The Not-So-Dirty 30s by Anushree Srivastava

As humans, there are a lot of things that we consider wrong, unnatural, and often plain crazy. Have you ever wondered why and how we came to such conclusions? If I asked for this question to be answered by a show of hands, more than half of us (yes, yours truly included) will probably not have a concrete response. There are some things that are wrong because…well…they are wrong. That’s how life and nature have deemed them be. Of everything that commands our wrath (and ignorance), an unmarried woman in her 30s almost always secures one of the top five spots. After all, how could a woman dare to be so audacious and actually claim to be happy? Fine fine, let’s narrow this down to some personal views and try to decipher the intricacies of a woman in her not-so-dirty 30s.

The heavens showered me with their kindness earlier this year when I woke up to find that I had officially entered my 30s. That’s right, I was no longer eligible to use the discount coupon labeled “But I’m still in my 20s” when checking out my bag full of existential crisis and anxiety upon witnessing just about everyone around me seemingly having better lives than me. Grateful, I was, for the food on my plate and the roof over my head, but hey, what is the point of having food in front of you until someone else’s hand shoves it down your throat and what good is a roof if you don’t have anyone to share it with? Isn’t that exactly what the world had taught me thus far? There I was, telling myself every day that I was happily single by choice, focusing exclusively on myself, and building a career while at it. Why then did it feel like I had just hit an age where I was suddenly nobody because I had no trace of romance in my life? My musings came to a sudden halt when I received a text from a relative that went “Happy Birthday. So, beta, when do we hear your wedding bells?”. Hang on, let me retire to my yoga mat and take some deep breaths before I continue. Does anyone remember the last time relatives did not poop on our peace, be it with the topic of exam grades, marriage, or babies?

Okay, the deep breathing helped and honestly, so did those wretched texts from relatives who, by the way, I will still need to say a cordial “Namaste” to every time I meet them and they will still later claim that I have an attitude problem. Such family love, much wow. Anyway, I digress. That morning got me thinking why it is so difficult for our lot to stomach a woman who consciously “chooses” to be by herself. And let me add, if the number of guys who have referred to me as “Bhabhi” (sister-in-law) at any point is anything to go by, I have been in my fair share of relationships to spill all the preaching that is coming your way right about now. As millennials, we have seen such drastic changes in the overall structure of thoughts as far as individual preferences are concerned, that a big chunk of our lives have already been spent on being served conflicting ideas from the generations before and even after us. We are the generation that has slowly tried to educate our folks on homosexuality and mental illness. We focused so much on these “more obvious” issues that we forgot to think about how much women have changed over time. Do you know what I think about the increasing rates of divorces among us? Haha, I see all the baby boomers reading this and shaking their heads already. Anyway, a big part of this divorce force is the fact that women are no longer monetarily (or otherwise) dependent on men *suppresses evil laughter*, at least most women for that matter. This financial independence is not only liberating, it also gave us a sense of being. We know now that we can build our lives without relying on anyone. We are completely at peace in being the quintessential “bigdi hui beti (spoilt daughter)” as long as we know what we are doing with our lives. Unfortunately, with this realization came the direct impact it had on marriages. I often hear our generation getting chastised for not being “flexible” or “accommodative”. This, I disagree with.  The ability to adjust is an inherent virtue that seldom depends on any external factors. We, as a generation, are still as accommodative as humanly possible. The difference is that we are more cautious about who to be flexible for. Our choice to not put up with anything and everything that’s thrown on us is sadly misunderstood as a lack of flexibility. We, too, understand that companionship may be great, however, not when it comes at the cost of our individuality or peace of mind. Suffice it to say, for the right kind of people in our lives, that quality of being accommodative is still as existent as ever. As a society, until now, we had only seen sporadic cases of women empowerment, while the majority were still happily (or not) submitting into the societal norms. The idea of there being an entire army of self-sufficient women was unheard and even unthought of, and lo, behold, after years, women are finally self-sufficient! There goes 30% of marriages that had been successful only because “a woman runs the family while her man brings the money”. Joke’s on who now?

Okay now let’s be honest. When you encounter a woman in her 30s, early or late, who is quite evidently happy and satisfied with her life, what is your immediate thought? “Maybe she couldn’t find anyone and that’s why remained single”. “Oh, she is just lying, she must hate being single but is unable to do anything about it”. “*turns to daughter* Child, don’t grow up to be like her”. Sounds familiar? How many times have we, as the educated class, had such thoughts? Why has it been so difficult for us to fathom the fact that a woman is probably charting her own path and had consciously realized that she could be alone and happy without marriage or kids? I have got news for all of us! The next time you laugh at a meme about “that aunt” who did not get married and is often merrily drunk and dancing in every party, try to congratulate her for her zeal and passion for life. The next time you see an old cat lady, talk to her about her love for cats? The next time you see a confident woman in her 30s who is nowhere close to getting hitched, learn from her on how she’s able to love herself and not need someone else to do that for her. As Gloria Steinem aptly said “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”. Alright, so once you’ve thought everything given above, you can go back to that teensy feeling in your heart that makes you long for your pre-marriage and pre-kids life where you felt like the kings and queens of the world. Don’t lie, we know you feel that too 😉.

As humans, there are a lot of things that we consider wrong, unnatural, and often plain crazy. More often than not, we hate something when we feel threatened by it or when we don’t understand it fully. At the end of the day, each of us lives a unique barcode of a life. You can be happy with your spouse and kids and the rest of us almost-old cat/dog ladies can go back to being happy in life as we know it. Our hearts carry so much love for ourselves that someday, if meant to be, we would be happy to share that with someone else. Until then, on behalf of every new-age woman, may I request that you understand that we choose to be by ourselves and challenge your notion that a woman must be married by a certain age?

With this, I’ll go back to scrolling through memes on the internet because isn’t that what millennials do?

“Maybe some women aren’t meant to be tamed. Maybe they just need to run free until they find someone just as wild to run with them”- Candace Bushnell (portrayed by Carrie Bradshaw, for all you sappy comedy lovers)