30 things that will make you want to kill yourself whether or not you're 30; courtesy of Glamour

HAY LADIES! Turning thirty? Time to crawl into a hole and die.

That is, of course, unless you have a man, a sexy bra, and tons of cash. That’s right!

I found this image by googling "fancy lady"

Ever helpful, Glamour and Huffington Post have teamed up to squish women down, down, down just a little further and reinforce heterosexism and classism while they’re at it.

Because what was popular and relevant fifteen years ago is important news today, Huffington Post has reprinted a list of thirty things that EVERY woman should have and know by the time they are thirty. The list was originally published by Glamour and apparently “became a popular chain letter” — because you know how popular is it for women to hate themselves! Not only will you never be good enough but you should share this vomitous list with all your best girlfriends so they too have thirty good, concrete, written-down-in-print reasons to hate themselves if they don’t measure up.

And because a “popular chain letter” wasn’t enough, they’ve turned the hate-yourself phenomenon into a book! From the description:

“Featuring advice, wisdom, and observations from an array of prominent and beloved women, 30 Things is an essential guide (and perfect gift) for women on the brink of thirty—and for those who are already there! Fifteen years ago, Glamour published a list of distinctive yet universally true must-haves and must-knows for women on the cusp of and beyond the age of thirty titled, “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.” It became a phenomenon. “

“Universally true”! Like evolution, purses are a universal truth.

In any case, the original list has experience a resurgence.

Did your friends share this on the interwebs? Because mine did. Were you baffled and appalled? Same.

In order to address and cope with the mass confusion that this list is either fun or useful and in case you don’t want to read through the yuck, I’ve created a  brief summary of the list. Let’s take a look all together now for the sake of mutual rage sharing:

1) Be heterosexual and obsessed with men.

First things first. Boyfriends make the lady. If you don’t have a boyfriend, you don’t exist. Also, your boyfriends, past and present, make you.

2) Invent class mobility.

If you aren’t middle to upper class by the time you’re thirty (because poverty and lower class status slip away with age), you are a huge loser. You must have new furniture, expensive things that you’ve bought for no reason, and outfits (to impress men with, of course).

3) Lingerie.

Apparently, because I don’t have a black lace bra there is something terribly amiss in my life. I’d always wondered where that empty hole in my heart came from.

4) Become a career lady! Carry briefcase. Erase and resolve all problems and life circumstances.

By thirty, you must have somehow have managed to establish yourself in a career (hey graduate students and folks who were too busy trying to get by to build the fancy-pants version of their resume!), have a perfect relationship (with a man obv), and have decided whether or not you want kids. After thirty it’s basically too late to do any of these things.


And there’s more. Stuff about “getting away with drinking and drugs” (which I can only assume is a reference to wrinkles and presenting one’s self as a proper lady) and having a skin-care regimen — but I won’t go into all that because it’s boring as shit. Just like this list wants you to be! Turning thirty means becoming a boring, conformist, privileged a-hole. Avec fancy suitcase.

Not only is this list one that excludes any choices that divert from the straight-up middle class, heterosexual, Western, prescribed norm – but this isn’t even the norm! Do we really need to know the name of the best tailor in town?? I get my pants hemmed at the laundromat next to the grocery store. Because it’s next to the grocery store. Eff off.

How about this, Glamour/HuffPo:  I keep drinking, try to avoid making my life revolve around the men in (and out) of it and not worry too much about my suitcase? I’m pretty positive that feeling bad about my income, career, relationship status, and lack of lacy black bras is never going to feel empowering. And do me a favour, folks – stop sharing this crap. If the world really looked the way Pamela Redmond Satran seems to think it should, it would be boring and oppressive. The fact that anyone thinks the world should look this way makes me feel like we have a lot more work to do.

Women will be a lot better off once we stop giving them lists of things they should be and things they should buy in order to count as successful women.

