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.

137 replies
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  1. becka
    becka says:

    Fantastic post as usual… having turned 30 a few months ago, I’m glad to know I’m on the right track.
    Also, where is Caitlyn get those red shoes??

  2. Harriet May
    Harriet May says:

    I just got back from a corporate trip that my boyfriend won. We were by far the youngest couple there, and the two events coordinators in charge of us were the same age as I am (24); recent grads working their first big job out of college in marketing. It was a really interesting experience for me because I got to see how young women my age are viewed by older people who have been in the workforce much longer. And it made me realize that you’re not expected to know everything at 24. There are so many glamorous, media-driven industries that make 24 seem old (music, television, movies, modeling, sports) that sometimes that’s easy to forget. It was also a good opportunity to practice networking; I got to practice my elevator pitch and I got to watch more established people interact. Oh and did I mention that I got to meet Edsel and Henry Ford III? How’s that for practice-networking?!

  3. Alice Bachini-Smith
    Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    Gosh, angry commenters! Why don’t you check your facts before trashing Penelope’s posts etc blahdiblah etc???!!! Here’s one in a series of articles by someone who researched how women’s happiness has started deteriorating IN GENERAL as they get older, for all you commenters who have no idea what you’re talking about.

    Or, if you think his methods are dodgy, why not set up your own research studies etc blahdiblah?!!!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcus-buckingham/whats-happening-to-womens_b_289511.html

    My own gender-related happiness anecdotal observation is that fewer men turn into complete bitches when they get old and ugly. So, nah nah-ne nah nah!! etc blahdiblah :-D

  4. Alice Bachini-Smith
    Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    Gosh, angry commenter people! Why don’t you check your facts before trashing other people’s information?!!! Here’s one in a series of articles by someone who researched how women’s happiness has started deteriorating (IN GENERAL- not just you, Lady!) as they get older.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marcus-buckingham/whats-happening-to-womens_b_289511.html

    Or, if you think his research methods are dodgy, why not compare other similar studies so we can all share the facts together?!

    My own gender-related happiness anecdotal observation is that fewer men turn into complete bitches when they get old and ugly.

  5. Alice Bachini-Smith
    Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    Sigh. Penelope or Editor, please feel free to erase one of those 2 above, ideally the first one. And then this too. If you care about such things :-)

  6. bel jeremiah "Twirly Girls"
    bel jeremiah "Twirly Girls" says:

    Age??? It happens…no running from it…may as well embrace it…I’ll be 59 this year! Yikes…60 not far off…But…as long as you live young at heart and don’t obsess with the the number itself you’ll be fine! The older you get the more confident you get and you learn to live the code of “Who Gives a Shit!” Sex, fitness, its all good!!!

  7. A_Canadian_Man
    A_Canadian_Man says:

    As a 36-year-old male, I’m intrigued by all this. It’s like sitting in a room full of really interesting women (and, to be honest, I’ve always found female conversation more interesting than male conversation). Anyway, it’s funny, but as a guy who just turned 36, I can honestly say that I’ve never felt more confident, more eager about life, and more attracted to my beautiful 36 year old wife than ever before. I thought I had everything and knew everything in my 20s, and only now as I approach 40 do I see that life continues to open up ever more awesome opportunities. I look forward to the years ahead, to turning 40, 50, 100 . . . as long as I have my friends, my wife, and a few bottles od red wine.

  8. Monica Biddix
    Monica Biddix says:

    I found this to be utterly depressing. I am turning 30 in oh 18 days now. I am sending myself to Cozumel for a few days. While I would rather not turn thirty (and still look under 25), I feel like it’s not so bad.
    Yes, guys in their 20s suck, plain and simple and it’s not because of money. It is a maturity thing. I spent a lot of my twenties sowing my wild oats and for the first time I feel like I’ve got it together.
    Seem like an intelligent woman. Women like myself have a low self-esteen anyway. There’s no sense in projecting doom and gloom on an occasion that isn’t exactly all rosy to begin with.

  9. Anna
    Anna says:

    This is very interesting Penelope! Makes perfect sense. And thank you for introducing me to other sides of OKCupid too, very much appreciated!

