No, you don’t magically grasp ‘adulting’ when you turn 30 – it’s just an advertising myth to shame young women

Adulthood comes in all shapes and sizes – while some people have it completely sussed, the rest of us are still mucking about in the sandpit, trying avoid the dog poo


Jenny Eclair
Monday 25 February 2019 11:36 GMT
You can’t ‘win at life’, not forever; life is a series of rabbit holes that you trip over and limp on from
You can’t ‘win at life’, not forever; life is a series of rabbit holes that you trip over and limp on from

My daughter turned 30 at the weekend. I’m not saying she made a big song and dance about it – she didn’t go full Meghan Markle baby shower mad – but she did take the whole thing quite seriously. Let’s just say a trip to Iceland to swim in the Blue Lagoon was involved.

I don’t remember anyone making a big deal about turning 30 back in the 1990s when it happened to me and my mates. Thirty wasn’t a “big birthday” back then – we’d had our 18ths and our 21sts and, in terms of fancy cakes and balloon celebrations, that was our lot for decades.

Not any more, now that the traditional 21st bash has taken a back seat. The kids have decided 30 is where the party is. They’ve even started using the phrase “the big three-O”, which as far as I’m concerned is a bit premature. I don’t think you should get a big “O” on your birthday until you hit 50.

But what do I know? Like it or not, 30 is the new landmark birthday, more so for women than men, because from what I can gather, once the candles are blown out, this is when young women are meant to take a look at themselves and have a jolly good think about the direction they’re going in and whether they are making the right choices. Aaaaagh.

Of course, this is all a complete media and advertising ploy designed to sell more stuff – anti- wrinkle-cream anyone? But it’s more insidious than that – it seems designed to make young women panic about whether they’re “winning at life”, which is yet another odious expression that is currently being bandied about and makes me feel a bit punchy.

No one “wins at life”, not forever; life is a series of rabbit holes that you trip over and limp on from. There is no magic formula – and anyway, just because you’ve got what you’re told you should have by a certain age, it doesn’t mean to say that in five years’ time it won’t all go tits up.

But according to the adverts and the Instagram accounts and the social media platforms, 30 is when it’s all meant to magically start falling into place – the housing situation, the career, the love life, the diet and gym routine...

Thirty is supposed to be when you finally know what you want and you like your hair. And, yes, it is inevitable at this stage in your life that some people will start pulling ahead, but you know what? That’s life, and there has always been a definite shift around the 30 mark.

So don’t be surprised girls, when mates start having babies and weekends are taken up by increasingly elaborate hen nights and your google search history is suddenly comprised solely of a list of Ikea products.

And I’m sorry if this means you can’t go clubbing on a Tuesday night because of “work in the morning” and all of a sudden wearing fairy wings at a festival seems a bit desperate. Tough, it happens to us all.

However, I’m not sure men on the cusp of turning 30 are subjected to the same amount of pressure, I’d like to think that if women are being told to get their act together then men are too.

If there’s going to be any fairness in all this, then lads, maybe it’s time you put away the PlayStation, pulled your tummies in, passed that driving test and started wearing big boy trousers with zips?

Whether you buy into the big celebration fuss or not, for many millennials, turning 30 heralds the scary dawn of being a grown-up.

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This might seem late, and it is, because through no fault of their own they’ve been held back a few years by an endless recession and a brutal housing market, so for a huge number of millennials – particularly Londoners – it takes them until they’re at least 30 to get an independent roof over their heads and to start dreaming of matching dinner plates.

So while I don’t entirely blame them for wanting to mark this transition into adulthood, I’d just like to question what that adulthood might be. Because the only thing I know for sure is that some of us never manage to evolve into fully fledged grown-ups.

At nearly 59, while I’m fussy about not drinking wine out of a mug, I still can’t receive a letter from the bank/insurance/HMRC without feeling weepy and needing someone to translate what they mean to me in really simple terms.

And OK, I might have some really nice cushions and one of those coffee machines that takes posh pods, but I have never plucked up the courage to drive on the motorway, and I’m still not truly confident about cooking rice.

Adulthood comes in all shapes and sizes – whilst some people have it completely sussed, the rest of us are still mucking about in the sandpit, trying avoid the dog poo. Anyway, who cares about 30ths – it’s my 60th next year, so bring on the bunting.

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