All that said, I’ve taken it upon myself to compile a more useful and practical list of things you should know (but, honestly, that I am still working at myself), maybe by the time you’re thirty, but really whenever:

1) Too small shoes will always be too small. They will never “stretch” — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Buy comfortable shoes.

2) Do your very best to ensure that your life doesn’t revolve around a man. Men are fine and good and sometimes great, just as women are fine and good and sometimes great. But you will be told, often, that your intimate relationships with men define you. They really don’t.

3) Value your friendships and put work into them. Friends are important. Make an effort.

4) It’s ok to watch TV. Don’t feel guilty about it. That’s dumb. Intelligent people can watch TV and be intelligent at the same time. It’s a fact.

5) Spend lots of time cuddling with dogs. Unless you don’t like dogs, in which case, don’t, but I really can’t alter this advice with any sincerity for people who don’t like dogs because dogs are what true love and joy and unconditional love look like.

6) Wine and cake?

7) Don’t believe people or lists that tell you that your life should look like some kind of dumb, imaginary rom-com life or that you should be married or have babies or have some kind of career or a certain amount of money or material things or anything else. Those lists of full of shit and will only make you feel bad about yourself which is a waste of time because the whole world already spends an inordinate amount of time trying to make you feel bad about yourself because you’re a woman which, according to dominant culture, means you are always flawed and that your life is less important than a zygote’s.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • shelli

    I’m so sick of critics like this. This list is inaccurate at best, and irresponsible at worst. When I saw that the article came from Glamour, I too was prepared to want to vomit. But it turned out to be a thoughtful list of things that would make a 30 year old woman feel joyful and able to take care of herself without relying on anyone else

    Show me where the original author says you should have a career that requires a briefcase!? She suggests you have a career. Even if it’s selling coconuts on the beach, how do you take issue with that? Are you suggesting women should “live on love?”

    Perhaps, the author could have said relationship instead of boyfriend – to address your horror at her suggestions that we be heterosexual. I doubt that was her intention. And I doubt it’s the first time lesbians have read an article where they internally replaced boyfriend with girlfriend in their mind and continued reading without much fuss.

    By the way, how do you hang heavy items on the wall? I don’t have a power drill. I should. You know why? Because every time I need something hung, I have to ask, or pay a man to do it. Women – get a power drill. Oh, and also, learn to change your own tire. It’s useful and it’s empowering in so many ways. But I suppose Meghan would be offended that I’m suggesting women have cars at all.

    I’m sure there are things on this list that I don’t agree with. But 90% of them are good ideas and the overall list is well intentioned. I think it’s excellent advice for any adult woman living on her own.

    Sure there are huge, important things missing from this list. And I’m quite certain there are great lists that don’t include of that things on here. Meghan could probably write a list that I’d also love.

    But attacking this one is misplaced.

    • Meghan Murphy

      It’s true, Shelli – I did throw the briefcase in there on my own accord. I imagined this fancy, lacey bra wearing, 90s Glamour career lady with a suitably fancy briefcase. Re: the heteronormativity – I actually do believe this is a HUGE problem and is, in fact, something that, if I were a lesbian I would be bothered by (no one likes being constantly erased) AND am bothered by as a heterosexual woman. I don’t believe that focusing so heavily on our intimate relationships with men, as women, is empowering at all – I think it reinforces male power and makes women feel worthless if they don’t have, what is defined as a “successful” relationship with a man.

    • Jen N

      On twitter, I’ve posted several #30by30 things, you know what I wrote? Every woman should know how to change a tire, pump your own gas (of course, unless you don’t have a car), and how to tip properly.

      I agree with you Shelli.

    • Komal

      The article was heterosexist. Whether it’s the first time or not does not matter. It is supposed to be addressed to women, but it is clearly addressed to white heterosexual American women, preferably middle or upper class (e.g. we should know who ‘our’ secretary of state is, since we’re obviously all American). The fact that I am used to replacing ‘boyfriend’ with ‘girlfriend’ doesn’t make me any less aware of how people like me are basically being erased by inane lists like this. Even though this list isn’t that important (it’s not like my life has in any way been made worse by it), but nevertheless it’s indisputably heterosexist. And I say this based on more than one item on the list, not just the use of ‘boyfriend’ (there was also ‘man of your dreams’).

