Married by 30? That’s an age-old notion.

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Photo credit: Hitched.co.uk

One of the plagues in our world is that women are given a shelf life. Everyone normally skirts around it, but we’re earmarked like a sack of potatoes with use-by dates seared across our forehead. Usually, that use-by-date is the age of 30.

As we get older, girls and women are under constant pressure to follow a straight and narrow road – as girls it’s either close your legs, don’t pout, pull that skirt down, and as women it’s get a degree, find a steady job, settle down and have some kids. Speaking from experience, rarely are women pushed to dream or be more.

As someone getting married in August this year at the age of 23, I can verify that yes, while I am classified as ‘young’, it doesn’t feel like the ‘achievement’ that Asian families in particular often make it out to be. And that’s something anyone who is worried about being single and approaching 30 should make a note of.

Our definitions of an ‘achievement’ need to be broader than that, and certainly be unrelated to becoming a wife – because they are far, far more unique than that. That mountain you just climbed? That’s an achievement. That job you bagged after years of hard graft? That’s an achievement. That painting you just sold? That’s a bloody good achievement.

However, getting married before the age of 30 has been the yardstick measuring a woman’s achievements for as long as I can remember. And I’m sure at some points, that age boundary was lower still. But let’s think about it. Which clever clogs plucked the number 30 out of thin air? What is its significance when it comes to marriage? Why does it matter so goddamn much whether you get married when you’re 30, 40 or 50?

The pressure to get hitched before this magic number seems to be crushing the confidence of otherwise bold and beautiful women. A constant timer seems to be flashing above their heads, vanishing only when the ‘married’ box is neatly ticked. But women shouldn’t have to race against time to ‘settle down’ and find someone just so they can pop out a couple of kids with and please society. The idea that women need to settle down by 30 is itself the problem – society wants us to settle, to stop dreaming.

We’re told our careers will flail, our breasts will sag and our ovaries will stop churning out eggs if we don’t have a man in tow by 30. It feels as though women are getting increasingly anxious and paranoid as they look around at their friends and families in relationships, getting married, having babies, and thinking that they are somehow inadequate, getting left behind, not good enough.

News flash: you’re more than good enough.

If our male counterparts can get away with it, why can’t we? We’re ‘undesirable’ as we approach 30 but they’re bachelors, taking their time and playing the field. But 30 is exactly that: a number. The problem is that its been signposted as the danger zone for women alone, and it’s seriously killing our vibe.

We’re the ones worrying about the wrinkles, love handles and the odd grey hair. We’re put under pressure in countless ways, day in, day out, and still we worry about the number 30 creeping up on us. And ultimately, why are we told to ‘find a man’ in ‘good time’? It’s just so other people can feel satisfied with their version of order being restored.

Excuse the eloquent wordsmith in me, but shifting times cause shifts in shifty people. You – single, hungry and chasing your dreams – are not the problem. It’s the people who tell you that you’re somehow lacking for being single at any point in your life, let alone when you’re approaching 30, that are the problem. Because anyone who thinks that 30 is the end of someone’s life is shifty as hell.

There is nothing, I repeat, n-o-t-h-i-n-g, wrong with turning 30 and being unmarried. Just like there’s nothing wrong with being 30 and deciding you don’t want that extra slice of cake. It’s a choice, and yours alone to make.