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The clock is ticking in the countdown to find your Mister Right

THE pressure is on for our over-30s to pair off and raise a family. But, says Tanya Sweeney, that doesn't mean women will settle for an eejit

Though it may seem like a mystery to many going through it, the plight of the thirtysomething dating scene has been written about time and time again. Pop culture has mined a rich seam from the struggles of the over-30s, from the cosmo-glugging libertines in Sex And The City to big-knicker-wearer Bridget Jones. The glossies are full of articles following the rollercoaster love lives of Hollywood's stars. Actress Eva Longoria (37) is two years out of a divorce and has had several boyfriends, yet still seems to be searching for Mr Right.

But what is the reality for those ordinary mortals out in the field? Does reality match up to the many, many myths? Is the ring of the biological clock the soundtrack to any serious dinner date? Do men finally figure out how to open the door or pull back a dinner chair as they move closer to 40?

Have single women in their 30s given up hope of a happy ever after?

We put the hard questions to two thirtysomething women to find out.

Sorcha Loughrey, 31, is a burlesque dancer and stylist from Dublin, and is recently engaged

I think there is a far greater 'fun' element to meeting people in your 20s. I don't believe Irish men know how to date, and in your 20s women aren't too bothered by that.

This changes greatly in our 30s, at least in my generation, where we still believe in (or in some cases cling to), the fairytale element of love.

Because society puts such huge pressure on us to excel at everything, we feel guilty if we haven't even considered the thought of parenting by our 30s. A friend of mine was told at 27 by her GP that it was 'high time' she got childbirth 'out of the way'. My friends who are single find it frustrating that they are expected to be loved up or with child.

So many people end up 'settling' for relationships or people in the fear that they will never marry or have children and that can only end in disaster.

My relationship now is incomparable to any relationship I had in my 20s. This is the first time I have ever experienced a relationship where all the vital factors are in place -- honesty, communication, love, laughter, respect and ensuring we never take each other for granted.

Do 30s women still date for fun? It varies. In your 30s as a woman, you are far more comfortable in your skin and have a greater confidence than before. This reflects in your romantic life, meaning you are less likely to put up with eejits than you were in your 20s.

So while you can choose between fun and long term, you also sort the wheat from the chaff, whereas before you would have humoured the chaff!

EadaoIn Murphy, 35 is a facilities manager from Artane. She is in a relationship

I think in your 30s, women are more concentrated on timelines.

There is definitely a lookout for father material happening.

I think men are aware of this. I heard a conversation in the pub between two male friends recently and one of them was talking about a girl he recently met. When her age was brought up, the other guy said, 'careful, there's a smell of wedding cake off her'.

I do think things move faster and get more serious quickly when you date in your 30s. But then, we know what we will put up with and won't put up with.

My single friends are waiting for the right person. One in particular is too picky and choosy, and I think there's a lot to be said for being realistic in any given situation.



CASUAL

I think men get more serious about dating, too. In their 20s, you're happy to be casual, but there comes a time when men think, 'what do I want to do with my life now?', and they cop on.

They've done the lads' holidays, gotten that out of their system, and they're thinking about the type of woman they can be with long-term.

Women put a lot of pressure on themselves to be in a relationship, mainly because society looks at women in their 30s and thinks, 'what is wrong with you?'

Then again, Irish women are not that approachable, which makes things difficult.

I know a lot of men who would be terrified to approach a woman at a bar. Do men get a clue about dating as they get older? No.

I have my own house and can [financially] manage on my own. I loved being single but a time came in my life where I wanted to share my life.

I'd like to have been taken out and treated nicely. But I do think men try their luck when it comes to [dodging] romance.

My friends in their 30s definitely worry about not meeting someone. They are consumed with the idea that their egg count drops.

One friend is fretting about it a lot and has made it into such a big deal for herself. I tell her to enjoy kissing frogs because once you meet someone -- and you never know when it will happen -- you'll miss the time you spent kissing frogs.


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