part of the process and you have to not let that get you down too much.

The other thing is to enjoy the life you have. Travel, make friends, find interesting work, pursue your hobbies, but it sounds like you have that down already.

Good luck.
posted by bananafish at 5:42 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm 43 and I have changed a lot since the age of 30. Just think about this: life expectancy is 80-90 years these days. You have 50-60 more years of life to live, and you certainly won't be stagnant during those five or six decades. Even if you tried to be, you wouldn't be able to.

That said, if it's the issue of meeting your future husband and the father of your future children, 30 is not too young to get serious about that. But it's far, far from too old as well.

You're still fertile. My sister just had her first child at age 40 and is planning another pregnancy within a year or two. I can rattle off the names of at least five other women I know personally who had pregnancies at ages 37, 40, and 42. These were healthy babies, too. So, while fertility does decline, it is not impossible to have a baby in the late 30s or early 40s.

It sounds like your hometown environment is one in which it's more common to have kids in the late teens to twenties, so that's probably one good reason why you're feeling the pressure to start. Also, hormonal changes can kick in along the lifespan. It's really common for young women in the mid-20s to mid-30s to suddenly get "babymania" due to hormones. You might be experiencing this.

If you're ready to take that step, I advise you to hit it hard. Don't waste your time with immature men who have no husband-and-father potential. It takes a while to get to know someone, and you might have to repeat this a few times. But also, please don't rush the process and get into a relationship you're settling for. You still have a decade or so, remember. Use it wisely and with balance.

As far as things other than marriage and family go, you'll experience a lot of personal growth in the next 10-15 years. I'll give you a rundown of some of the maturational changes I've gone through. Of course, YMMV.

-I became smarter. My memory is better, my ability to multitask is better, and my knowledge acquisition is broader and faster. These things just come with time, and continual learning. You learn how to learn.

-I became much more specific in what I wanted out of life and in a mate. Whereas the 30-ish me might have said, "I love him, I just don't know why!" the 40-ish me knows exactly why. Same with career, avocations, etc.

-I committed to working on and solving my childhood-baggage issues, and had the perspective to really change some things I'd been stuck about for a long time.

-I became less shallow. I began to see the unique beauty in everyone rather than judging them for their flaws and comparing them to myself. I want to give rather than solely receive.

-I became less credulous, exchanging an embarrassing tendency to dabble in "woo" for a still-developing authentic connection to nature and others, which I see as spirituality.

-I became less invested in "what will people think?!"

-I became more outgoing.

-I also became more private. I'm very selective about what I disclose and to whom.

As our lives progress, we'll go through more of these kinds of changes. My mom says she didn't really know who she was til she was about 50. After 50, she has continued to grow as a person in ways I can't yet comprehend. She seems to have forgiven herself all her mistakes and is at peace with herself in a way that I'm not.

When evaluating where I am in my own life, I know I'm being irrational any time I think it might be too late for something. That's fear talking. That's society's consumerist-driven stereotyping of age talking through me. It's unpleasant and I tell it to fuck off.

I am more the "seek out what I do want" type than the "make the best of it" type. But I've decided that making the best of things in the short term often supports seeking out what I want in the long term. For example, I have been in a temporary job for a year and a half due to the economy, but I've used that job to gain great skills and make connections, and the time to adjust to the fact that the economy destroyed my first industry and I have to make a change.

For relationships, I was never looking for a father for my future children because I did not happen to encounter babymania. That has made me less rigorous about things like financial stability in mates. If I had been family-minded, I might have been more inclined to make the best of things with someone rather than be such a romantic, looking for the passion every time. But I don't know. Hopefully, the people with kids will weigh in on this one.

So how old is 30? Still quite young. Really!
posted by xenophile at 5:44 PM on August 9, 2010 [29 favorites]

"settle down aged 19 in my hometown with someone I wasn't too crazy about, have kids early, and not get to live my dreams" and "stay single for the rest of my life, take up painting and adopt copious amounts of cats"

First, get rid of these tired clichés. Life is not a formulaic sit-com of stock characters, and you seem more than bright and aware enough to know that already. 30 is in many ways the perfect age--old enough, and yet not nearly old--to get rid of these parochial expectations of how people are supposed to be, and how your life is supposed to look, etc. and learn to enjoy yourself without so much concern about pleasing others or trying on different persona you hope will attract potential mates. As for the concern about the sci-fi and make up and high heels and all those trappings, remember that many intelligent, grown up men will appreciate an intelligent, well-traveled woman who enjoys herself with many passionate interests she might share with him. The best thing about being a grown up is doing as you please. You're a grown up now. Embrace and enjoy it.
posted by applemeat at 5:46 PM on August 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

p.s. I'm a happily-married geek who married at 38.
posted by applemeat at 5:48 PM on August 9, 2010

That's another thing. Everyone is so completely convinced of how awful it is to get older. Often people talk about the things you gain as you age, but however sincerely it's said, our culture has no way of receiving these messages except pityingly, such that all anybody is ever going to hear is "well, you learn to appreciate the things that life has stingily meted out to you, because you realize the alternative is to be miserable. At least the glass is half full, right!"

