When I was growing up, the prospect of turning 30 seemed to loom over women as midnight did for Cinderella – when the carriage melted into a pumpkin and the fantasy of our twenties ended, we would have to embrace reality. I think particularly of the _Friends _episode “The One Where They All Turn 30”: Rachel bursts into tears at her own birthday party, bemoans how she hasn’t had three kids already, and dumps her boyfriend (it takes seeing him commandeer a scooter down their apartment block landing to see she has no future with a 24-year-old called Tag). In 1996 meanwhile, Bridget Jones saw life through the lens that “single women in their 30s” are “treated as freaks by society”.
But now, everything happens later, if at all. Julia Roberts’s pact to marry her best mate in My Best Friend’s Wedding happened at 28 – now it might not even happen at 38. As ONS statisticians bemoan, half of women at 30 remain childless. Even if you’re a woman who’s married by 30, there’s a good chance you’ll delay having kids until 35, for the sake of career progress. Our current economic precarity means that even those who want to “grow up” in their thirties often can’t. The starter kit for settling down: owning a home and affordable childcare, is so often out of reach – in 2007, the average age for a first-time buyer in the UK was 28, but now it’s 34.