Paper Boy. BMX bikes. Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. Tamagotchis. Cheese and pineapple hedgehogs. Tupperware parties. Going Live.
If you are looking at that list and thinking “what the hell are those?!” before turning to Google to find out, odds are you are not someone who is dating in their thirties. It’s a point laboured by many a rubbish Facebook post, that those born in the late 70’s to late 80’s lived a life free of the fear of someone videoing their every failure, turning their pain into viral sensations or documenting every gaffe.
This isn’t one of those sickeningly nostaligic posts. No, it’s simply an excuse to look at some of the things that are different when dating in your thirties as opposed to dating in your 20s (or perhaps even in your teens). Because it really is a different world.
We message in full sentences
“K. C U l8r, cant w8!” Throw in a few emojis and that message is in no way abnormal. It saves time and gets the point across succinctly. Only, not to me. I’m at risk of sounding a bit Victor Meldrew here (another reference for the kids), but I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with that style of typing!
When I first got a phone I had to press the “7” button four times to get an S when sending a message. FOUR TIMES!!! You had to really want to get your message across to put that much effort in, so when phones these days have such smart predictive functions and spell checkers it’s almost easier to write properly than it is to write in shorthand. Well, it’s certainly a hell of a lot easier to read, anyway…
Everyone is busy
Whether it’s work or kids or that sports club you sort of attend or meals with friends you’ve not seen in years or late meetings or yoga or spin classes with Jackie-who-looks-hot-in-lycra-but-is-definitely-trying-to-kill-you or more work, people in their 30s are busy. Bloody busy. All the bloody time.
Connecting with someone is hard enough, but finding a date when the two of you are both free is like playing Guess Who but with every card being a slightly different shade of grey. And that’s before you factor in time as a single parent; you might only have 50% of your time free, or maybe just two days a week, or maybe every other weekend, or… well, you get the idea!
Kids, kids and more kids
There are three types of people who are dating in their thirties; those who have kids but don’t want more, those who have kids but would want more and those who don’t have kids and are hearing their biological clocks ticking louder than the crocodile chasing Captain Hook. I’m not just talking women here; plenty of men are running that race themselves too.
Yes, the same can be said in your twenties, but odds are that the third of those categories is more common then. More likely in your thirties you have children and are in a game with other people where you want to find out what their future plans are vis-a-vis kids but often don’t just want to come right out and ask it. Are they happy that you have a ready-made family? What if they want more themselves? How will you blend your two tribes? What if they hate each other? What if their kids hate you? How will you fit them all into a single car?
Still, at least the fact that you are always at home looking after your tribe means you never meet anyone to have these worried conversations with…
In your twenties, odds are that you will have had a couple of relationships. Some of them might have felt serious. Some may well have been serious. You might even have lived together, possibly bought a cat or a small budgerigar to replace the one that your sister’s cat ate when you were seven. Most of your friends will be settling down, getting married, buying houses and having kids, looking forward to a long and happy life together.
By the time their next decade ends, though, odds are it will have fallen apart for a decent percentage of you all. This isn’t being mean or bitter, it’s a horrible fact that almost half of marriages end in divorce, and these start adding up when you’re in your thirties.
When dating this means most people have enough baggage to fill Heathrow, which can change things as you get to know them. It’s not all thoughts of fairy tale endings; people might have been hurt and be much more guarded than they used to be, with walls put up around themselves that Trump himself would be proud of. Divorce is rarely pleasant, after all.
Quiet is good
I went out with a friend once. We walked past four pubs because they were a bit too loud and didn’t have seats, when all we wanted to do was chat and catch up. That was when we realised we weren’t young people anymore.
Meeting people and going out when I was young involved gigs and discos (yes, they used to be 70’s night discos) and anything loud. While that’s fun sometimes, equally a good date can be quiet and intimate and allow you both to talk and get to know one another. Having to lean in close enough to hear them while still being able to lip read is fine on occasion, but can lead to problems if you misread what they are saying.
No-one has oodles of single mates to hook you up with
We were all young! We were all single! We were all looking to find someone, and knew loads of people in the same boat! When you met a new person you instantly started working out who would make the cutest couples and would happily mention this to them and perhaps nudge them when the other person just happened to walk into the same bar as they were in.
Fast forward a decade and a half and that’s just not the case anymore. Few of us are single, and many of those who can describe themselves as such are not quite as enthusiastic as they used to be. They’ve all got commitments and baggage and jobs and more, as well as simply being more wary about the consequences if things go wrong. In the old days, if a date went badly you’d simply bounce to the next person in the wider friendship group. These days people often take it all a lot more seriousl.y. Too seriously perhaps, making them wary of setting someone up for fear of potential failure rather than out of hope for success.
Been there, done that
Things that 20-something daters might say: “Oh, you want to go travelling? I’d love to do that!”, “you work abroad sometimes? How exciting!”, “I’ve always wanted to start a family!”.
Things that 30-something daters might say: “Travelling? I did that years ago and loved it! Those places aren’t what they used to be…”, “You work abroad? It’s a pain isn’t it, nowhere near as glamorous as I used to think it was…”, “Kids? Well, I’ve already got four so I’m not sure I’m up for many more…”
The younger you are, the more first-time experiences are ahead of you, and the more likely you are to see the fun side of things rather than the work involved. Later on, usually, the shine wears off and what was fresh and exciting becomes routine and somewhat boring. You’ve both been to places and seen sights, you’ve had experiences and grown out of puppy-like excitement at any break from the norm. It becomes more challenging to find something you’ve both not done and both still want to do; after all, these days if you want to do something you simply do it!
That’s not to say it’s impossible to do so, of course, merely that it’s not as easy to do.
That being said, dating in your 30s isn’t all bad. There are loads of things that make it a lot of fun, and in some ways it’s even better than dating at an earlier stage of life. As long as you’re not approaching it in the same way you used to and expecting different results, you should be fine. It’s not all a young person’s game after all. Now, all I can hope is that I’m not still dating in my 40s as I’m sure that’s a whole different ball game altogether…