Temerity Jane
13. 12. 2011

I turned 30 last week. Exactly a week ago, to be… exact. I don’t think it was a big deal. I don’t know if I was ever the type to think 30 was a big deal. Maybe if I was the kind of person who expected to be married with a baby by the time I was 30 and I also wasn’t married with a baby, 30 would have felt like something. But I am married with a baby, and I am also not that kind of person. So. Nothing, really.

While I never really had any specific goals that I wanted to accomplish before I turned 30 (the failure to accomplish certain goals is what I assume makes 30 feel like a THING for some people), I guess when I was younger I always assumed things about 30, in the same way that younger people assume things about older people. I don’t know if I can really put my finger on anything specific, but when I was in college, or just out of college – I was still living in my college apartment, and I dated this guy – I’ve talked about him, he had a really square head. Square Head Kyle. And he was a bit older than me – as close to 30 as I still was to 20, I think. And while I didn’t bow down before him, all wide-eyed at his wisdom and experience, I kind of just assumed things. Like when he bought a car, I was like, yeah, that makes sense. He’s a grown up. He can buy a car.

But then you get to be 25 or 26 or 27 and you buy a car or you do whatever it is that made sense, and it’s like yanking back the curtain. The whole getting older experience is like reliving that scene from the Wizard of Oz, year after year. “HEY, IT’S JUST SOME SCHMUCK BACK HERE.” And then you, too, are that schmuck.

I’m not a big believer in bucket lists. I mean, no offense meant if that’s your thing, but I can’t get my mind to that place where they make any kind of sense. Maybe I’m not a goal-oriented person. Maybe I want to see what comes in life on its own. Maybe I think the recent Internetization of the concept of a “life list” by certain sectors has made the whole thing seem like kind of a ridiculous and exaggerated joke of itself. Maybe it’s pretty likely to be that last one.

Regardless, I have expectations of 30. Expectations I had long before I was 30, and expectations I developed as 30 approached. Not that I assumed that when I woke up 30, these things would happen or be. Just things that I expect that, along the way TO 30, a person will know or do or gather in some way. There are things that I feel that the schmuck behind the 30 curtain should have to offer as a person. And I will tell you about them.

A person who is 30 should be able to put a meal on the table. I’m not saying anything about affording a meal or providing for a family. And I’m not saying that every 30 year old should be able to cook. I’m saying if you’ve made it all the way to 30, you should be capable of throwing down dinner without talking into a speaker. Maybe you can cook. Maybe you’re more like me and rely heavily on frozen Stouffer’s and steam in the bag vegetables. Maybe you know a really good catering place and are exceptional at placing food artfully on plates. I don’t know and I don’t care how you do it. I don’t care how OFTEN you do it. But when the situation arises, a 30 year old should be able to pull some edible shit together.

A person who is 30 should know that there are truly very few things in life that they HAVE to do. You don’t have to get the puff in your eyeballs when you go to the eye doctor if you don’t want to. You don’t have to wear make up if it’s not your thing. You don’t have to date anyone or get married or have kids. You don’t have to buy a house if you like renting. You don’t have to like everyone. You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way. You don’t have to be solely responsible for the happiness of anyone else. That last one is what will make you have a lot of regrets, I think.

A person who is 30 should be over getting affronted at Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas/What the shit ever. I don’t care if you don’t celebrate Christmas or you don’t have any holidays in this “season” or if you’re the asshole everyone secretly hates, the one who always wants to “helpfully” inform you of why what you just said or did is offensive to someone, somewhere, in some obscure way. Do you plan to exist throughout December? You do? WELL, I AM WISHING FOR YOU THAT YOU ENJOY IT. Grow up. Seriously. I’m hoping that you’re freaking merry on December 25, whatever the hell you decide to do with yourself that day. No one stabbed you in the eyeball. They wished you well. Walk on and forget about it. Dick.

A person who is 30 should be VERY AWARE of how small a part of his general surroundings he is. That means knowing that the world is not revolving around you at any given moment. You shouldn’t still be placing yourself at the center of the universe in all ways. Like when you block the whole grocery store aisle with your cart. Or when you encroach upon the time of others without even thinking about it. When you expect to move to the front of the line/get extra days off/leave early/get free stuff because you have a child. I don’t know. This covers a lot. A person who is 30 should probably have figured out how to move around in the world without trying to force it to move around her.

