This was originally posted on Kabobfest.
It must have been a coincidence. I happened to come across a television show, a movie and a conversation with a friend all having to do with being female, being thirtyish and having something missing or looking for something in life. It was like God was trying to tell me something.
A couple of weeks ago I was watching episodes of Ally McBeal on DVD. Season 4 to be exact. It was a show that I used to watch back in the late nineties (seems so long ago now) which I really enjoyed. The ongoing theme of the show was that Ally McBeal, a successful lawyer, was always searching for love…for the guy. I can’t quite remember if she ever did find the guy at the series end but she did come pretty close in season 4. Anyway, Ally’s search wouldn’t be significant to me if it wasn’t for the fact that her age was always an issue in relevance to her pursuit of love. I think she was 31 in season 4. Well, I haven’t found the guy yet either and I also happen to be 31.
Later, I rented and watched the film Julie & Julia about the true stories of Chef Julia Child and Julie Powell. Julie Powell is a married woman who was about to turn 30 and disliked her job. So she decided to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in a year and blog about it. Since she’s an aspiring writer, it was an opportunity for her to do two things that she loved; cook and write. Well, her blog turned out to be a big hit and she’s now a published author. The movie is based on her book. I identified with the age issue again and wanting to already be doing something I love career-wise but not having reached that point yet.
Then last week it all kind of came together when I went to visit a good friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a long time. Among the various conversations we had, one was referencing Ally McBeal: the idea of us being in our thirties, having “big girl” jobs now and how it seemed like such a long ways away when we were in our teens. Yet, here we were. We talked about some of the unhappy circumstances at our jobs that were uncannily similar. We also discussed our ambitions for doing greater things that didn’t include sitting at a desk.
Regarding all of this, the most prominent factor for me is age. Turning 30 was a big deal, and not in a good way, for Ally and Julie. It was also the same for me. Being in my thirties, I now feel like I am running against the clock. For example, as if being a single Arab girl at my age isn’t difficult enough, since the prime age for marriage is between 18-22 (people probably think there’s something ‘wrong’ with me), it also seems that all the good men around my age are already taken or previously married, which means they come with some sort of baggage. Not only that, but I’m on the verge of what most people would perceive as spinster status. I shudder at the thought.
Next comes the issue of work and what I really want to do with my life. In college I decided to become a communications major because I figured it was the only rational way for an Arab Muslim girl like me to get into the entertainment industry. Well, before I graduated, the second intifada came around and my focus went into a different direction. Now I still have that fierce desire to enter the entertainment world, as I did before I graduated, but I am waiting and hoping for an opportunity to knock on my door. Again, my age being a factor, I feel like that window of opportunity is getting narrower and narrower minute by minute.
It’s not that I suddenly felt old when I turned 30. Quite the contrary, I feel like I’m still in my early twenties and I act like I’m even younger sometimes. But besides the fact that my biological clock is ticking away, I think the pressures I feel are societal. And I’m not talking about finding love or pursuing a career I’ve dreamed about as being the societal pressures. Those are things that I want. It’s the aging factor that’s the problem. This pressure about age is not an internal concern but something that I believe society places on women. Because let’s face it, do most guys go through all of this emotional crap? No, because they generally don’t face these problems. For example, a man can choose the single life, never marry and be considered a cool cat like George Clooney. And most women who enter and have success in the entertainment industry, like actresses for example, tend to be in their late teens and early twenties. Women in their thirties are perceived to be on the verge of a decline in their career. Even producers usually get their start right out of college. There are always exceptions, of course.
Being in my thirties doesn’t suck. I just feel that my opportunities in life are diminishing as a result. But I’m not giving up hope. My future outlook is like a candle. Sometimes it’s brightly lit and other times the light is so dim that it almost fades. But, it never diminishes. And I hope it doesn’t anytime soon. I guess I can look at Julia Child’s life as an example and see that she found love at 40 and soon thereafter pursued her passion of cooking as well as published her now classic French cookbook. I just hope I don’t have to wait that long cause turning 40 would be like dying.