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The Real Things You Should Have and Know Before 30

once ran an article called "30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Know by the Time She's 30." Neither section really captures the unbelievable amount of work women in their twenties do as they transform themselves from teenagers to adults. It's a lot. It takes more than a trip to Home Depot or Victoria's Secret.

In 2007, Glamourpublished an article called "30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Know by the Time She's 30." According to the Huffington Post, this article took off like gangbusters -- women were emailing it to their friends and coworkers, and the editors of Glamour eventually tracked down 30 prominent lady-types to write essays on each of the 30 entries.

The list is divided into two sections: fifteen entries on things women should have, and another fifteen on things we should know. The "to have" section read like a shopping list, albeit one filtered through an empowered attitude: Make sure you have a black lacy bra and a cordless drill by the time you hit your thirties, girls, or else you won't have really made it! The "to know" section is a little looser, but uses the same Zen-lite attitude that permeates women's magazines. There are instructions on "how to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn't like to happen next," which I'm sure is totally just as effective as using your mouth to say words like "no" and "I don't want to." Neither section really captures the unbelievable amount of work women in their twenties do as they transform themselves from teenagers to adults. It's a lot. It takes more than a trip to Home Depot or Victoria's Secret.

I'll be thirty next year, but I've got some ideas on how I would write that list.

To Have:

  1. A friend you can call to help you move. Don't let those people go -- they are vital to your personal economy and should be handsomely rewarded.
  2. "Your" addiction. What -- sugar? Diet colas (yum -- that's mine)? The gym? Cigarettes? HBO shows? What's the thing you do that drives most of the people around you mental? Pick one -- you don't get to be addicted to cocaine and bad boyfriends.
  3. A really great outfit. Glamour said this too, but I think they meant a really posh outfit, like for job interviews and other adult-style events. This outfit is the one that makes you feel totally fly. I love baggy sweats, skater shoes and a puffy vest, because it makes me feel like a mid-'90s backup dancer, and totally confident.
  4. Your charity (NB: this is NOT YOUR BOYFRIEND). Maybe you do volunteer work, maybe you donate, but everyone needs to give back.
  5. Some great female role models. Not models, or actresses or other women whose primary value to the world is how they look; I'm talking about writers, musicians, politicians, business owners, and entrepreneurs whom you can admire.
  6. Your signature dishes. Have one for brunch potlucks, vegetarians, picky kids, and impressing your date. I suggest bean salad, buttered noodles, and a roast, in that order.
  7. Your creative outlet. Non-negotiable. Gardening counts, as does blogging, cooking, making up cocktails, and re-arranging your apartment. Watching movies and playing Guitar Hero does not count.
  8. A person in your life who makes things good for you. This can be a partner, a friend, a family member or a workmate -- if you're lucky, you have many -- but this chum is a source of laughs and support.
  9. A game to whip out at parties. I like Munchkin for nerdy gatherings, and Kinks for a drunken party game (everyone puts in two kinks or fetishes -- one of their real ones, and a red herring, and folks go in turns trying to match 'em back to their owners; not for the easily shocked).
  10. A library card and a credit card. They are both tools. Treat them as such.
  11. The ability to be bored. Put down your cell phone and iPod, and try entertaining yourself in a doctor's waiting room, in line at the bank and on the bus. Boredom allows your mind to wander to places you can't go if you're always playing Angry Birds.
  12. Your favourite body part. I've got gorgeous eyes and an unbeatable rack, which definitely helps balance out my chunky-ass curves. Even if you're not wild about your total package, your delicate neck or strong hands are a total asset and your crush is probably daydreaming about them right now.
  13. At least one PG-rated story about a date gone horribly, hilariously wrong. Turn it into a party story where you are charming and self-deprecating. Tell it to the impressionable teenage girls who latch onto you at weddings.
  14. A really cozy sweater, blanket, or duvet. I know I said this wasn't a shopping list, but seriously, just get one.
  15. A hairstylist who knows what's up. If your cutter needs to straighten your curly hair before she can cut it, you're at the wrong place.

To Know:

  1. Figure out how many drinks take you to tipsy, charming, bottom-of-the-ocean depression, fighting-mad and asleep at the bar. Stick to the first two.
  2. Your sexual style. I loved my 20s, and they were a time of exploration, but as I approach 30, I know what I like, and how to bring it up with my partners. I rely on words to communicate preferences.
  3. How you like to stay fit. Yoga, Zumba, Nia, step, weights, long bike rides, sprints, stilt-walking, stripping classes, whatever. I don't care. Find a way you like to get sweaty.
  4. Whether or not you're good with money. Some people have spreadsheet budgets, while others rely on dipping into their purse and pulling out loose twenties. Either way, you have no excuse to beg your landlord for lenience.
  5. Accepting that there is at least one person out there who hates you, and probably another who is envious of you because of the person you're sleeping with. This probably has nothing to do with you.
  6. Are you a pet person or a kids person? Maybe both? Cool. Neither? Also cool.
  7. How much time in front of the TV or computer you can handle before you go a little nuts. Aim for, like, 75 per cent of that.
  8. What type of place energizes you. Do you love the ocean or the prairie? Do know love office camaraderie or the calm of a home workspace?
  9. If you are actually allergic to gluten/dairy/soy/whatever. If you aren't, please, I beg of you: no more intensive conversations about your bowels at brunch.
  10. Whether or not you are a Diva Cup girl. And then seriously, can we stop talking about our periods?
  11. What not to apologize for. If you are a workaholic, own it; if you only have the mental energy for a part-time job, cool. If you like women or kink or prefer to be alone; if you don't want kids; if you haven't put a down payment down on a house, you owe the world exactly nothing in way of explanation.
  12. How to take downtime.
  13. How to work really, really, ridiculously hard.
  14. How to quit a job. Getting hired is tough; knowing when to walk away is tougher. Know your limits and work within them, and don't get pushed around because you "need the money."
  15. How to be there for the people you love when they go through hard times. People are going to die, go to rehab, have terrible divorces and breakups, get behind the wheel of a car after four shots of liquor, cheat, lie, run up astronomical debt, have abortions, attempt suicide, drink too much, quit their jobs, get fired, go to jail, develop intensely irritating grad-school affectations (cocktail parties with these people are the worst), move away, throw tantrums, owe money, give you terrible presents, get married to people you hate, and generally fail. Cultivate your forgiveness, your grace, and your listening ears.
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