A person who is 30 should be able to buy/make/offer a thoughtful gift, even with only a little bit or none money. Of course it is easy and often the best idea to grab a Starbucks gift card for the office holiday gift swap, or to buy local store gift cards for teachers, or that kind of stuff. But for people you know, you should know by now how to do a little research, ask a few pointed questions, and take some time out of your busy life to THINK about it instead of running through the aisles of Target and grabbing whatever looks good at the last second. It’s not always possible, of course, but you should know how. Like a book on a favored topic, or an offer of free babysitting, or something they mentioned one time that you remember that you know they won’t even remember that you remember. You can do that by now.

A person who is 30 should be able to tolerate inconvenience but also advocate for herself. If something doesn’t go your way, it always sucks, but by 30, you shouldn’t be that guy anymore. The one shrieking at a poor underling with no power, making everyone in the place uncomfortable. No one likes that guy. I know there are still a lot of That Guy over 30, but I think by 30 he should at least know he’s being a total knob. But at the same time, you shouldn’t still be bending over and taking it when someone or some company or whatever does wrong by you. That’s kind of weenie, and no one is going to jump up and do it for you. You should be able to make your case yourself and ask for resolution. In whatever situation – business, personal, whatever. You shouldn’t be a dick or a weenie. Ha. Two penis references.

I guess there’s probably a lot more stuff that I would expect the schmuck behind the curtain to know by now, but I can’t go on forever (I probably could, you know me). What do you think?

39 responses to “It’s just an endless parade of curtains and schmucks, curtains and schmucks.”

  1. Lisa says:

    I agree. Especially with the Merry Christmas shit. I AM HOPING FOR YOUR HAPPINESS. FUCKING TAKE IT DAMN.

  2. Jesabes says:

    No tags?

    Also, I love this: “No one stabbed you in the eyeball. They wished you well. Walk on and forget about it.”

    I don’t say Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays, etc to anyone anymore (except perhaps if I’m at church). I just wait for the other person to say whatever they prefer so I can say “you too!”

  3. Andrea says:

    I totally agree with all of these. However, unfortunately, I think some people get worse at some of these things as they age. Like the not getting offended about “happy holidays” and especially about awareness of self in relation to the universe. It seems that many people are born without the ability to accept other perspectives, to think about anyone except themselves or to shut the hell up about something that is not really that big of a deal in the big scheme of things.

  4. I agree with all of these, but I’m a little more hard-ass on the food one. I’m sorry, but by 30 you should be able to cook something. I’m not saying you have to LIKE to cook or that you have to pull together a five course meal. But by 30, you should be able to walk in a kitchen and put together a reasonable meal. (Yes, I will totally accept pasta with jarred sauce. It counts.)

    I mean, we aren’t talking some obscure hobby here. This is a basic requirement of life. You should be able to handle it.

  5. Melissa says:

    I don’t disagree. I’m also a horrible cook, I don’t even try.

  6. Christy says:

    “A person who is 30 should probably have figured out how to move around in the world without trying to force it to move around her.”

    THIS. THIS RIGHT HERE. While I hold this as a requirement for grown-up-ness, and not just by 30-ness. I think 30 is by FAR a reasonable expectation of knowing that your place in the universe is not in the middle of it.

  7. cakeburnette says:

    I think that the world needs more 30-year-olds like you. Also, 40-, 50-, 60, 70-…you get the picture. I want to nominate you to be the supreme ruler of the world.

    elembee123 Reply:


  8. Aunt Dani says:

    YES. The thoughtful gift. I would add that by the time you are 30, you should be able to accept a gift that somebody put a lot of thought into but maybe doesn’t equal CA$H MONEY with a modicum of grace. But I guess this goes to your point about recognizing one’s place in the universe.

  9. Megan says:

    I was rather unphased when I turned 30 earlier this year. It didn’t freak me out or even register as anything other than another birthday.

    I love your list of things and agree with them. I also think a person in their 30’s should have accepted inconvenient inevitable things like having to work, pay taxes, and pay your own damn bills. It really ticks me off to see someone who is in their 30’s and have no idea how to pay their own bills. Even if your SO normally pays the bills and takes care of those things, should something happen to them, whether they die or leave you or get sucked into an alternate universe through a mirror, you should be able to pick up the check book and keep the electricity on for another month.

