Wednesday, April 18, 2007

30th Birthday has a New Meaning Today

Today the 30th birthday seems to be more significant than the traditional 40th, according to Marita Wesely-Clough, Hallmark trends expert. The 30th birthday seems to mean passing into adulthood, perhaps in the way that 21st birthday may have in the past.

"In their 20s, people can get away with behaviors, attitudes and interests that may be less acceptable in their 30s," she says.

As people wait longer to marry, stay in school longer, move back in with mom and dad, divorce early and become a "young single" again, the 20s may be a period of prolonged adolescence.

It seems that the step from 29 to 30 is especially jarring as it signals the beginning of the path to getting older. With the emphasis on youth, 30 is the doorway to adulthood, a new maturity level. Thirty may signal both self-imposed and societal expectations.

For some, the transition may be a relief.

"Turning 30 is a big deal among my circle of friends," says Sarah Bearley, editorial director for Shoebox cards, who recently celebrated her 30th birthday. "It really is the new official 'I'm-an-adult' milestone. I've heard several of my friends say what a relief it is to leave the 'crazy 20s' behind. There's something very liberating about being 30."

As women are marrying older, that "not married" trigger seems to go off at 30, according to Wesely-Clough, rather than at 25, the current median age for marriage.

As a Shoebox 30th birthday card says: 30 isn't so bad. Lots of people would love to be 30… Especially the ones who are 40!

While there may be more celebrating of the 30th birthday because of what it is, there seems to be more interest in general in celebrating or getting together – doing it now.

As a society we've been forced to realize that time is short, and there is an urgency – a push to "make hay while the sun shines," take a stab at something, call up someone, make it a point to get together, send a card, tell someone you love them, go somewhere you've never been – all things that in the past might have been put off, according to Wesely-Clough. Before 9/11/01, we thought that tomorrow would always be there.

Now people look for a reason to get together – even when there is no reason. Of course, a birthday is a natural opportunity to grab, and the 30th is an opportunity that cannot be passed up, especially with the focus on friends and connections of young professionals moving toward 30.

"We're seeing that people are more overt, more open in their reasons, stronger in their desire to get together," says Wesely-Clough. "Gathering brings feelings of safety, support, pleasure. Gathering reinforces, deepens close relationships, and increases the possibility of acquaintances becoming closer. Gathering opens the door for more authentic ways of being together.

"Thirty is the age at which a person realizes that time is limited, that the clock is ticking. In youth, the perception is that 'all things are possible,' but 30 signals a new realization."



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