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Don’t Tell Me What I Should’ve Done By 30! A Riff on an Early Viral.

By Flicr user Cliff1066 ^tm

I came across this thing (again) recently.  It was emailed to me as some Elanor Roosevelt thing back in the late 90s, long before I was 30, back when “meme” and “viral” weren’t things.  This thing was as viral as a thing could be in the late 90s and early 2000s.

It was written in 1997 by a lady called Pamela Redmond Satran who seems to be pretty young, certainly under 60, probably under 50.  I wanted her to be practically dead, like 95 at least.  I wanted her to be a person who was a serious adult during the 60s, because if she was, more of the following would make sense.

So when I read it the other week, I wanted to scream!  It made me so angry!  It is evidence of we women perpetuating unhelpful gender stereotypes and roles that I’ve squawked so much over lately.

Warning in advance for people who prefer their “inspiration” without snark, stop reading now.

Things Every Woman Should Have and Know By 30

By 30, you should have …

1. One old boyfriend you can imagine going back to and one who reminds you of how far you’ve come.

Right.  Because it’s healthy to let the men in your life define your progress, success, and character.

2. A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family.

 I have a thousand dollar couch that nobody in my family owned before.  Wanna know what I’m more proud of?  My education and my published writing, my novel draft, and my unflagging ambition and general ability to nose down and trudge on.  I would be as proud of these things if I still lived in an apartment and all my furniture was IKEA.

3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.

What if it’s the woman of my dreams?  What if I’m my own employer? Why do employers and men get to define a whole set of wardrobe choices?

4. A purse, a suitcase, and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying.

Why would one be ashamed to carry any umbrella if the alternative was soaking?  I ask the same of traveling or general paraphernalia carrying.  I’d much rather have a dumpy bag than no bag.  Shit, I’d be happy with a used grocery bag.

5. A youth you’re content to move beyond.

I don’t really think we have a choice in this.  Contentment doesn’t have much to do with youth in my experience.  Contentment, like productivity and boredom, is a choice.  It’s yours if you want it, youth, weight, culture, job be damned.

6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.

Frankly, any past can be interesting if it’s interestingly told or tastefully embellished.

7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age — and some money set aside to help fund it.

Who knows?  Anybody, woman or not, age 30 or not, could die tomorrow.

8. An email address, a voice mailbox, and a bank account — all of which nobody has access to but you.

I don’t like what you’re insinuating, lady.  

9. A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded.

Pretty sure this won’t be a problem if the outfit you’ll wear to see your boss or the man of your dreams in an hour is the same one.

10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.

Why does this have to be two different people?  Why do you need people when there’s the internet, anyway?

11. A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra.

I find this one to be simply offensive.  It’s like, “be competent, but don’t forget, you’re still sexy enough to seduce some man into doing it for you if you have a black lace bra.”

12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it.

Why do three decades indicate that a person is worthwhile, that she deserves anything?  There are people who are in their thirties who do not deserve their next breath because they are horrible.  

13. The belief that you deserve it.

The belief that you deserve something does not mean you actually do.  How about self-respect?  I think self-respect is much more productive for a person in her 30s than a sense of entitlement.  

14. A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine, and a plan for dealing with those few other facets of life that don’t get better after 30.

Yes, because we women must stay sexy deep, deep into our old ages.  Men may stop striving for attractiveness any time after age 18.  We must continue to yearn for the admiration of our male peers, and know that we will lose our value to society once we are wrinkled and sagging.

15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship, and all those other facets of life that do get better.

What if you don’t want to?  What if your relationship or career peaked at 25?  What if you’re a genius?  What if you’re a waste, but you’ll have a come to jesus moment around 45 and find wild and vast success and fulfillment in your 50s?  

By 30, you should know …

1. How to fall in love without losing yourself.

What does that even mean?  Sentimental spew for people with no backbones?  Yup.

2. How you feel about having kids.

Maybe how you feel about birth control. And you should totally have all the facts about how pregnancy happens and STDs. But tomorrow’s never a given.  Also, it’s the future.  You don’t have to know this in your 30s.  You never have to make up your mind if you don’t want to.  

3. How to quit a job, break up with a man, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.

Frankly, quitting jobs and breaking up with panache is totally overrated.  Save your energy since people are shitty, and breakups and quitting jobs is also shitty, usually.  If not, it’s probably more to do with good luck than good manners.  And confronting a friend who is a true friend will not ruin a friendship.  

4. When to try harder and when to walk away.

On your skin regimen, right?  

5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.

What’s wrong with using one’s words?

6. The names of the secretary of state, your great-grandmothers, and the best tailor in town.

I see that this list is particularly biased toward upper-middle class people who were not adopted or orphaned at an early age and who live in towns that still have tailors.

7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.