  10. Leslie
    Leslie says:

    I loved this article! It was fabulous. I don’t know why we are all scared of turning 30. It’s not like we can slow down life, we might as well embrace it. Thanks for the positive thinking :)

  11. Ecco Casual
    Ecco Casual says:

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  12. Jaclyn Mullen
    Jaclyn Mullen says:

    I, too, am so happy to have come across this article. Although it was posted in February, I am in my last few weeks of being 29 and my 30th is actually on 09/11. Instead of having a big bash (let alone freakout fest), I am doing something of service for my community by having a Birthday Build for Habitat for Humanity LA. Surely I’ve learned a few things from my twenties. It’s not about job titles or bank accounts, boyfriends or being single in my case. It’s about being happy, no matter where you are, no matter what you’ve got. And in my case, I can do something for those who may have a little less than I. Older, wiser, and ready for the next decade. Never thought I’d say that! Thanks Penelope and everyone who commented on this post. Your insight has been a great gift.

  13. Thom
    Thom says:

    As a 24 year old male, I still have some hangover of adolescent shyness and anxiety, I feel like I still look far too young to command a boardroom or the interests of any women who like their men ‘alpha’… but I am very confident and optimistic I’ll improve physically and emotionally well into my 30s, 40s, possibly even 50s. By contrast I know a lot of women my age who live in a bubble of attention right now, drinks being bought for them, etc, who may well start to head downhill pretty quickly. Sorry… schadenfreude. 

    • Danielle2
      Danielle2 says:

      There are women your age who will be running companies in their forties and fifties. I know lots of women those ages who are leading amazing lives. 
      Be who you want to be now, and don’t wait for some magic future age to happen. Take life with both hands, and forget about those women who only want so-called alpha males.

  14. Danielle
    Danielle says:

    Okay, so I just had a look through oasis.com. Seems plenty of  women in their early to mid-twenties are happy to date men as young as 18. And women in their early thirties are happy to date men in their twenties.
    The Cupid site is just one site, and may attract a particular crowd. And what people want isn’t what they actually get. Take a look through dating site discussion forums – such as the POF forums. Men are complaining that women hold all the cards (at any age). And they’re complaining that women are going for the best looking men.
    Who would have thought women were just as visual as men? (Well, any thinking person should have already guessed. Women don’t obsess over good looking males from Justin Beiber to Brad Pitt for no reason.)

  15. YouBreedersAreFuckingGross
    YouBreedersAreFuckingGross says:

     This article makes me want to get sterilized. With an electric mixer and a bucket of lye.

  16. Sashj
    Sashj says:

    That is a horrible post to your friend for her birthday or to anyone reading this for that matter! How depressing! I’m sure that it is not as bad as the ‘facts and figures’ you have presented here…

  17. StillPretty@Thirty
    StillPretty@Thirty says:

    My sister-in-law tells me most women look their best in their early 30s.  I forget her reasoning, but I do know that happily for me, it seems to be true.  

    • Aki
      Aki says:

      I think that is true, probably due to a mix of things. I thought my mom was pretty in her late 20’s, but in her 30’s she was stunning. Also, I like my look and sense of style way more at age 28 than any time in the past. :)

  18. Hit-the-street-corners
    Hit-the-street-corners says:

    I didn’t like this article because I thought it promoted old, tired stereotypes with no proof to back these claims up. By claiming that women choose men for money, it just makes women sound like “working girls”/prostitutes”” turning down dates with men their own ages so they can be with old “johns”.

    Men marry for LOOKS and women marry for MONEY? Excuse my curiosity but…is that what you did? This article seems to be promoting “it”, so I wondered if that’s what you did/do. I don’t like when women (especially older women) try to turn younger women on to ANY form of prostitution. And make no mistake, ignoring men their own age in favor of men with money (working girls call it “security”) is prostitution.

    Instead of this, why not write an article teaching 20-something women about job opportunities so they can make their OWN $, and write their OWN checks in life, and don’t have to marry a man they don’t love or even find attractive just because he’s got money.

    Furthermore, why do men start earning more than women when they both reach their 30’s? That made no sense to me and was glossed over in this creepy article.

  19. Hit-the-street-corners
    Hit-the-street-corners says:

    I didn’t like this article because I thought it promoted old, tired stereotypes with no proof to back these claims up. By claiming that women choose men for money, it just makes women sound like “working girls”/prostitutes”” turning down dates with men their own ages so they can be with old “johns”.

    Men marry for LOOKS and women marry for MONEY? Excuse my curiosity but…is that what you did? This article seems to be promoting “it”, so I wondered if that’s what you did/do. I don’t like when women (especially older women) try to turn younger women on to ANY form of prostitution. And make no mistake, ignoring men their own age in favor of men with money (working girls call it “security”) is prostitution.

    Instead of this, why not write an article teaching 20-something women about job opportunities so they can make their OWN $, and write their OWN checks in life, and don’t have to marry a man they don’t love or even find attractive just because he’s got money.

