30 and a day: wrapping up Thirty Things Every Woman Should Know by Thirty

Yesterday morning I woke up, thirty years old, and couldn’t be happier. Birthday messages have been peppered with things like “Don’t worry!”, and the real truth is, worry is the furthest thing from my life right now. This age is like a novelty–I kept asking people yesterday, “Ask me how old I am! …Thirty!” It’s a crossroads of sorts, but more than anything, it’s something new, it’s a beginning, it’s a fantastic reason to be alive. All these fears women are told to have about “getting older”–you don’t have to drink that kool aid. Yes, I have a chiropractor and two years ago I didn’t, but I’m not gonna lie down in the street and die about it. Grey hair, loss of cheeseburger-fries-and-a-coke-so-what? metabolism, stiff neck — it’s all good. It doesn’t mean I’m ugly, a spinster, useless, or doomed for. It doesn’t mean that for anyone. Here’s my final installment in the Glamour 30 Things redux.

By 30, you should know …

1. How to fall in love without losing yourself.

Alright, Glamour. True: knowing what it feels like to lose yourself when falling in love, and why it should be avoided in most cases, is probably an important life skill, especially once you’ve plowed through your early twenties. I mean, anyway you slice it, love is gonna feel a little cray — it’s love! Have fun! For me, I’ve come to see the difference between falling in love like sky diving without any knowledge of how to operate a parachute, and falling in love like I’m an extra in Bjork’s It’s Oh So Quiet video. Free-falling panic or a choreographed tap dance routine? Both take some risk, but one allows for way more control. How to fall in love without losing yourself, though? Here’s my take: know what you want, talk about it with your friends, talk about it with the one you’re head over heels for (honesty! it’s a novelty!), be real, even when it’s uncomfortable. Once a few years ago, I had to put the kibosh on a budding relationship because it was so obvious we wanted different things. “There’s nothing glamorous about having boundaries,” I told them. “It’s not sexy. It’s not fun. But it’s the truth.” I count this person as a good friend these days. Boundaries, man. Gotta love ’em.

2. How you feel about having kids.

Okay. You’re two for two, Glamour. Love & kids — maybe you’re not like 100% certain on how you feel, but I would agree that it’d be good to know what camp you stand in. That being said, you never know what’s gonna happen: you fall in love with someone who has an eight year old; you and your partner think about adoption; you decide to just go ahead and bring a bundle of joy into the world on your own. Either way, it’s okay. It’s awesome to want to have children in your future; it’s awesome to know that you wanna be the badass aunt who spoils her nieces and nephews, but otherwise is untethered to any children. Terry Gross did an interview once where she talked about her and her husband’s specific decision to not have children so they could indulge in their work. I love Terry Gross for saying that.

3. How to quit a job, break up with a man, and confront a friend without ruining the friendship.

…I’m starting to get the feeling that Glamour wants to make sure every gal turning thirty knows how to be a grown up. There’s definitely something satisfying in learning how to go about these life situations–I hate my job! I gotta break up with this girl! I have to call out my bestie on that shit she pulled last week!–without avoiding them, manipulating them, or sabotaging them. It’s like this, I think — know the value of discomfort. Those real deal conversations that you have to take a lot of deep breaths before having? They’re always worth having, even if they blow up in your face, because, hey. You tried. Keep your side of the street clean, y’know? Whatever is going on over on your boss’ side, your lover’s side, your mother’s side, your roommate’s side — nunya business, really. Take care of your part.

4. When to try harder and when to walk away.

How? How are we supposed to know these things, Glamour?! Listen, it’s not like we’re gonna turn thirty and magically have the script to navigate every sticky situation. You don’t need to know how or when to do all of these Self-Care with a capital Self things — better yet, have the support, the friends, the therapist, the horoscope, the journal, the mentor, the loving godparent, the older brother, the 12 step program, the meditation routine — something to turn to when you don’t know what to do. Over and over again, I realize the benefits of wrenching my mouth open and asking for help. Biggest lesson of my twenties? You don’t have to do this alone.

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

Uh, what? Here’s a better communicator: words! Talking! Yeah, sex and dating are rife with body language and flirtations and the weird mating ritual which is acting like you like someone to show them you like them without ever saying you like them. But “kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and wouldn’t like to happen next?!” Girl, it ain’t in your kiss. Don’t kiss anyone you don’t wanna kiss. And if you wanna get some, I bet you can tell someone that without trying to gauge the lip pressure that you’re applying or something stupid like that. A woman who knows what she wants and states it isn’t a slut; she’s a woman.

6. The names of the secretary of state, your great-grandmothers, and the best tailor in town.

Oh, lord. The best tailor in town! The man of your dreams called and he’ll be here in an hour ahhhh! Where’s your fairy godmother seamstress?! Here, I think, are some more important names to know: your neighbors, the barista/post person/bodega cashier/payroll secretary that you talk to on the regular, a politician/writer/artist/filmmaker /activist/businesswoman/musician you totally admire and can get behind, a news source you can trust, and Tavi Gevinson. And memorize your best friend’s phone number. One day your cell is gonna cut out and you’re gonna be locked out and you’re gonna wanna know it.