I'm stunned at how much this misrepresents things. If you ask me, the best thing about youth is you get it over with first. YMMV I guess.
posted by tel3path at 5:49 PM on August 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

You talk about the future by saying, "And now it's that future." Do you seriously believe that the future has an end-point? Why is 30 the age when future possibilities have to end?

39 or even 45 year old you is going to be either laughing or pissed at this question later. Based on your self-description, you've accomplished a lot of things your peers haven't. Why is it that you're comparing yourself to them and feeling as though they're ahead of you? It's not a race. You don't "lose" if you have a toddler when your hometown friends have teens to parent.

You're only competing with yourself in this life. I know that sounds like a platitude right now, but it isn't.

If you'd "chosen someone in your 20s" it would've meant settling, or else you'd be with that person today. Right? Aren't you glad you're not a divorced single parent at 30 instead of probably just a few months or years from meeting that someone?

Believe you will achieve your dream and you will. Whatever it is. Giving up does nothing. Believe, work towards that goal (kids with or without a husband, moving, whatever) but don't give up and accept failure because of some birthday.

Famous couples who met and married after 30: Josh Duhamel and Fergie, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, Jerry O'Connell and Rebecca Romijn, Seal and Heidi Klum, Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy, and Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman.

So yeah, you are discounting the fact that you still have a viable future as a parent and wife for no reason, in my opinion. 30 is just a name for the doorway you walk through where you start to realize who you really are, regardless of society's expectations or what the media tells you!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:28 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hey there. I turned 30 this year, too.

And is 30 really the life-changing weight-of-all-past-expectations age it's feeling like?

Yes and no. There are certainly areas in my life I thought would be different by this age, but other stuff has happened that I never expected. It sounds like you are doing awesome in your life. I'm of the belief that when you truly are ready for something (such as a relationship) and have clarity on exactly what you want, the universe has your back and pulls something together for you. When it's time, it will happen. Don't sweat it. You know? And you have many, many years before your eggs dry up (AND you can always adopt).

Also, have you examined the concept of the Saturn Return? I really think all this self-examination business at our age is normal and healthy. That said, you can use the results of your self-inquiry to determine what you do want to change, then come up with a plan.

<3 to you!
posted by hansbrough at 6:48 PM on August 9, 2010

Turning 30 gives you the confidence to be yourself more fully. And you get more respect from others. People stop treating you like a kid! It's AWESOME. Being in my 30s gave me the confidence to take and quit jobs when I knew I should, break up with people who weren't right for me, to have a good time, to take chances, to learn new things, to have a blast, and to grow up enough to finally be equal to the partner of my dreams.

I know. SYRUPY, SORRY. But it's true!

Around 30, I was recently divorced, was paralyzed about what to "DO" with my life, was anxious and a little shy, was worried about my future and was hanging on to my past. Man, honestly? Now I could give a shit. It's fantastic. I'd never want to be in my 20s ever again.

Looking back, I've had the best ten years ever.

If I could offer any advice about turning 30, it's: moisturize religiously and never settle.

Now someone has to come over and hold my hand about turning 40 please.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:02 PM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'm in my late 30s, and based on your brief description, guessing we run in the same kinds of circles.

I have plenty of friends my age who have, in the past few years, gotten married and/or had kids. Some of these folks hadn't met their spouse at age 30 or even til a few years later. Lots of my same-age friends have babies now.

My kids are 5 and 7, and their friends' parents are younger, the same age, and older than I am. We don't feel old for having kids their age.

So, yeah, don't worry about this. 30 is actually not that big of a deal. And I say this not solely because I'm staring at 40.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:02 PM on August 9, 2010

Seconding the Saturn Return concept...EVERYBODY has some kind of inner panic shit fit when they hit 30 that they aren't doing their life right and haven't accomplished anything yet or done the right things. EVERYBODY. This is normal. Every time you change decades you're gonna have some kind of freakout. It happens.

You're feeling especially freaky right now because you come from a culture where everyone got married at 19. Guess what, you've been a freak by the culture you grew up in's standards since you left the place. Plenty of other places still have people who are 30 and single.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:28 PM on August 9, 2010

I remember feeling like that Age 30 after a recent and painful break up, at Age 31 after another recent breakup, at Age 36 after a recent and nasty get the picture. All of this happened after 30.

