Awww, I could just pinch Vanessa Hudgens on her sweet little idealistic cheeks and pat her atop that mousy little head of hers. I was once, like her, a clueless 22-year-old tiddly wink with big dreams and infectious optimism. In the interview for her cover story for this month’s issue of Shape, where she flaunts her rockin' hot six-pack in a bikini and discusses her breakup with pre-Justin Bieber heartthrob Zac Efron, the High School Musical starlet talks about her plans to be married and have kids by the time she’s 30. Isn’t she precious?
If only it were that easy, V.
I’ve always been a goal-setter with a time deadline for just about everything I wanted to do. Every New Year’s Eve, I sit down with my journal and a huge sheet of white poster board and write out my plans for that year. When I flip through old notes and ideas I scribbled years ago, I either chuckle or shake my head (OK, and maybe even cry a little, depending on what kind of day I’m having). I was supposed to have a house by the time I was 25. I was slated to have my PhD by the time I was 27. And according to the Guaranteed Life Plan, I was also scheduled to have a husband and two more children by the time I turned 30.
I better hurry to catch up with my own doggone self because I’m still unmarried — hell, never even been proposed to — and I’m still working with the one child I had when I scratched out those lofty goals in my starry-eyed naivety. If 31-year-old Janelle could have a little chit chat with 22-year-old Janelle, I might accidentally slap her around a little bit. At the very least, I’d have to bust her ambitious little bubble and tell her that tacking a deadline for getting married was setting herself up for frustration and discouragement, and that it’s a hard habit to break (feel free to sing a few lines from the Chicago tune right now).
When you’re a go-getter, you’re used to controlling the variables that lead to the completion of your ultimate goal. If you want to buy a home, there are steps you logically have to follow: do your research, check your credit, correct whatever’s unflattering, consult a realtor, see what the market has to offer in your price range until you find something you like, hopefully even love. Those are clear, logical steps to achieving that particular desire. But when it comes to husband-hunting, it’s not that cut and dry. You can date, you can get hooked up, you can believe with all your heart that you found The One only to have him turn around and tell you that he’s going to go on ahead and venture back out into singledom because he doesn’t feel the same way about you.
Last year, my hang-up about turning 30 was a fear — in fact, my biggest fear, trumping even toads and cicadas — that I’m not “where I’m supposed to be” in life, that I squandered my 20s on club-hopping and jobs that make for funny stories but little actual progression, that I haven’t accomplished enough to account for all of the money spent on my undergrad and graduate degrees. But my other fear, as is the concern of so many 30-something single women, particularly 30-something single black women, is that I’ll end up being that perpetually unmarried mover and shaker who checked every achievement off her list except the one for a happy marriage and healthy kids.
Vanessa probably won’t have any problem getting married, partly because she’s adorably cute and partly because her publicist will whip her up a hubby to stroll down the red carpet with if she takes too long to produce one on her own: “It just looks weird, Vanessa, you being 30 and never married. Here, marry this guy.” My suggestion to her is not to even age it out but go on ahead, enjoy life — single, married, or in between — and let 30 rock.
Should you realistically plan to be married by a certain age?