Let’s face it—turning 30 in India is made out to be this life- altering, inner-goddess-awakening sort of experience for most women, similar to how it’s the world over.

Of dating apps and freezing ones eggs Being a 30-plus single woman in India Image for representation
Features Book Excerpt Sunday, February 18, 2018 - 13:13

I turn 40 by the end of 2017, and I honestly have no clue what the big deal about turning 30 was, and what were the life lessons I was supposed to learn—or unlearn—or the exact reason why such a hullabaloo was created about the last decade. Frankly, all I remember was just before my 30th birthday, when almost everyone I knew seemed eager to offer unsolicited advice on what to expect—I impulsively dumped a man, who I suspected to be yet another commitment-phobic. I was head over heels in love with him. I also remember what a single friend, a couple of years older, wrote as a reply to a gut-wrenchingly lengthy mail where I’d basically dissected my decision to walk away from the love of my life. Her single, embarrassingly pithy sentence read: ‘You turn 30. Soon you’ll have to drop the bechari tag of a woman who can’t seem to find a man to settle down, and transition into the bitch who’s single on her own terms, because honestly, it’s what the 30s will boil down to—the clash of the two B words.’

Back then, I didn’t have the faintest inkling what my newfound single status and my impending birthday had in common or why I had to choose either of the two B words. Which is why it’s probably taken me these many years to figure out that my friend was so darn right. Because the ‘Status Single’ spiel pretty much commences from a woman’s 30th birthday—but since you are usually so caught up in turning 30 and uploading ecstatic pictures on social media, or getting sloshed or losing your virginity that you are pressured into believing defines your sexual emancipation that you hardly notice the change in the way you will be viewed and bracketed henceforth.

Let’s face it—turning 30 in India is made out to be this life- altering, inner-goddess-awakening sort of experience for most women, similar to how it’s the world over. ‘Thirty is the New Twenty!’ glossy fashion magazine covers scream, while sassy internet pieces declare exuberantly how the 30s are supposed to be the most liberating years of our lives—overflowing with the promise of daring adventures and unapologetic rejuvenation!

The 30s are often thus labelled the new 20s—and why not? Our 20s could desperately do with an image rehaul and serious rebranding, being as they are, for most of us, a rollercoaster ride from hell. Not knowing what we wanted, wild, unstable relationships that could have been avoided, most often deeply regrettable, vacillating career dilemmas and lousy job decisions, raging rebellions and teary tantrums with parents and lovers. The banging of the front door and walking out, promising never to look back. Whew!

Our tumultuous 20s pretty much double up as a waiting room of sorts, a transitory phase, where time seems to be on our side. Where women are not yet singled out and suffocatingly boxed as unmarried/divorced/widowed/childless/with child, or pressured to enroll on a million matrimonial websites, where heartbreaks don’t turn you distrustful and distant and when making babies seems like a cakewalk. Where you are forgiven easily if you screw up in romantic relationships because you have the all-empowering 30s to look forward to, and ‘find yourself.’

And yet, when we actually dissect the 30s, mostly in hindsight, it’s practically baffling how most people who either occupy or have crossed this decade, women especially, won’t tell you what to realistically expect after the last candle is blown out and the last glass of champagne guzzled down. About what it actually entails in terms of peer pressure and ‘performance’ anxiety.

Which is why, later, when you are well into your 30s and still single as I am, you start noticing an almost serial pattern to patronising sermons about women being able to bear kids at 40 these days, tech-savvy friends suggesting you immediately download the latest dating apps along with ‘keeping an open mind’ with the word ‘companionship’ cropping up in almost every girl talk. Some will even ask you to enroll in singles communities that meet over the weekend and go on vacations together, while others will send you useful medical information about freezing your eggs. Like every single woman must love children, and crave her own, someday. Like you are a bad person if you reject the notion that there is more to your womb than reproduction.

Being 39 and still single, I can’t help but wonder if the idea of being alone as a woman is an anomaly that Indian society thinks we need to be constantly cured of. And if that is the real reason why turning 30 is almost always deceptively packaged and marketed as ‘transformative’ to conveniently camouflage the darker shadows and uneasy secrets it guards?

(Excerpted with the permission of Amaryllis from the book Status Single: The Truth About Being A Single Woman In India by Sreemoyee Piu Kundu. You can buy the book here.)

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