I am 40 now. I have a son who is healthy and happy and turning one in a week. I am married to the wonderful man I met and became great friends with after the Age 31 Breakup. We were just friends for 7 years before we got together romantically and started a family.

Had anyone told me that this is where I would be after Age 36 Divorce, I would not have believed them.

You are fine and your life will go through many unexpected and unanticipated changes. I know it must be a tad worrysome since you want kids (I didn't know that until I was 38), but you have plenty of time.
posted by murrey at 7:32 PM on August 9, 2010

At the age of 16, I made the deliberate choice to have my kids young so that when I hit 40, my kids would be grown and gone and I'd have the rest of my life to live as a footloose and fancy free adult. Of course, my plans included a husband and money and stuff like that, but things don't always go as planned...

I'm 43 now. My kids are grown and gone and I am footloose and fancy free. I've been accepted into grad school and am planning to go abroad afterwards. 30 is not even nearly too late to start planning the rest of your life. My mother married three years ago at age 61, and my grandmother (at age 79) married the same year. If they're not too old to find love, then you certainly are not at age 30. BTW, as you can see by our ages, all of the women in my family married and had their kidlings young. It hasn't stopped us from living our lives.

you said this ... it seems that a lot of men I meet aren't interested in women who like sci-fi geekiness and books and photography but don't wear makeup and can't walk in high heels...

I say, boy are you meeting the wrong men. I've never worn makeup or high heels, and while I wouldn't call myself a geek, I do like books and things that are considered "geeky", and I NEVER have a problem finding a guy. Really, the only reason I'm not dating now is my last guy was transferred to another part of the country and neither of us felt comfortable dating long distance. I'd start looking elsewhere for men to date if I were you.
posted by patheral at 7:54 PM on August 9, 2010

The way I distinguish between rational and not rational is to look for patterns. Very upset today... hmmm, I got three hours of sleep... whenever I get three hours of sleep, I'm grouchy... therefore this is likely an illusion.

To me, to be feeling what you're feeling about six months out of a relationship is pretty much a pattern.
posted by salvia at 7:55 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

while I'm not horrendously picky when it comes to prospective partners
You know you can be, right? Because you sound like a fascinating person with her shit together; you're a catch. Have you actively tried to find a suitable partner? I don't hear any mention of it in your post. Your goals are entirely realistic and attainable; and while nothing in life is certain, your odds go way up if you abandon the Brownian-motion approach to dating and pursue your goal with purpose.

xenophile says: If you're ready to take that step, I advise you to hit it hard. Don't waste your time with immature men who have no husband-and-father potential. It takes a while to get to know someone, and you might have to repeat this a few times. But also, please don't rush the process and get into a relationship you're settling for.
Quote for truth. That sounds exactly right.

a 28 year old guy who loves girls without make-up or high heels most of all
(and who is absurdly unqualified to give dating advice, so grain of salt and all that)
posted by kprincehouse at 9:41 PM on August 9, 2010

And is 30 really the life-changing weight-of-all-past-expectations age it's feeling like?
Give it another four years or so before you start freaking out that your life didn't turn out the way you wanted
No, don't do that. Your life is never going to 'turn out' to be anything. It is what it is, and someday it will be over. Do you like what you're doing today? Change it, today. Everything else is wishful thinking and self-indulgence.

I think you're under the impression that your 'decade' matters at all. That is a false impression.

When you do things that give you joy, people respond instinctively to that joy, and you see them more clearly. That's how you get to know people, how you find out whether you're 'perfect for each other' and all that other stupid sub-psychological fluff.
Are there any good ways you've found to make a distinction between 'this wasn't quite what I wanted from my life, but I can accept that and make the best of it' and 'this wasn't quite what I wanted in my life, so dammit I'm going to seek out what I do want'?
What's the difference? If you are lying to yourself about what you have and what you want, you are fucking yourself up. If you're being honest about what you have and want, you'll act honestly, and good things come of that. Always.

'Rational' is mostly irrelevant in family-starting decisions. There's no good time to start a family because 'good time' is a nonsense category. Go meet people other than the ones you're comfortable with. Stop being so attached to 'who you are.' Your opinions about 'being single' are as important as your opinions about baroque music, i.e. not important. Pick something you like to do and do it.

