For most middle-class kids, life is simple when you are still young and dependent on your parents. You study hard and work your way into a decent profession, which pays well enough to sustain you, your aspirational lifestyle, and hopefully also supports your retiring parents. It is nothing but a truism that things gets complicated as the years pass by, and the societal milestones that a mid-twenties yuppie is deigned to take up as they are about to hit their thirties strike them hard in the gut.
Have you ever thought about something as inane as why some stereotypical 30th birthday celebration décor will come branded with the words “Dirty Thirty” in big bold letters? Well, obviously because it rhymes, but also because in the true sense of the word, you realise that the key to surviving the thirties is really to play the game well and in absolute muck.
These letters, embossed in shiny gold on a birthday balloon, will be a recurring theme in the following years of your thirties as a sadistic, nagging reminder of what is about to come – your investment into a swanky postcode, a de facto home loan that you will never pay back while you still look and feel like yourself, a spouse who will hopefully help you fulfil your superficial dreams if not satisfy you in bed, a child or two to get through the later part of marriage because then you and your spouse can find a better topic to disagree about – your child’s upbringing.
It really does not end there, because the real tribulations begin when your child is growing up, you have to painstakingly take up the role of raising your child as a potential success in a hyper-competitive world. Funding their education may make you want to kill yourself, but you do it. And even before you do it, you somehow get yourself through the years in your life duped to be “dirty” because your scruples are going to go for a toss, and you will realise how Machiavellian your life has become – a simple battle for resources – who gets how much and how quickly.
Having been in a corporate set-up, which is basically a smaller ecosystem for reflecting exactly that, resulted in this regrettable epiphany about the thirties a long time back.
Well, this is just the gist. The histrionics attached to being in the thirties are augmented worse than the surges on Uber, if you are a woman. That’s it. Period. I need not say anymore. This might sound like a rant, but trust me when I say this, secretly this is what most of us think but are probably afraid to say. Because if there are two things women seamlessly attract in this country then they are – creeps and judgement.
A single woman in her thirties is pitiable, whereas a single man in his thirties could be balling. It is not that difficult to break it down. If you are a woman and you have not been able to find yourself a “suitable” man to settle down with, you are probably a failure.
It is, of course, a simple task for an outspoken, educated, feminist to be able to find herself a man in a sea of entitled, so-called modern, “woke” men who cannot help but indulge in pontification at half a sight of a woman. Liberal on the outside, regressive on the inside, he would probably nod his head in sync and show his support for a woman speaking out about stories of gross inequality, power imbalance in society.
What an embodiment of an ideal 21st century man! Or so we may think. At the same time, he might be the one wielding the power in his relationships, based on his convenience, of course. The unfortunate part is that we fall for it. We fall for it because we are conditioned to choose such men, thinking it is the “good virtue” of masculinity.
In a classic situation, some women may even think themselves fortunate looking at others, for at least he is not raising his hand (a certain improvement from the degenerate version). That is how low a woman’s standards should be I suppose – the old trick listed in a survivor’s guide. It should inspire a Daniel Carnegie style “How to” book for the single Indian woman.
As you enter your thirties, you will also realise that when you meet new people, they will either assume you are married or ask you whether you are married. In several situations, some people have even gone on to setting me up in with their single friends and have expected the kind of gratitude only a hapless, lost traveller would display on being shown the right direction.
I appreciate the good intentions, of course. Some of my colleagues once decided they would entertain themselves by discussing with me the prospects of me getting married. “You should get married now, enough!” A dictate I would usually expect from a bored relative in the family or the gossipy neighbour. I could not help but defiantly ask, “Why?” Obviously not expecting this response, they would make up the lamest excuse, “Because, we will have a party to attend and eat amazing Bengali food.” *Face palm*
I am happily single. Of course, there are issues that come with it. The unwarranted questions and suggestions are not the only ones. Finding a travel buddy is not easy any longer, considering how my friends are spread all over the country / world now, and also because they are married. But this is only a minor hiccup.
What is bothersome is that if you want to date, you have to sieve through strange men on dating apps and then have to bear the excruciating pain of having to spend precious hours on something that doesn’t hold much significance. What is even worse is that you will be judged for being on a dating app.
Are we as single women in and around thirties, supposed to hide that we date often or have casual relationships? There would be so many instances where a male colleague or friend would be hero-worshipped for “nailing the hot woman”. If there ever was to be such a reputation for a woman, it would inevitably be her downfall and no one would take her seriously.
To add to this, when the men in your workplace see you as “single”, they automatically assume that you are available, and you get attention you never asked for. Men with absurdly low EQ levels would make you uncomfortable and not even realise it. Women as it is have it hard surviving in male dominated professions.
Things would have been simpler if I was a cis-het man in my thirties. I would not need to do up my hair, I could wear lesser pieces of clothing and thankfully no bra to suffocate me till the end of the day, I would not need to sit in office while keeping a straight face despite the agonising period cramps, or consider body hair unappealing.
But the simple pride of being a woman, the ordinary struggles and the extraordinary grit, all of which go into making something of yourself makes it worth so much more. So, will I ever trade being a woman with being a man with the personality of the ubiquitous hypocritical cis-het man? Erm, no, thank you!
Julie Roy is a lawyer based in Delhi. She loves writing to make sense of the world, and thinks it is best enjoyed with dollops of cynicism and heaps of humour. She can be found on LinkedIn and Instagram.