In 1997, Pamela Redmond Satran wrote a list for Glamour in honour of what she felt was a crucial turning point in her life – her 30th birthday. This list was inspired by what happened to her on that day, and what was happening in her life then. At the time, in pre-Facebook days, this article found itself doing the rounds by email, and with time, parts of it were misquoted, re-hashed, and its author lost somewhere in translation. Someone even turned it into a poem and stuck Maya Angelou’s name at the bottom – a somewhat flattering move, but still false.
What is it that made this list so popular?
The list has not only gone viral, but it has also touched all sorts of women from different parts of the world.
The list was titled 30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30, and the obvious attraction to this is that we think that we should mostly have it together by this age. However, we must keep in mind that the age here is symbolic. Perhaps in our teenage years, reaching 30 seemed like the age when we would be settled in all spheres of life. It might be that we thought this in our 20s too. The truth is that keeping all the spheres in check isn’t as easy as we make it out to be, and sometimes life has other plans for us. Having said that, building armour is a necessary part of being the person we want to be.
Image: Pamela Redmond Satran
So, in order for you to see why this list has resonated so widely and is still as relevant today, here it is.
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 realisation that you’re 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 skincare regimen, an exercise routine and a plan for dealing with those few other 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 without 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-grandmother and the best tailor in town.
7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.
8. How to take control of your own birthday.
9. That you can’t change the length of your calves, 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 apologise for something that isn’t your fault.
15. Why they say life begins at 30.