No one gives a fuck what you do so long as you're not messing them up. You don't get to choose outcomes, just actions. Well, go do that, one way or the other. It really, truly does not matter.
posted by waxbanks at 10:33 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think the only objective concern as time passes is decreased fertility, but nowadays there are so many ways to address this problem - and there will probably be even more by the time this would become an issue for you. There's also the option of freezing your eggs if that will ease your mind a bit. For what it's worth, my mom had my sister and I at forty. (If you want more than one kid, one nice thing about being an older mother is that you're more likely to have them all at once. Very efficient!)

I agree with wildcrdj about your perspective being influenced by where you live, though. I also live in SF, and everyone I know (myself included) tends to look askance at anyone who marries or has children before thirty. Domestic life is postponed at least 10 years out here.
posted by granted at 10:36 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If MetaFilter has taught me anything, it's that people tend to discount all the great things they have going for them and fixate on the aspects of their lives that need improvement. This is not a huge surprise given that discontent has been ingrained in us from a very young age. We're told that we deserve the best and that we can have it all. And so, as soon as we achieve our current goal - getting married/having a kid/snagging the dream job/buying the big house - we just move on to the next life problem that needs solving. It's never enough.

My advice? Move your focus to all those great things you love about your life. A gratitude journal is a great idea. Once you figure out how to be content in your current life situation - no matter what that situation may be - you will feel way less anxiety about reaching that next goal or racking up that next achievement.
posted by kookaburra at 10:43 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

the only thing I want to add is your concern that there are no men attracted to girls who like scifi and photography is just plain bananas.

have you been on the Internet lately?! that's exactly what the boys who are into scifi and photography are saying.
posted by 6am at 12:09 AM on August 10, 2010

30 is just two greater than 29. That's just 24 months. It's nothing. Except it feels like it should be. Don't let the numbers freak you out, I guess.
posted by Harry at 3:12 AM on August 10, 2010

I would spend less time thinking about whether you're too old to create a different sort of life, and more time thinking about what concrete steps you need to get there.

Like, when you wonder about ever finding men who dig women who "like sci-fi geekiness and books and photography but don't wear makeup and can't walk in high heels," I thought--there are places and venues where such types are thick as Minnesota mosquitos in July, and you have to beat them off with sticks. Perhaps literally--I'm thinking of the karate dojos I've known :-) .

At one point I found myself--a half-decade older than you are now, plus being a single parent to 2 kids: recently out of a relationship of quiet desperation, contemplating the males in my social circle: likewise, there was the friend I wasn't interested in, plus a 15-year-older unemployed immigrant with a possible drinking problem, and ... and ... nothing, really. I realized I had to do something different to get myself out there and meeting a more appropriate class of men. For me online dating was the simplest and fastest route. It may be something else for you. But you do need to do something to expand your datable-male horizons.
posted by drlith at 4:20 AM on August 10, 2010

I think I had my "midlife crisis" at 29. Turning 30 seemed such a momentous deal, such an indictment on what I thought I had failed to achieve so far in my life. It was crushing. The good thing is that it spurred me to make some really positive and significant changes (went back to grad school, changed careers, moved to a new city). It sounds like you've already done a lot of those things and are otherwise in a good place, save the romance. But I agree, there is something about 30 that makes it seem like a profound— and judgmental— life milestone.

I was also single and really anxious about that. I kept trying, though I admit that I was beginning to feel pretty hopeless by age 35. I finally hooked up with my current partner when I was 36 (we met online). It seemed a long time in coming, and we both wish that we had been able to meet each other earlier in life, but in many ways I think we appreciate and love each other all the more because of the maturity and experience that came before our relationship. I think it helps you better appreciate what you have once you find it. So think of the time you've spent so far as an investment in the strength of your future relationships. Many of the people I knew who got married in their 20's and now divorced and starting over in that respect too.

The thing is, 30 seems really old when you first arrive there, but I've now passed 40, and I can say that my 30's was a much better decade than my 20's. (And I hope my 40's proves to be better than my 30's!) Not that my 20's were a waste. I set the stage for other choices I would make as I got older. I have a close friend who went back to grad school and reinvented himself at 42 and got married at 50. Life doesn't have to fit a certain pattern. Age constraints are a false construct.

To answer your question about evaluating: I think some evaluation is good. Having some goals to meet is good. We should all have a sense of urgency about making the most of our lives. But recognize that there are many ways to live a good life, and things that you think are very important right now may not be so important later. Also recognize that there are some things you can affect/change and some you can't. I think there is a certain chance aspect to romantic relationships, but having said that, there are loads of potential mates out there, and I think you're more likely to find them when the other parts of your life are interesting, challenging, and good. So just focus on that. No 30 year-old should feel desperate. Every 30 year-old should feel like they are filled with awesome potential.
posted by amusebuche at 8:34 AM on August 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

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