      “Perhaps, the author could have said relationship instead of boyfriend – to address your horror at her suggestions that we be heterosexual.”

      No, the ‘horror’ is at the assumption that we all ARE heterosexual.

      The list was also just really shallow. It reminded me of Sex and the City, and a certain modern, white American construction of success and good living. It is an overall big fail.

      • Ellie

        “And I doubt it’s the first time lesbians have read an article where they internally replaced boyfriend with girlfriend in their mind and continued reading without much fuss.”

        Shelli, that was a seriously unhelpful and offensive thing to say. Living in a world that constantly erases my experience is much more than a small “fuss.” I haven’t read the original article (nor will I) but I’m very happy that Meghan, as a heterosexual woman, constantly calls out heterosexism – that’s what an ally does.

      • gayle

        How is is addressed to white women specifically? I don’t get it.

    • Jess M

      I actually appreciated this critique quite a bit. I’d like someone to be horrified on my behalf if I guage my success, upon reaching the age of thirty, on my past and present relationship status, my excellent furniture and the kind of job worthy of being called a career.

      Unfortunately my twenties required me to pay rent, buy and cook my own food, and maintain a job that would allow me to do both of those things. As a result, I didn’t have the time, money, or energy to go to school long enough to get a respectable career at the end.

      My purse looks like shit…my job involves wiping asses…my bras do little more than hold up my tits. Welcome to the real world.

      • Jess, if your job involves wiping arses, it is probably an important and socially-useful job.

    • Anie

      This list is BS, excuseme some of us can’t afford a power drill let a alone to hire a man to do it. This list just sets limits on what a women needs to be and how she should act, what if I am 30 and still fall in love and lose myself. Life is about learning not settling rules and limits. This list is for white upper and middle class women, who do not know or acknowledge their own white privilege and all the decencies they have. We all can’t have careers by the age of 30 let alone a minimum wage on and off job. And most of ll I am appalled you said that it is okay to jus replace girlfriend with boyfriend yes sometimes I don’t give a fuss but it still doesn’t mean it is not wrong and doesnt hurt. Yes is about picking and choosing what battles to attack but lists like these just perpetuate the heteronormative patriarchal notion of what a womyn is and should be. A purse a suitcase, and a lace bra, stop setting unrealistic social constructions on me! I can be a women’s nd prefer a backpack, pants and not have boobs.

    • Actually, nobody (in urban areas) should have a car, unless they are a tradesperson who has to carry around tools or such. We should be fighting for better public and active transport to rid our society of that source of death, injury and pollution.

  • Mary Sunshine

    I *love* this post!


  • shelli

    Komal and Ellie,

    I can’t speak to the feeling of being erased. But I’m not blind to it. I turned down a job at eHarmony because of their refusal to include the gay community. (not that I’m asking for a medal, but I hope you won’t infer that I don’t care.)

    I’m just surprised at the direct hit this article is taking. It was written for Glamour 15 years ago. I suspect their readers were straight women. Do you read Glamour? if you do, you should ask them to include a gay point of view. Publishers tend to want to give readers what they want. My guess is, you have no interest in reading Glamour. (Either do I)

    Would you prefer the heterosexual author suppose she understands what’s it like to be a gay woman?

    And, Komal, this was an American edition. Why does it offend you that she suggests readers know who is Secretary of State? I’m also not clear on why you think it’s aimed at White women. And I’ve still yet to hear from anyone why it is classist.

    Do you not find that these suggestions apply to all women:
    How to fall in love without losing yourself, When to try harder and when to walk away., Where to go — be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat — when your soul needs soothing., Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault., Have your own power drill…

    Last year I learned to change a tire. I wish someone had told me 20 years ago, that I should know how to do that. Would have saved me hundreds in AAA costs and few favor owing calls to MEN.

