It’s the year 2018, and women around the world are smashing through glass ceilings, kicking butt, and changing the world. It’s an incredible time to be a woman, and the power of women has never been clearer.
Unfortunately, however, there are still SO many pressures from society to overcome. One of these is the notion that a woman should achieve certain things by a certain age — that a woman’s timeline should include marriage and starting a family by the made up deadline of age 30 (um, news flash: it doesn’t).
Women around the globe share the experience of feeling as though they have some kind of expiration date — some kind of time limit set by society, culture, biology, and the media — and that is WRONG. We were inspired by skin care brand SK-II’s incredibly powerful #INeverExpire campaign, and want to share our own experiences with this detrimental narrative. We want to assure you that your life should not be defined by someone else’s timeline.
Watch SK-II’s “The Expiry Date” video to learn more about society’s age-related pressures put on women, then read on for our own perspectives and the lessons we’ve learned along the way.
Alaina Kaczmarski, Cofounder of The Everygirl, 32
Thirty is just an age — not a marker for success.
My first reaction to this powerful, stirring, emotional video was anger. I was angry that any woman should have to feel this way — no matter where she is from. I was angry that anyone had enough influence to make her feel this way. And I wanted to reach into the screen and tell them, “Ignore that number! You do you! It’ll all be okay! Don’t listen to them!”
Then I felt gratitude — that I didn’t have to deal with this kind of pressure. I grew up outside Chicago and had a great education and opportunities and career goals and no one was telling me to do what by when and oh how lucky am I?
But then I watched it again. And a third time. And realized… sadly, I absolutely related. To the pressure, to the ups and downs of emotions, to the looming unwritten deadlines set by society, biology, and my own self-imposed expectations.
Encouraged by my parents, I happily spent all of my twenties focusing on my education and career, knowing I wouldn’t even want to consider marriage before my late twenties — at the earliest. I was focused on me and getting myself to the happiest, best place. Dating was definitely fun and something I enjoyed in my twenties — there were a few long-term boyfriends and plenty of fun dates in between — but whether some guy was going to be THE guy was never the main concern. My business was. Growing my company and nurturing my career was. It was the thing I took most pride in and I shaped my identity around. Achieving financial security and traveling and spending time with my friends all took precedent.
Until that date got closer… the big 3-0. I found myself in a happy, committed relationship with a wonderful man in my late twenties — everything was great. Everything was easy. We were instinctively best friends — it was like we’d known each other our whole lives. And before we ever even brought it up, I knew I would be lucky to spend the rest of my life with him.
Enter crazy anxiety pressure phase (that I so wish I could erase from history). The doubtful questioning of “what if this relationship doesn’t work out… after all… all my other relationships had ended” started lurking in the back of my mind. If it didn’t work out — i.e. end in marriage — then I’d be single again and “have to start over.” And what if it takes years before I feel this way with someone else? All of a sudden I’m well into my 30, hopes of having children is becoming more and more of a distant dream, and now I’m creating drama in a perfectly lovely relationship where there was none before. All because of this “BIG LOOMING 30.”
What is that?! Where does it come from? Why is 30 some kind of marker for success or failure? Why do women have to deal with it?! How do we make it go away?
I know it’s partially the “biological clock” — that yes, people actually remind women of regularly. I heard the unsolicited “Oh… don’t wait too long to have kids…” more times than I care to think. Why does anyone think it’s okay for them to share their opinion on the subject? It’s not acceptable.
I think if we make an effort to be kinder to one another — and kinder to ourselves — we can all help reshape this misconception. We need to encourage younger women to pay less attention to the number, less about the deadlines, and more attention to the quality of life and happiness.
As a now 32-year-old woman, I can attest that life has been amazing these past two years. Better than the years before them in many ways! If only I could tell my younger self that now…
Allyson Fulcher, Editorial Director, 28
Being the last of your friends to get married is actually amazing.
My first reaction to SK-II’s The Expiry Date video was pure understanding. I’ve been there. I’ve felt bits and pieces of everything they’ve felt. But quickly my empathy turned to annoyance. I don’t want to feel that way. And as a matter of fact — I don’t want ANY woman to feel this way. It f*cking sucks. We place enough pressure on ourselves to be great. Frankly, we don’t need any outside pressure and expectations. We’ve got this.
Living in the South, there’s a heavy weight of expectation to get married. It’s just something everyone does. The ultimate end game: marriage and family. And you do it young. I don’t think I even noticed how omnipresent it was until I went to college. I saw all my friends start pairing off, getting engaged, and planning weddings for the summer after their graduation. It didn’t bother me at the time because that felt so foreign. I had just broken up with a guy who was wrong for me (understatement of the world), and I felt like my life was just starting. As if I was on the uptick of a rollercoaster and hadn’t even hit the first drop.