    Furthermore, why do men start earning more than women when they both reach their 30’s? That made no sense to me and was glossed over in this creepy article.

  20. mary
    mary says:

    wow, this was really uplifting to those of us approaching, or already at 30. thanks for giving me something to look forward to. (not really)

  21. Lisette
    Lisette says:

    Everyone is different, people seem to be ageing better these days and turning 30 or even 40 is hardly turning ‘old’.
     I was pregnant with my 3rd child when I turned 40 , my eldest was 18 at the time.I had the best pregnancy out of the lot the third time and a quick, hassle free, straightforward birth. My son is now 4, he is wonderful. Since having him my career has actually improved and I feel much more self assured and relaxed as a person now, compared to how I felt at 23 when my first child was born.I enjoy sex a lot more now and am the one most likely to gripe about ‘not getting enough’. I am about the same weight I have been all my adult life, and can still fit the wedding dress I wore at age 21.  I think the advances in medicine, health care, fitness and nutrition has enabled those of us reaching ‘middle age’ to do so in much better shape than the generations before us. The range and improvements in life choices are extending our potential to live a lot more happily and healthily than ever before.

  22. Jim
    Jim says:

    It’s amazing how these articles are always degrading to men. I guess at 40 men are sexless, inferior wastes next to their “sexual primed”, confident, accomplished women. Right? So typical. It is amazing how communism has taken hold of the west so strongly. The hateful anti male views on this board are so typical of women’s ideologies today. Everything is about the material. Men are inferior and money is everything. The west is so Dead.

  23. Gg
    Gg says:

    My face had less fine lines at 30 and more youthful plumpness, but who the heck had time to enjoy it? I was exhausted and frazzled chasing after a 1 and 3 year old all day. Though its nice to be in the bloom of youth, for many, it leads to marriage and babies which means there are tough tough times ahead. Motherhood is joyful, at times, but HARD alot of the time too…especially the early years. I’m 38 this month and am SO grateful to have pregnancy and early childcare behind me. So being almost 40 isn’t so bad….lots more free time for me and all that difficult pregnancy-childcare stuff is behind me. The kids added so much stress to our marriage when they were little. That has improved drastically now that they’re older. Every stage has its charms and its drawbacks.

  24. Gg
    Gg says:

    Not sure about the men preferring younger women claim in this article. From my own experience….

    1. Ex-husband said his 13 year younger girlfriend drives him crazy after 5 days together. He said dating a much younger women was overrated.
    2. Husband always comments on older women and how appealing they are….he said they seem more interesting due to life experience.
    3. My grandmother snagged a wealthy husband her own age at 50 after my grandfather died.
    4. My brother admitted having a huge crush on a 48 year old co- worker when he was 31.
    5. My brother in law dated a 38 year old woman when he was 21 for 6 months and said she taught him a lot in the bedroom.
    6. I’m 38 and younger guys in their twenties flirt, chat, and check me out.
    7. Said 37 year old ex husband asked me if I would want to have an affair with him behind his 25 year old girlfriend’s
    back. (He’s a narcissistic jerk and that’s why I divorced him.) I declined that ghastly offer but was intrigued that
    he was that bored or dissatisfied with her and thus the “overrated” comment above.

    So there ya’ go ladies….my own experiences and observations that older gals still get the guys too.

  25. Dee G
    Dee G says:

    I just turned 30 and am not at all as apprehensive about it as I thought I would be. I’m actually excited. :)

    One commenter mentioned that getting older/reaching 30 gives you a sense of credibility. I think I’m finally settling into who I am as a person and hope that others are able to see it too!

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  27. xoxo
    xoxo says:

    guys..im turning 30 tomorrow…and im still looking for my first job(unemployed for 3 years after college), I have no talent or special skill except that the one I learned at school( not my thing at all!) and no kids or any potential bf. So that im feeling downnn ..Im not really asking for advise but just wondering if there is anyone who is/was in a similar life situation and could made feel a little better. Grateful forever for my health:)

  28. C
    C says:

    That was incredibly depressing. Not everyone wants kids or is a gold digger. Also, OkCupid is a joke. I have fat, bald men writing me all of the time, and I am a slim, attractive 32 year old woman. No one reads the profile; they just write to everyone.

    • M
      M says:

      Put some pics up on your profile. That usually helps. Also OkCupid and all the other free sites totally suck. You’ve got to go to the pay dating site Match.com, etc to get much better and decent results and also one other suggestion don’t put on so many fantasy “requirements” that just chases most men even ones you like away. I agree with ya that not everyone is a gold digger and not everyone wants kids.