    Crucify me if you so choose. I choose to take the positive messages from the list.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Shelli – for the record, many heterosexual authors are able to avoid writing completely heterosexist pieces. This list was reprinted in Huffington Post only a few days ago and celebrated – why on earth you think it doesn’t deserve critque on this basis is beyond me.

      The classism is outlined in the article (expectations around financial status, ability to purchase certain things etc).

      The idea that, somehow, eharmony’s exclusion or inclusion of gay people defines whether or not we, as a society are heterosexist or not, is kind of ridiculous to me….Does anyone care what eharmony does?

      You “choose” to take “positive” messages from this list because of your privilege which seems to have blinded you.

      • shelli

        I’m not sure why a heterosexual writer, writing from a heterosexual point of view is heterosexist. But okay. According to your logic, all heterosexual writers should research and include other perspectives from now on – like homo, bi and asexual perspectives.

        Interesting that you don’t care what eHarmony does, but you do care what Glamour does. Pretty selective. You make a LOT of assumptions here.

        How exactly do you know I’m “privileged”? Not only do you not know a thing about me, but you’ve just turned this to personal attacks, so I’m done.

        In my experience, using anger and condemning finger-pointing isn’t the best way to get people to open up their perspective on the world.

        With much respect to the gay community, I conclude my contribution to this discussion.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Nice havin ya, Shelli!

          • Carolyn

            Meaghan, I think you’ve been unfair to Shelli. She has applied more actual critical thinking to the original list than you have. You made many, many good points, but also threw out the baby with the bathwater, she took a more reasoned approach. I notice that you only responded to certain elements of her statements (ie regarding the heterosexism issue) while avoiding others (ie the call to female self-sufficiency). You do not concede that she has made any valid points or contributions to discussion although she has. Are you, then, not guilty of almost the same behavious as you accuse the tone of the original list to be? You did all you could to shut down debate and assert your own, single, point of view; and you thereby do feminism a disservice. Why are so many so-called feminists so dogmatic and so afraid of debate?

          • Meghan Murphy

            Carolyn – While I think it’s very sweet that Shelli’s got a friend to come stick up for her, I really don’t give two shits what you think about me or about Shelli. Shelli made zero critical points and if you want to comment here you need to address the arguments made. No one is interested in having a conversation about who likes who’s attitude better. It’s irrelevant. Debate means addressing arguments and points. Not WAAAH AGREE WITH MY FRIEND OR ELSE I WON’T LIKE YOU. Here’s our commenting policy: https://feministcurrent.com/category/comments-policy/ – Stick to it or your comments will go in the trash. Thanks.

        • Komal

          Assuming all women are heterosexual IS heterosexist. If she was just writing about her own priorities or life experiences, it would be different.

          Anyway, I don’t care what Glamour does to be honest. I was surprised at the denial of what seems like an obvious case of heterosexism, but other than that I don’t think Glamour’s list is important enough for us (or at least me) to dwell over.

    • Why is it so important to defend a magazine piece? You say you don’t even read Glamour, so I’m curious.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I also wonder – it’s not like Glamour is in the business of feminism…Being critical of mainstream representations of women and femininity is not a bad thing…

  • Erica H

    Here’s the one that really stands out for me in the Glamour list:

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

    Oh, sure. Because all of us know *exactly* what one kind of kiss means over another kind, right? If you learn to kiss ‘properly’ you’ll decrease the likelihood of any miscommunication about your desires and intentions towards *him*. Women who encounter any difficulties with this must just be steering *him* in the wrong direction, if they would only learn to communicate better, they wouldn’t be ‘asking’ for something they don’t really want!

    • Hahahaha. This made me laugh out loud. The mental images: Air kiss = “goodbye, dahlin'” Peck on cheek = “you look just like Grandpa Harald.” Kiss on forehead = “There’s a good boy now.”

