Mark Lamendola, who made it past 30.
While this book was intended for a female audience, I (as a man) found
it struck chord after chord with me. And while this book was intended
for Generation Xers, I found it hit many of the same issues my own generation
(baby boomers) have faced--especially those of us boomers who were born
just at the end of the baby boom.
writing is evidence of the journalistic backgrounds the authors bring
to the table. And so are the many interviews. The authors drew
on widely varying experiences and stories, to paint a mosaic of what
women face at the age of 30. That mosaic consists of a range of pressures
based on unrealistic expectations. Just look at three such expectations,
Expectation to look young forever. I remember when
my own mother turned 30. She was sitting on the porch with a neighbor,
when the neighbor's husband joked about her being over the hill and
the need to trade up to a new dishwasher. While he thought that was
harmless humor, he wasn't far off the mark in conveying the way women
are often perceived in certain occupations (for example, acting) or
in certain social environments. I remember watching an episode of Love
American Style, where a man walks into an appliance store advertising
"Trade in your dishwasher." He then walks out with a younger
woman. In America, women are expected to be permanently young and beautiful.
One actress, for example, was getting botox at the age of 29. Why are
women not valued for who they are? Why is it bad, if they are themselves?
Expectation to bear children. This is one of the
problems the book discussed. Yes, many women feel a pressure not to
look old, because their looks are more valued than their maturity. But
at the other end of the spectrum, most women feel pressure to have children
once they hit 30--because their their biological clocks are ticking
loudly by that time. This pressure is both biological and social. And
it can be immensely burdensome.
Expectation to have it all. What does this mean?
This is the central issue this book deals with, and it's here that we
male baby boomers are saying, "Been there, done that, doing it
again." For women, however, this expectation is more complex than
for men. And at about the age of 30, women are declining in their ability
to meet the two expectations mentioned above. The book delves into this
expectation in a way that, while using examples of 30-ish women, has
near universal resonance with everyone else.
Understanding these expectations and the effects
they have on women who are at or around 30 years old can help any person
who has work-based or social interaction with these women. And, it can
help you understand your own expectations, if you are in some other
category than a 30-ish woman.
But the real power of the book is how all of this
builds toward the final chapter, "Guts and Grace." It is there
that the reader gains insights from women who have passed through their
30s--perhaps decades ago. What the women say is truly valuable. But
even more valuable are the object lessons they bring. No longer concerned
with the pettiness of meeting other people's expectations of appearance,
youth, wealth, position, or other less meaningful aspects of life, these
women are examples to other women--and to men.
For people feeling disappointed by, disillusioned
with, or overwhelmed by life, this book brings hope. As one woman says
in the final chapter, "...this is my life, and it is what I have.
I am going to make the most of it." I like the fact that this woman,
and others quoted in the book, explain the meaning behind that thought.