The year I turned 24 I was in more weddings than I had ever attended… in my life. I looked up and all my close friends had checked many of the major life boxes (soulmate, wedding, three-bedroom house) while I wasn’t even in the ballpark. That was the first time I felt the pressure. Suddenly when I attended events, no one wanted to hear about how my career was doing or what adorable antic my dog had gotten into… it was, “Who are you dating?” If I was dating someone it was “Do you think he’s the one?” or “Do you think he will propose?” I had gone from equal to “left behind” in a matter of moments. And even though my life was progressing exactly how I wanted to, I couldn’t help but play the comparison game. I wanted to own a home. I wanted someone to go on vacations with. I wanted someone to love me the way I saw my friends in love… but I couldn’t even get a date for their weddings.
That year was so hard. I had to constantly remind myself to be happy for my friends rather than using them as guidelines for what my life didn’t have. And even in the midst of the comparison game… I truly hated that I felt that way. I hated that I was secretly looking at my wonderful life and seeing it as less.
It wasn’t until one of my married friends pulled me aside at a function (after one too many cocktails) and told me how brave she thought I was. I packed up, moved away, and was chasing dreams and a life that no one else really understood. I was shocked. She told me “I don’t think I could ever do what you did. And even now, I’ll never know because I can’t do that.” That was the moment I decided to stop being sad about what my life was missing and start embracing everything it had. I realized the good intentions all their questions had. They equated marriage and family at a young age with happiness and they just wanted me to be happy. And while it’s sweet, I hope that my situation and my general love for life in spite of having none of those things opened their eyes to the fact that marriage by a certain age doesn’t equate happiness. It definitely opened mine.
Now, I’m 28 and I ended up meeting the guy of my dreams. It was pure luck and I wasn’t expecting things to turn out the way they did. We’re getting married at the end of the year and I’m the last of my close girlfriends to have a wedding. Which is bizarre because I feel like I’m getting married SO YOUNG. But that’s the thing: “too old” or “too young” is all just part of this timeline narrative I’m refusing to accept anymore. I’m excited to experience life on my own timeline… exactly how it was meant to happen. And I just so happen to have a close panel of marriage veterans to turn to for advice.
For any women out there reading this, know that your timeline is your own. No matter how different it may look to everyone around you.
Christina Huynh, Assistant Editor, 25
It’s never too late to start doing what you love and being who you want to be.
With my background as an Asian-American woman, the concept behind “The Expiry
Date” film is one that resonates with me all too well. Somewhere in between society telling me how to act and people telling me what to do, I’ve also experienced the pressure to accomplish certain things by a certain timeline. Similar to the women in “The Expiry Date” film, I felt stuck with wanting more than my predetermined life — yet disheartened with why I couldn’t simply accept it.
The moment in this film that struck me was when each woman looked at her arm and realized that the dates reflected her age — instead of her future. Although these women grew up being told what their lives would look like based on their age, this part of the video shared the concept that the only person who is in charge of your life is the one person who is most affected by it — you.
Whether it’s the fact that your friends are getting married or your colleagues are landing impressive jobs, your 20s is a decade full of expectations and the relentless pressure to meet certain milestones. Once I graduated college, I was supposed to fulfill my family standard of working in the medical field – yet re-discovered my passion for writing and decided to pursue an editorial career instead.
Along with the fear of feeling judgement from my peers and disappointment from my parents, I also felt as if I was “too old” for such a major life change. In a society where being a young adult means facing the pressure to know exactly what you want to do with your life, at what age you need to do it by, and the type of person you want to marry and do it with, it’s challenging to live life on your own terms.
Yet there I was creating my own version of happiness and seemingly “starting over” during a time period where many of my peers were accomplishing exactly what I felt the pressure to – like accepting jobs with reputable companies that were relevant to the subject they studied in college and planning weddings with the perfect person who fit the points on their checklist.
As a whole, women seem to have an artificial deadline of age 30, with every passing year reminding us of society’s expectations that we haven’t met yet – such as getting married and having children. I’m inspired by women who live life according to their own timelines like the women on this Vanity Fair video I recently watched. Personally, I’m halfway through my 20s and have only recently begun to grasp who I am as a person.
While I haven’t accomplished the milestones I planned, I know my inability to meet these expectations at a certain age has no reflection on my potential to reach them in the future.
The truth is that the only thing that holds us back from our lives is the timelines we’ve set for them — instead of appreciating where we currently are, many of us fall victim to focusing on where we think we should be. While some of my friends are buying homes to settle down, there are others who are buying plane tickets to travel solo.
Even though we’re all similar ages, our lives are different due to our personalities and the priorities that form because of them. Why? Because our ages don’t necessarily have to dictate when we achieve specific things in life. In the end, it’s never too late to create a life you want — your age only represents how long you’ve been apart of this world, not what you’re capable of doing while you’re living in it.
How does SK-II’s #INeverExpire campaign resonate with you? Leave us a comment below.
This post was in partnership with SK-II, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.