      Oh. What? That’s not what they meant?


    • Meghan Murphy

      Yes! Exactly! Women should be able to communicate what they want from men without words and men should just guess???

  • Hari

    If there’s one thing I learned by the time I was 30 that did me the most good, it’s that if the love of your life really does appear one day, s/he won’t give a rat’s ass whether you own a lacy black bra or any bra at all. And if I unexpectedly met the employer of my dreams, they also wouldn’t care how I was dressed because clothing can be changed to suit the occasion but the skills and other qualities on the inside are either present or not.

    A few of those 30 points were solid–because they had to do with self-ownership and personal responsibility. The rest was nothing more than lessons in compliance with patriarchy (including heterosexuality) and the proper performance of femininity.

    Thanks, Meghan!

    • Meghan Murphy

      So true, Hari.

  • euroReader

    There are things to learn that do not revolve around your personal looks, boyfriends, house, career.. Let’s see: by 30, you should know:
    how to not take shit, (& how to deal with it)
    how to stand up for your rights,
    how to organize with others for a cause,
    what solidarity means and how to practice it..
    and so on..

    Also, re: wine and cake, it’s so important to know how to enjoy life!

  • marv wheale

    Liberal feminist critiques of rad-fem discourse are unfortunate but completely understandable in my estimation. To admit one’s social conditioning via liberal indoctrination as dictatorial can be a severe threat to a person’s very selfhood formed under this ideology. Who wants to face the fact that the values and beliefs they have been taught over decades are untrue and violent? No one wishes for their whole worldview turned upside down and inside out – identity crisis. It is analagous to coming to terms with child sexual abuse as an adult survivor. It feels more secure to live in denial. The courage and tenacity it takes to embrace rad-fem cannot be overemphasized.

  • YEEEESSSSS!!! Wow, yes, thanks for writing this. This more than anything else about that piece stuck out to me as not simply useless, heteronormative or classist, but DANGEROUS! To advise women that they can learn some kind of kiss that will communicate “perfectly” anything is setting up an internalized victim-blaming mode.
    Fuck, I got raped; must not have kissed him right.
    Jesus fucking christ!
    (sorry about the swearing, Meghan, I usually watch it, but seriously…)

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t watch my swearing so don’t worry about it eh?

      • Awwww, you said “eh” just like my internalized stereotype of Canadians. You’re so cool.
        Not for fulfilling my stereotype, just cause you are.

  • Suzie

    Another thing besides the heteronormativity of the Glamour list was the consumer focus of the whole thing. Why do you need to have so many possessions to be successful? Is a credit card debt part of the list? There needs to be less focus on monetary value as the measure of everything (but then of course glamour will be full of adverts for lovely bras, suitcases and umbrellas that one can purchase right away to ease your pain. I’m never going to be measuring my success in the stuff I own.

    • Amanda

      Yes! I agree with this. I actually agree with Shelli on a few points, and I think the list could have been much worse and more offensive, actually. And a lot of the advice is pretty reasonable and practical: set aside money you’ll need some day, you can’t get fucked up on drugs forever with no consequences, etc. Your childhood is over. I’ll be 30 in a few months and have to say a lot of the (nonmaterial, non-sexual/romantic) advice seemed pretty poignant.

      But the consumer focus is annoying. You should buy something expensive because you deserve it? Why not “make good decisions for yourself because you deserve it”? Or “help someone else because they deserve it?”

      I’m fed up with this idea that spending a lot of money on yourself has some connection to your self-esteem.

  • Suzie

    Another thing besides the heteronormativity of the Glamour list was the consumer focus of the whole thing. Why do you need to have so many possessions to be successful? Is a credit card debt part of the list? There needs to be less focus on monetary value as the measure of everything (but then of course glamour will be full of adverts for lovely bras, suitcases and umbrellas that one can purchase right away to ease the pain) I’m never going to be measuring my success in the stuff I own.