Skip to main contentSkip to footer

Why are women expected to stop having fun in our thirties?

Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez have been criticised for giggling and gossiping at the Golden Globes, but who wrote the rule that we can't joke with our friends in our thirties?

Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift at the 81st Golden Globe Awards
Melanie Macleod
Wellness Editor
Share this:

Photos of Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift and Keleigh Teller having a good old gossip at the Golden Globes brought a smile to my face this week. That was, until I read the comments section. Always a mistake, I know. But messages were rolling in to the tune of: "They're 30-year-old women, what's wrong with them?" and, "They really are too old for this. Grow up ladies." A third wrote: "34 years old. Surely this can't be her personality much longer?"

Did I miss the memo that at 30 we're supposed to stop laughing with our friends? Maybe the commenters were referring to the belief that the trio was gossiping and should have matured beyond that behaviour. But again, who wrote the rule that the day we turn 30 we have to become serious?

I'd be inclined to say, it's the same online people that comment: "You're a mother!" anytime someone with children dares to post a photo of themself looking sexy.

Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift at the 81st Golden Globe Awards © Getty
Selena and Taylor were criticised for gossiping

I'm 34 now, and when I get together with my friends, we giggle just as much as we did when we were eight, 16 and 28. Some of us are married, others have babies, my best friend is a doctor - and none of these facts mean that we suddenly became a giggle-free zone, so why are women expected to suddenly stop enjoying ourselves the day we leave our twenties?

"It’s often suggested that there's something inherently laughable or cringe-worthy about older women simply enjoying themselves," says BACP registered integrative therapist Abby Rawlinson when I quizzed her on why women are so judged.

"The focus on the age 30 is interesting to me," adds BACP registered psychotherapist Lucy Myers. "I think this is perhaps because women are still – consciously or unconsciously – defined by our reproductive systems in ways that men aren’t. Women are often forced more into 'caring' roles, which require a greater level of responsibility and 'maturity', than men."

Abby is right - this pressure certainly isn't put on men. My partner spends a good portion of his free time gaming - and nobody tells him to grow up. And when men (read: Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) are seen laughing and joking together at award shows, people praise their camaraderie and male friendship, so why is there this societal pressure for women to be mature in our thirties?

"There’s a societal double standard," Abby says. "Men are often encouraged to keep the fun alive as they age, but for women there’s this weird expectation to become more subdued. And when women challenge the status quo and continue having a blast, it disrupts these ingrained ideas about what they should or shouldn’t be doing."

Taylor Swift  at the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards© CBS Photo Archive
Taylor Swift was criticised for her Golden Globes antics

Life coach Mhairi Todd elaborates: "Our society is built around gender inequality. Women and girls are reminded constantly by (frankly outdated) societal norms that they are under a different sort of time pressure from their male counterparts.

"As such there exists a belief that by 30, women should have ticked off various milestones: career, kids, marriage, house. The same pressure simply does not exist for men. Have you ever met a man in his late 30s and thought, 'Odd that he doesn't have kids'? Probably not. But maybe the thought has crossed your mind of a female acquaintance. This shows the unwitting pressure that exists for women."

READ: Is this the reason we're all so exhausted right now?

Lucy Myers agrees that the goalposts are different for men, explaining: "Traditionally speaking for men, they often find connection in their following of sport which explains why football and rugby are such an important part of men and women's lives today.

"For women from our teenage years onwards, we're more likely to bond over communicating with each other, sharing stories and jokes, and forming our own identities of who we are and who makes us feel good and confident. We build our own set of cheerleaders around us.

Taylor Swift with Selena Gomez© KGC-339/TIDNY-395
Taylor Swift with Selena Gomez are close friends

"Would we have seen the same judgement of photos of Harry Styles, Barry Keoghan and Austin Butler high-fiving over football results, as we did seeing three women responding to whatever it was that Selena was saying (in private) to two of her mates?"

If we were to suddenly become people who no longer spent time laughing with our friends, as the internet seems to demand, what would this do to us, I wondered.

READ: How to be happy: 30 expert-approved tips to become your most optimistic self 

Why is it important to laugh with our friends?

"Playfulness' is an important part of being a happy human, regardless of our age, gender, or status in life," says Lucy.

"There are real emotional and physiological benefits to spending time with friends," she continues. "Laughing reduces the stress hormone cortisol and releases ‘happy chemicals’ such as dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins into our systems.

Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez (L-R) ARE seen out for dinner at Bond St Japanese restaurant in Manhattan on November 04, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Robert Kamau/GC Images)© Robert Kamau
Laughing with friends is crucial for our happiness

"Oxytocin is also known as the bonding chemical and helps us feel connected to others in a powerful way. As well as triggering feelings of pleasure and pain relief, the physiological act of laughing decreases our heart rate and blood pressure and relaxes muscle tension. Thankfully for most of us, our private moments of relaxing with our friends aren't captured and dissected by a judgemental world."

Abby adds that there's no tonic quite like giggling with the girls: "Spending time laughing and being silly with our friends is a great mood lifter because it can help shift our perspective - problems seem to shrink and everything feels a bit more manageable."

Long may the giggling continue!

Learn how to be happier with HELLO's Happiness Hub.

More Health & Fitness

See more