7. How to live alone, even if you don’t like to.

I LOVE living alone. Not everyone does. But dear lord, it’s not a sentence or a survival skill! If you love people, and can find roommates who you like having a home with, then more power to you! Should you stay in your relationship that fizzled out six months ago just because the landlord has jacked the rent on your studio in Clinton Hill in two years? No, but you wouldn’t be the first and you won’t be the last. Don’t ever say no to something because you’re afraid of being alone, though. Vacations, apartments, hotel rooms, holidays, fancy parties, punk shows, art tours — if you really wanna go, don’t let not having a date/partner in crime stop you. You’re awesome. You can make friends. Remember when we were kids, and you made friends with whoever was on the playground that day? It may sound crazy, but you can make friends like this in your adult life, too. Years ago I went to Austin to SxSW by myself, and had one of the best trips of my life. It helps to visit a friendly city, and it helps to be able to go out on a limb (cue the time I was at the Perez Hilton party and approached the two queer looking girls at the daiquiri slushy machine and said, “Please tell me I’m not the only lesbian here.” I’ve never seen those two again, but we had a hell of a lot of fun that night.)

8. Where to go — be it your best friend’s kitchen table or a yoga mat — when your soul needs soothing.

Remember the importance of asking for help? This is about asking for help. Not about chicken soup for the soul or whatever. If I had to calculate when to ask for love and support based on when my soul needed soothing, I’d spend a lot more time under the covers listening to old school Cat Power and hugging my cat. Instead, I’ve had enough positive experiences with generous, awesome friends that I can say to them: I’m burned out and can’t make it to your party. Or, can I come over and watching Arrested Development on your couch and order a pizza? And, I don’t have a yoga mat (yoga: the good intention of the last five years of my life), but I do have some self care routines, like a warm bath and a Sharon Jones & the Dapkings album. Know where to go, loves.

9. That you can’t change the length of your legs, the width of your hips, or the nature of your parents.

Duh. Not reading Glamour will probably best help you understand the first two; loving your parents as people first and parents second might help bring the third thing into focus. Everyone has their own path to accepting that their parents did the best they could, I think. My path has involved therapy, spirituality, and like every Melody Beattie book ever, but I’ll tell you this: they’re a lot easier to love once I accepted them. (Bonus: I told my mother that once I turned thirty, she would never, ever ever be allowed to comment on my appearance again. I’ll let you know how it goes when I wear sweatpants to Thanksgiving or get another tattoo, muwah ha ha!)

10. That your childhood may not have been perfect, but it’s over.

True. You might still be struggling with this, but that’s okay. Process isn’t a definitive word. Some of us experienced a hell of a lot of trauma as kids, right when all we deserved was love and care. This might sound very Oprah, but I do have faith that letting go of trauma opens you up to your future. It’s not an easy process, and it’s not a dismissal. And for many of us, it sure as hell isn’t over by thirty. You’re an adult now, though. They can’t hurt you now. Go where it’s warm and stay there.

11. What you would and wouldn’t do for money or love.

Oh, this might not be black and white by the time you’re thirty. I mean, I’ve got that Janis Joplin quote taped to the wall above my desk–Don’t Compromise Yourself, You’re All You’ve Got–but who knows what the future holds? There are gigs I’d swear I’d never take as a twenty four year old that I’ve totally signed onto now. Know that you don’t have to settle, but that it’s okay to change your mind sometimes.

12. That nobody gets away with smoking, drinking, doing drugs, or not flossing for very long.

Alright, true, Glamour. Totally true. Own what you do, my friends. If you’re still doing blow on a school night, that might be a habit you wanna curb. In my twenties, I did so many things because I thought I had to do them to be cool. But the more I lived the more I realized what bs that was — if I wanna stay in on a Saturday night and make a lasagna and listen to This American Life and fall asleep by ten pm, then goddamn, that’s a good Saturday night. And if you’re too friendly with substances but don’t know how to untangle yourself from them? Ask for help. Ask for help. Humble yourself and ask again. You’re gonna be okay.

13. Who you can trust, who you can’t, and why you shouldn’t take it personally.

It’s been a long time since middle school, but sometimes you still find yourself facing gossip, tactless people, loose lips, or rude people. It happens. Call people out when they need to be called out, even when they’re your best friend/your coworker/your sister. And not taking it personally, while hard, is so valuable. There’s a saying that I try to use as a mantra: what other people think of you is none of your business. True. Stop worrying about it. Ten bucks says they ain’t thinking of you anyway, sweetheart. Do your thing.

14. Not to apologize for something that isn’t your fault.

Oh, man. Ok. I’ve gotta work on this one. I say, “Sorry,” at least sixty times a day — to the copy machine, the person next to me on the subway, my roommate, the Duane Reade cashier, my cat –and I probably only really owe an apology two of those times. Stop apologizing! One of my favorite places on earth is Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, and every summer, as the girls are learning instruments and forming bands, they’re taught the you-rock rule.

Whenever you hit a wrong note, or get feedback, or drop your drum sticks, or mess up a chord, instead of shouting, “Sorry!” as girls are so wont to do, you should shout, “I rock!” And, because rock camp is the most magical place, usually a chorus of girls and women and queers will shout back, “You rock!” Try it in your day to day. So you grabbed the milk at the coffee bar as someone else approached? You didn’t print the minutes out on double sided paper? You can’t find your Metrocard and there’s like one guy huffing impatiently behind you? Girl, you rock. Seriously. You rock.

15. Why they say life begins at 30

…does it begin, or does it continue? All I know is this: it’s not going to get worse, it’s going to get better. I turned thirty with an army of incredible, loving, talented, generous, badass friends; a job I adore; writing credits and writing projects and writing dreams; an amazing and supportive family; clothes I love wearing because I believe I look good when I look good; queerness like whoa; health & health insurance (count your blessings, y’all); confidence in my dance moves; a warm believe that I’m taken care of. Wherever you are, whatever you are, however old you are: good things are coming to you. I can feel it.

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