There’s this book out. You’ve probably heard of it: Thirty Things Every Woman Should Have And Should Know by The Time She’s Thirty. It’s supposed to inspire women on some level, and sure enough, it has inspired us at DAME to make a list of our own.
But first some background. Like all great books, there’s a story behind the story.
Back in 1997, Glamour magazine ran a simple article. As ideas go, it was pretty tired but the editors went for it anyway. It ticked all the relevant boxes. It was tried and tested – lifestyle magazines had been barfing out this “30 by 30” idea for decades, especially men’s magazines. Also, it was just a list so it was easy to bash out before the production deadline. And it made their readers feel inadequate, which is something that women’s magazines have always tried to do at some level – lose 20 pounds, be a better mom, wow him in bed. You’ve seen the covers. In fact, the greek word “magasino” means “self-loathing, self-critical, depressed.” (Actually it doesn’t, there’s no such word – but there ought to be.)
The original list, by journalist Pamela Edmond Satran, informed its readers that by 30, they ought to have “a solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship, and all those other facets of life that do get better,” and “a past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age,” not to mention money set aside for retirement. Your average 30-year-old was told that she should know “when to walk away and when to try harder” and “who you can trust.” Tick, tick and tick!
The story captured the imagination. It was copied and forwarded and misattributed along the way to people like Maya Angelou and Katie Couric. So years later, the editors at Glamour thought they’d milk it and approach these women for their actual lists.
We thought we’d pitch in with our own. So cast your mind back to your 30th birthday, how young and energetic and hopeful you were then. And remember that it was all an illusion. Because if you couldn’t tick off every item on the list below, then unfortunately you were already a failure.
By age 30 you should have:
1. Broken up your favorite college professor’s marriage.
2. Turned down the opportunity to compete in the Olympics for your grandparents’ home country.
3. Spent a crazy year in Europe getting invited onto yachts by rich Italian men.
4. Written a blog about that year that became a memoir that became a movie starring Anne Hathaway.
5. Made enough money to say, with confidence, “you know, sometimes it is about the money.”
6. Given a TED talk about your work teaching deaf girls to write poetry in central Uganda.
7. Had a song written about you by a rock star with an unfeasibly large penis.
8. Flown to Prague on a whim with said rock star.
9. Changed your Facebook relationship status from “single” to “engaged” to “it’s complicated” back to “single” all in one afternoon.
10. Enough AmEx points to make AmEx nervous.
11. A professional video montage of you that they can play on Dateline in case you go missing.
12. Successfully petitioned to have an innocent man freed from Death Row using DNA evidence and your "back-up" law degree.
13. Played flip-cup with Obama.
14. Turned a gay man straight and a straight woman gay.
15. A Pinterest page called “Moon Wedding.”
By 30, you should know…
1. How to spot a tech billionaire from a moving gondola.
2. The man you will marry, the man you will leave him for and the attorney who will make sure you get paid.
3. How to get other people to do what you want and think it was their idea but still give you all the credit.
4. That inner beauty beats outer beauty but thanks to Juvederm you don’t have to choose.
5. A man with an island, a jet plane, and a wife who hasn’t a clue.
6. How to get the paparazzi off your tail… and back on your tail if need be.
7. How to whip up “engagement chicken” in under an hour using only one caterer.
8. Three best girlfriends: two you love and one you (and the other two) are quietly trying to destroy.
9. That you made some mistakes in your 20s, but now you’re 30, that’s never going to happen again.
10. 736 of the 952 tips to drive him wild in Cosmo.
11. That you are not as perfect as your friends think you are – but they’ll never find out.
12. One friend who has a house in the Hamptons and another friend who has a bigger house in the Hamptons.
13. The cell numbers of George Clooney, Ryan Reynolds and some random underwear model with an accent.
14. How to disarm an assailant using only a coy smile and a kick to the groin.
15. That lists in magazines are written by sad hacks in cubicle offices who wish that any of it applied to them.