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you are so beautiful...
for 30?
by reem al-omari (@Reemawi)
pop culture

Last September, a few months before I turned 30, I was talking with some new friends when one of them, a male, asked me how old I was. I told him I was turning 30 in December.

“You’re beautiful for 30,” he replied, emphasizing the word beautiful by drawing it out. Be-you-tiful.

I admit that it felt good to hear the word beautiful being directed at me-- with very audible emphasis, no less. Naturally, I did what any woman who gets told she’s beautiful would do… I shrugged one of my shoulders and rested my check against it flirtatiously, and with a big smile said: “Thank you.”

As the big day neared, however, I thought a lot about that statement; “You’re beautiful for 30.” It wasn’t the first time someone had told me I looked good for my age. In fact, I started hearing that as early as 26. Suddenly, the originally flattering statement became a good premise for a “Seinfeld” episode and gratitude was now the wrong response to what I decided was a loaded statement, rather than just a simple and nice compliment.

The appropriate response is now something like “So, I’m ugly for a 25-year-old?”

What is it about 30 that gets people all riled up? Why do women suddenly become be-you-tiful for their age, instead of just beautiful, at this age? Was there ever a time during which women looked like actual hags at 30?

Of course, if we go not too far back in history, 30 is a scary age for women and if they hadn’t found a husband by then, they were considered spinsters for sure. That, of course, was more a societal belief than a physical reality. Moreover, there are people who still buy into this archaic idea among others, and all I can say to them is: get with the times. Please.

For those who are with the times, 30 is hardly the end of the road, but rather its peak. Still, no matter how many people get with the times, the number 30 in relation to a woman’s age still evokes statements that make her wonder if she is beautiful, period-- or if she’s only beautiful under certain circumstances.

If it’s a physical matter, I started feeling sore from sleeping in one position all night at 28 and advances in science give me quite a bit of wriggle room to have kids for the right reasons rather than a mere race with my biological clock. If it’s a skin matter, I’ve made so many faces in my lifetime it’s bound to leave a mark after 30 years and SPF among other advances in skin care will preserve the good condition of the rest. If it’s a mental matter… well, being 30 only makes a woman— or I, at least-- more interesting, in my opinion.

Looking back at myself at 21, I can only be thankful that I left that dull version of myself irrevocably behind after I turned 26. It was at 26 that people began this business of telling me I look good for my age, and it was at this age that a change came about me that truly made me who I am today. It was like something suddenly clicked in my mind and I was mentally a different person in ways only those who lived with me could detect. Things only got better after that and although it was at times a rocky and rough ride to 30 the last four years, time was the only remedy to the dull and less than beautiful person I was before.

So, going back to the possibly loaded statement, “You’re beautiful for 30”; I will continue to display a modicum of gratitude in response to this alleged compliment. In my 30-year-old heart, however, I believe that a 30-year-old woman is beautiful because of, not for, her age.


Reem lives and writes about it. She thinks that's what writers do, anyway. If it's not, then she also has a degree in journalism under her belt, along with the titles of reporter, editor (in chief, even) and, of course, opinion columnist.

more about reem al-omari


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lucy lediaev
2.10.09 @ 6:30p

As well as I can remember now that some 30 years have passed, my thirties were wonderful years. I had loads of energy--enough, for instance to bake 100s of cookies at Christmas while working full time. I was in great health, played badminton and softball with my daughter and with my peers.

I would tell any woman approaching her thirties that she's approaching her best years in terms of mental acuity, as well as in terms of physical fitness, health, and beauty. Certainly, a 30-year-old woman is much more interesting than someone at 21. In addition, life experience makes her a much better conversationalist.

reem al-omari
2.10.09 @ 8:45p

All I hear from women who actually have been through their 30s is that it's their best decade. I look forward to it!

lucy lediaev
2.11.09 @ 12:57p

The forties aren't bad either. Things start slowing down a bit in your fifties, and there are some little aches and a bit of morning joint stiffness in your sixties. But, life is good, no matter what your age. I just turned 65 and don't mind telling everyone I've reached that milestone.

Reem, I'm sure you'll enjoy your thirties. Ignore everyone elses opinions and advice on age and child bearing, and enjoy life.

alex b
2.21.09 @ 10:02a

Sorry I'm late in responding to this, but lemme tell ya: I love being in my 30's. I feel way more interesting than most 20-something girls that are a decade or so younger. There's a certain feeling of knowing myself really well, what makes me tick, and what just works for me that's become a definitive part of my bearing, and working it feels more easy and natural than it ever did when I was in my early 20s.

Rock on Reem, and welcome to the bigger leagues :-)


sandra thompson
2.25.09 @ 9:59p

At the ripe old age of 74 (going on 75!!!), I can't really pick a "favourite" decade. I had a great time in my thirties, forties, fifties, sixties and now the glorious seventies. All I can tell you for sure is everything gets better. The joint pain is overshadowed by the confidence and knowledge gleaned from just living and paying attention. Of course, I think it helps to love a lot of people and be loved in return, including family, friends and colleagues as well as actual lovers. Being able to watch Brad Pitt on a big screen doesn't hurt one little bit either. Being able to watch Barack and Michelle Obama just puts the icing on the cake of my life!!!!!

lucy lediaev
2.26.09 @ 12:24p

Nice to have another "crone" here, Sandra. I agree that one's knowledge and confidence grow over the years. I'm in my last year in the corporate work world (I may freelance after retirement), and I have very little patience with incompetence and time wasting. It's just that I can see clearly how to solve problems and move forward.

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