This is Caitlin McCabe. She’s turning 30 this week. I met Caitlin through my Brazen Careerist co-founder, Ryan Paugh. They are getting married, and every day I thank goodness that Ryan found her, because I don’t have a lot of friends in Madison, and I can’t have one fall to the wayside for marrying someone I don’t like.
Caitlin wrote a thoughtful post about turning 30, which reminded me that I have a lot to say about turning 30. So this post is my birthday present to Caitlin. If you can call unsolicited advice a gift.
1. Don't look to men for turning-30 camaraderie.
Turning 30 is different for men and women. Take a look at OKCupid, which is a dating site, yes, but it is also one of the most intoxicating data centers online. Their official blogger, Christian Rudder, does an incredible job of parsing the data from millions of people who use the site to figure out surprising answers to intriguing questions.
Rudder parses OKCupid data to find that, women are most desirable to men when women are in their 20s, and men are least desirable to women when they are in their 20s. Makes sense—men select for looks and women select for money. This is not some sexist social artifact—this is just how the world works and you cannot change it by forcing a generation of girls to play soccer.
What is also true is that women in their 20s earn more than men. So women feel relatively confident at work. But this switches in their 30s, when men start earning more. Sure, this is a result of a string of career-limiting decisions women make (like, they don't want to be at the Consumer Electronics Show delivering a baby), but the bottom line is that the security women had in their earning power will go down and the men's security will go up.
What this means for the turning-30 crowd is that men feel great and women feel trepidation.
2. Approach your biological clock head on.
First, for most women, the biological clock starts ticking like an earthquake when you turn 30 and have no kids. I know it is not scientifically proven, but most women will tell you that even if you thought you didn't want kids, if you are ever going to change your mind, it'll be when you turn 30. Something weird happens. And don't tell me it's society, because the Baby Boomer moms of Gen Xers were vehement that there is no rush to have kids, and thirty year old daughters should focus on careers, and still, Gen Xers felt the crush of the clock at age 30.
It is logical that you would panic about your clock because your clock is about to explode. Have you looked at data for mothers who are over 35? Here’s a chart from Classhelp.com, and while this is just Down’s Syndrome, most pregnancy risk-factor slopes look like this one:
But it's not like you can't control your dating life. It's all you. If you want to find a husband, you'll find one. Just make it a priority. First, you get rid of all the things you know are bringing you down. Junky eating. Junky friends. No exercise. No passion about work or anything outside of work. Fix all that. There are 1000 self-help books to tell you how, but really, you just need one thing—a will to change.
You will attract who you deserve. If you don't like who you are getting, change yourself. If you can't change yourself, get a reality check.
Then just choose the guy. Here are two things to consider: 1. There is no good time to have a baby. It’ll always mess up your career, so just do it if want one. 2. There is no best way to choose a mate. Men will change careers, eventually have health problems, make parenting promises they won't keep—it's astounding how much marriage turns out to be a bait-and-switch. You can control so little, so don't waste a lot of time trying to control for stuff you can't—ultimately—control.
3. Relish the upcoming decade: it will probably be your best.
You know why? Because for women, their 30s decade is the best one of their sexual life. OK Cupid has outstanding data about women and sex. Women overwhelmingly report that they had no idea how bad they were in bed during their 20s, but they got much better in their 30s. By the time women are in their 40s, their sex drive is at its highest and their competence in bed is at its highest. When asked why, women report that their self-confidence and self-knowledge is at an all-time high.
The problem is that while women in their 40s are great in bed, they are increasingly unhappy in life. Women in their 40s report the most anxiety, sleeplessness, and pressure than any other demographic, and women, after 40, grow more and more unhappy as time goes on.
I, of course, have scoured research to find ways to overcome this statistical nightmare. But, in the meantime, women turning thirty can console yourselves: You are gaining self-confidence in leaps and bounds during your 30s, and your bedroom skills have the same slope as the graph above—but in a good way.
So really, Caitlin, and all you other women entering your 30s, you're entering the decade that is best for women. Honestly, I'm hoping I'm in my best decade too. But I'll tell you something: My 30s were hard to beat. And I'm saying that even though I turned 30 with no job, no boyfriend and no money. So I know you’ll have a great time as well.