  29. aaa
    aaa says:

    Not sure about the men preferring younger women claim in this article. From my own experience – .

    1. Ex-husband said his 13 year younger girlfriend drives him crazy after 5 days together. He said dating a much younger women was overrated.
    2. Husband always comments on older women and how appealing they are – .he said they seem more interesting due to life experience.
    3. My grandmother snagged a wealthy husband her own age at 50 after my grandfather died.
    4. My brother admitted having a huge crush on a 48 year old co- worker when he was 31.
    5. My brother in law dated a 38 year old woman when he was 21 for 6 months and said she taught him a lot in the bedroom.
    6. I’m 38 and younger guys in their twenties flirt, chat, and check me out.
    7. Said 37 year old ex husband asked me if I would want to have an affair with him behind his 25 year old girlfriend’s
    back. (He’s a narcissistic jerk and that’s why I divorced him.) I declined that ghastly offer but was intrigued that
    he was that bored or dissatisfied with her and thus the “overrated” comment above.

    So there ya’ go ladies – .my own experiences and observations that older gals still get the guys too.

    Yeah, darling, all the points are for casual sex, and no commitment. For fucking with whores, no problem with age.

  30. M
    M says:

    “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.”

    Wow this comment sounds awfully bitter. I think this lady that wrote this has some men issues at least from this comment. Women can and a lot do the same exact thing as in have “health problems, make parenting promises they won't keep – it's” also let’s not forget the many women that have that “perfect” syndrome mostly in their early 20’s and once they get into their late 20’s and then hit 30 something finally clicks with women and they are like oh yeah there is no such thing as “perfect”, I can’t have a five hundred to a million “requirements” and if she kept all those fantasy “requirements” she won’t get anywhere.

    Yeah of course requirements are great but just as long as both men and women keep them to mostly the essentials (good education, good family, family values, in good shape blah blah blah). But a lot of young women have this fantasy BS and want this 12 and she herself thinks she’s a 10 but really she’s 6, 7 or maybe an 8.

  31. kelli mackay
    kelli mackay says:

    thank you of the advice made me feel a bit better about turning 30 last week i must admit i have 3 kids and a dotting husband was never want to get old but after reading this 30’s really don’t seem that bad

  32. Andrew
    Andrew says:

    Great article. Male bogged down in a relationship with a girl 6 years older the past 5 years. 33, experienced engineer, fit, no debt, never married, no kids. I’ve been dating girls who are about ten years younger than me because they are fun and don’t have baggage. Plus I’ve been intimidated by women in their late 20’s because they are far more sexy to me than early 20’s and early 30’s females. Now that I know they want to get knocked up, I’ll be sure to say hello…

  33. kate
    kate says:

    Ok so I’ve been trawling the internet trying to figure out if i should be concerned about kids. i’ve just turned 32 and have a wonderful boyfriend of 2 and a half years. we’ve both somewhat agreed that we want kids after living in another foreign country possibly in about 2 years….but it was a very vague lofty plan. is it ok to get more of a definite confirmation from your man? i mean if in 2 years that plan changes i’ll be 34! But it’s true that its hard to nail men down because they will feel pressured.
    Is it REally so bad to be waiting to get pregnant between 34-38? are there really loads of complications or is it all exagerrated online? i still have so much i want to do before having kids.

  34. A New Yorker
    A New Yorker says:

    As I am about to turn 30, having no job, no man and absolutely no money, I am feeling more confident, more beautiful, more hopeful and enthusiastic about my life, more loving, caring, giving and kind than ever before. And don’t get me started on the sex thing: when I make love, for the first time I feel like a woman, in charge, very aroused and really, really enjoying the man I am with. Turning 30 is like officially verifying my personal growth.

  35. LEta
    LEta says:

    very interesting and useful I´m turning 29 this year but I want to be ready for the 30´s , and Im so freaked out :/

  36. Chi Iler
    Chi Iler says:

    I not to mention my guys have already been following the good strategies found on the blog then then I had a horrible suspicion I had not expressed respect to you for those tips. All of the men are already absolutely excited to read through them and have now sincerely been making the most of them. Many thanks for truly being very helpful as well as for considering this sort of decent ideas most people are really wanting to know about. My personal honest regret for not expressing appreciation to you earlier.

  37. Emma James
    Emma James says:

    As a 29 year old fearfully approaching my 30th Birthday I can’t thank you enough for this honest advice. Although I am fearful about not having a plan for my career or babies, I am optimistic about the future.

  38. Lean
    Lean says:

    What a weird article, and not one that would make me feel better if I weren’t a mom already… Kind of boxed in and very cliche, no?

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