Photo: Iilia Pironea
1. Haven’t you gotten married yet?
The polite answer to this is, “It’s none of your business.” There are a number of rude answers. I’ve no idea why it might seem appropriate to ask someone about their marital status in such a judgey way, but given that men never get asked this, my guess is “sexism”. Not every relationship ends in marriage, and not every woman is desperate for a ring and a white dress, despite what the romcoms tell us.
2. You don’t want children? Oh, you’ll change your mind.
Or, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ve made a reasoned decision based on what you want out of life and it doesn’t include children and that’s perfectly all right. I have a friend who was denied a tubal ligation by all the doctors she went to, because she was under 30 when she asked for it. They kept telling her she’d change her mind. Again, I bet guys asking for vasectomies don’t have to jump through hoops to prove they want one.
3. Do you own your house? No? But it’s such a good investment!
Baby Boomers like to say this to Millenials, without acknowledging the problematic economics that mean they could put a down payment on a house with a regular job in a factory when THEY were 35…whereas now, the average 30-year-old owes $7,000 of credit card debt, $25,000 in school loans, and has pretty poor job prospects. If you think adding a mortgage on top of that is a great investment, YOU make the down payment.
4. You’re so pretty! How are you single?
Because a single woman certainly wants nothing more than to be partnered, of course, and that’s why she might wear makeup or exercise or look nice. It’s all about catching a partner, not about feeling or looking good for her own sake.
5. Haven’t you outgrown that [whatever] phase yet?
This one has the potential to be REALLY offensive, especially if it has anything to do with a woman’s sexual orientation. Suffice to say, if someone is still doing something by the time they’re in their third decade of life, it’s because they like doing it or because it’s important to them. So maybe don’t diminish it by calling it a “phase”?
6. Time to start watching your figure, your metabolism really slows down after 30.
Even writing that down, I got so full of outrage that I was momentarily unable to continue. It is never, ever, EVER all right to comment on someone else’s body, figure, weight loss, weight gain, or anything they’re eating, unless you’ve expressly been asked to do so. Tig Notaro has a bit in her standup where she talks about people telling her she looked great for losing so much weight, when she’d just been hospitalized because her stomach was literally eating itself. We have some screwed up ideas about body image in this culture.
7. You look so young for your age!
The average life expectancy for a North American woman is around 83. The 30s is not even close to middle aged. Acting like a woman has an expiration date of 30, and everything past that is just biding time until she dries out, gets a walker, and dies, is ridiculous. Youthfulness is not a sign of beauty, and a woman’s worth should not be judged by her looks.
8. You’re a feminist? I didn’t think we needed that anymore.
Despite what you might believe, we’re not living in a glorious post-feminist paradise, where sexism (and racism!) are now totally fixed! There’s still a lot of work to do on equality (see this great Metafilter post about unpaid emotional labour), and often the work is just beginning when women come into being married, having children, or trying to advance in their careers…all of which frequently happen in their 30s.
9. Those tattoos aren’t going to look good for much longer.
10. You haven’t decided on a career yet?
The Wall Street Journal says “the typical American worker’s tenure with his or her current employer” was 4 years, in 2008. Most people don’t change careers like musical chairs, but it is normal to have several very disparate careers in one’s lifetime. It’s also normal to return to tertiary education, quit to raise a family, and do lots of other things that don’t involve staying with one job path for twenty years. Heck, some careers that you might absolutely love didn’t exist when you joined the workforce! So cut yourself some slack.