This should actually be, “how to give yourself an orgasm,” and it should’ve been #1.  I forgive you for this mistake.

8. Where to go — be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat — when your soul needs soothing.

This is terribly new-age for a list that advises us to own sexy stuff and have a plan for when we get wrinkly.  

9. That you can’t change the length of your legs, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents.

I can’t?  Whoa.  

10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.

Who says?  My childhood isn’t over!  It’s not, it’s not, it’s NOT!  

11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.

Free your mind, and the rest will follow…

12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or not flossing for very long.

I beg to differ on all.  I got away with some of that stuff (and all of it in moments) for like a decade.  If that’s not long enough for somebody, let them ruin themselves.

13. Who you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take it personally.

All right.  She can have this one.  It’s a solid thing to know.  But you should also know how to deal with it when life forces you to be involved with someone you know you can’t trust.  It will happen.

14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.

I’m sorry that your list for Glamour Magazine offends my feminist soul.

15. Why they say life begins at 30

Incorrect.  Life begins at birth.  Thirty is nice, but I’ve really enjoyed the hell out of every year since eighteen.  It gets a little better all the time.  I bet 50 is going to rock the box.  

14 comments on “Don’t Tell Me What I Should’ve Done By 30! A Riff on an Early Viral.

  1. I remember seeing this in the 90’s and laughing…mostly because I didn’t then (in my 40’s) and don’t now have any intention or desire to follow this list. Other than having a really good drill! (I do believe in owning a really good drill; although the suggestion that I should only use it if I am wearing a black bra always bemused me, my drill works no matter what color bra I’m wearing). As to the other things, approaching my 57th birthday, I can honestly say that all of my furniture is second hand, the lovers of my past cover the gamut from still loving me to running away if I even come into town, no woman EVER used a tailor…it’s dressmaker, or seamstress, and I know one; although how far I can get in full Victorian get up is questionable.
    I don’t have a “man in my life” at the moment, but that’s okay, that’s life y’know. I shall be working until the moment I die, which is also fine by me…..and I do have a wonderful suitcase, and umbrella. One never knows who one can trust, that is the miracle of life; not knowing, but always being prepared to forgive the faults.The worst hurts invariably come at the hands of those who love you, but betray you by default, accident or bad judgement.
    I think the only two things any woman needs heading into her forties are a passport, and a bloody good story to tell!

  2. I love this. Especially your commentary on it. I have never read this before. I may have to repost.

  3. I agree about the good drill and the passport!!!! :)

    • I agree about the drill, too. I have a drill. In fact, most of the tools that are here in our house are tools that were mine when I moved in with my partner.

      Here’s something funny. I asked my dad for tools for xmas one year when I first moved out of their house. I was thinking a ratchet, some screwdrivers, a pliers, and a wire cutter, some basic stuff. Here’s what he bought me: a long, flat-head screwdriver (He said I should put it under my mattress in case I get broken in on), a crow bar (for similar purposes, with similar advice), a short phillips screwdriver, a vise grips, and one other equally weird and mostly useless thing for my self-defense.

      I now have a drill, a ratchet set, and a bunch of other stuff that I’ve acquired along the way, or asked for specifically. Like, “For christmas, I would like a corded drill, model number #####.”

      I do not have a passport. It’s one of my by-35 goals. I’ve yet to leave the country, which is something that I would like to do at some point soon.

      • Hahaha — my brother made me a defense item out of a long ax handle, drilled so he could add a loop of plastic twine, which he instructed me to slip my hand through and twist. “Now your attacker can’t take it away from you,” he said. I have kept it literally right next to my bed for 20+ years.

        Gerry and I will give you an excuse to get your passport no later than 35, promise. Start saving now. There will be a wedding party in Dublin and you’re invited. (Actual wedding will be small and take place in our backyard.)

      • Oh goodie! I can’t think of anything more excellent. Will you live there? Or will you continue your present arrangement?

      • We’ll live here. But Irish weddings are pretty fun and I have lots of friends who need an excuse. They’ve read my travelogues and say “Oh that sounds like so much fun but I can’t afford it” to which I reply “If *I* can afford it, you can, honest.” They don’t believe me. So they need this excuse. I’ve been single for a long time. This will be a helluva party. Gerry’s already budgeting for it. :)

  4. I also hate this list and thoroughly appreciate the snarkiness with which you addressed it. It made me laugh.

  5. Dear Wise and Wonderful Sister,
    Thanks so much for articulating, much better than I would’ve, all the things I was thinking as I read that stupid list, which is also stupid because it’s totally skewed towards heterosexual women when it wouldn’t even have to be.
    Love,
    Ellen

    • Dear Lovely and Clever sister,

      Thanks for saying that. It warms me and makes my day. I think you will especially like the post for tomorrow. It is half tongue-in-cheek, half serious. It is about artists and romantic love.

      xoxoxo, A

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