Three Cheers for Glamour’s “30 Things” of Adulthood List
In 1997, Glamour columnist Pamela Redmond Satran put together a list of “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.” The list was so widely e-mailed and circulated among women that it turned into a pop phenomenon:
Forwarded thousands of times from woman to woman and misattributed to Maya Angelou, Jesse Jackson, Hillary Clinton, and countless others, The List became a phenomenon. “I am awed by not just how many women but how many different kinds of women it’s touched,” says Satran. The List has been taught in classrooms and stitched onto quilts, painted on walls, and (seriously!) used as a character’s dying words in a BBC radio play. All because it turns the slippery, scary question of how to be a happy grown-up into essentials every one of us can check off.
Recognizing the appeal of such a list, Glamour has released a book this month called 30 Things. There are dozens of lists in the book, but here is the one that the book takes its name from:
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.
2. A decent piece of furniture not previously owned by anyone else in your family.
3. Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour.
4. A purse, a suitcase, and an umbrella you’re not ashamed to be seen carrying.
5. A youth you’re content to move beyond.
6. A past juicy enough that you’re looking forward to retelling it in your old age.
7. The realization that you are actually going to have an old age—and some money set aside to help fund it.
8. An email address, a voice mailbox, and a bank account—all of which nobody has access to but you.
9. A résumé that is not even the slightest bit padded.
10. One friend who always makes you laugh and one who lets you cry.
11. A set of screwdrivers, a cordless drill, and a black lace bra.
12. Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it.
13. The belief that you deserve it.
14. A skin-care regimen, an exercise routine, and a plan for dealing with those few facets of life that don’t get better after 30.
15. A solid start on a satisfying career, a satisfying relationship, and all those other facets of life that do get better.
By 30, you should know:
1. How to fall in love without losing yourself.
2. How you feel about having kids.
3. How to quit a job, break up with a man, and confront a friend with-out ruining the friendship.
4. When to try harder and when to walk away.
5. How to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next.
6. The names of the secretary of state, your great-grandmothers, and the best tailor in town.
7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.
8. Where to go—be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat—when your soul needs soothing.
9. That you can’t change the length of your legs, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents.
10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.
11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.
12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or not flossing for very long.
13. Who you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take it personally.
14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.
15. Why they say life begins at 30!
I really like this list and the sentiment behind it. It's all about the process of maturation--moving from youth to adulthood.
Some of the markers of adulthood on the list may be silly (like having "Something ridiculously expensive that you bought for yourself, just because you deserve it") or even corny ("The belief that you deserve it"), but most of them seem true and wise (You should know "Who you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take it personally" and "How to fall in love without losing yourself"). Basically, the list is about being an independent and responsible adult. Do you have your own bank account? Are you saving money? Can you operate a drill? Are you independent enough to live alone? Have you accomplished your career goals? By the time you're thirty, you should be a full-fledged adult who can answer yes to these questions.
Another thing I like about the list is that it runs against grain. One thing you hear a lot these days is "30 is the new 20" (or some variation of that). In his song "30 Something," Jay-Z explicitly raps, "30’s the new 20." And magazines like Cosmopolitan are always running pieces about how 40 is the new 20 or 50 is the new 30, etc. Then there are movies like Bridesmaids, The Five Year Engagement, American Reunion, and TV shows like HBO's Girls, which glamorize arrested development and depict how people are delaying adulthood more and more. In the real world, we have the Occupy Wall Street movement, whose activists are essentially demanding to be the children--dependents--of the state.
The main currents of our pop culture celebrate youth, arrested development, and immaturity. But the list is plainspoken about the reality of adulthood and what you should be doing to achieve it. 30 Things doesn't depict adulthood as a shackling and depressing experience like the rest of the pop culture does. It celebrates adulthood--and so should we.