    Linnea Reply:

    Yes! I was trying to figure out how to say this earlier. For me, 30 was “how to do a mortgage/what the hell is escrot REALLY/who takes care of my property tax” year, but that’s not so much a requirement for me as “Aggregate your fecal matter enough to keep things running in a household–utility bills, cleanliness of toilets, etc.”

  10. Issa says:

    Oh how I love the Christmas/Holiday one. I hear people still bitch about this and come on now REALLY? Still?

    Happy belated birthday.

  11. Yes, THIS: “You shouldn’t still be placing yourself at the center of the universe in all ways.”

    I agree with everything else, but the I-Am-Not-the-Center-of-the-Universe thing REALLY seems like something a 30-year-old human should have figured out.

  12. Jeanette says:

    Totally agree with everything…especially the holiday one!

  13. MegglesP says:

    Yes, on all of these. I am closer to 30 than 20, and I think people my age should start figuring this shit out, and it is distressing to me to see those that haven’t. I want to scream at them to start growing up! I have a brother who is turning 30 in a couple of months, and he hasn’t got ANY of these figured out. It’s is maddening and I can’t even be around him because of it. Maybe when I turn 30 and if I haven’t gotten married or had a kid, I might kinda freak out. But it’s only because when I was younger, I thought I’d get married young and start popping babies out, but I haven’t.

  14. Amanda says:

    Totally agree on every single point! This applies to all over the age of 30. I know some in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s who still haven’t figured out most of the things you listed.

    The whole Christmas thing is just brilliant. Someone needs to put that on a billboard!

  15. LizScott says:

    You should do what you say you’re going to do.

    Have a job? Get there on time. Made promises to take care of something? Do it. By the time you’re 30 you should know how to follow through on the things you commit to, or to know to not commit to them.

    Also, by the time you’re 30, the bad things that have happened to you in your childhood are no longer an excuse for any deficiencies in personality or performance. Bad things happen, no one is suggesting they don’t/didn’t, but: you’re 30. The window for “but my childhood sucked!” as an excuse for why you now suck is over. You can acknowledge the suckiness of it while also living in spite of it — and it’s time.

    Sarra Reply:

    well said!

    Susan Reply:

    Amen !!

  16. Lawyerish says:

    This is so perfect, I want to find a way to package the whole post as a greeting card that is obligatory for every person to read on his/her 30th birthday.

    So many things in this made me laugh and laugh, but this one especially: “you should be capable of throwing down dinner without talking into a speaker.”

  17. Chaninn says:

    I agree with all of your points and want to add one of my own:

    I believe that by the age if 30, a person should have learned to take a compliment and/or complaint without making a huge drama out of the situation.
    Say “thank you” for the compliment and maybe give a compliment in return (if you like the person).
    Say “I didn’t realize my action/speech was creating this problem” and then try to fix the problem.

    I am soooo tired of people past the 30 curtain turning some small incident into a huge us or them situation.

    Dawn Reply:

    YES, esp. regarding the compliments. My mother and mother-in-law were trading compliments after looking at the photos from my wedding, and each time one of them would say “you look so good in this photo!” the other would make a face, say something to the effect of “ugh, no I look horrible! YOU look so great!” It was infuriating, and when I finally told both of them to STFU and accept the compliment (in a much more polite way, of course), they looked at me as if I was a monster. Good god. Since when was being told you’re beautiful something to PROTEST?

  18. April says:

    One of my bosses is that last instance of That Guy. He is currently throwing a fit because I won’t let him bully me. It is the most childish place I’ve ever worked, hands down.

  19. Meinemo says:

    My favorite is “there are truly very few things in life that they HAVE to do”. So many people don’t realize this! Great point.

  20. bri says:

    Item #3 SO HARD.

    I am not 30 yet but I agree with you on all points. I may even go so far as to say a 30-year-old should have one KILLER recipe of their own that people always ask for. I have no reasoning behind this other than I probably value food, delicious food, far too much.

  21. Sarra says:

    I think operating a washer/dryer successfully should be on this list. My brother-in-law was 36 before he finally had to learn how. Some people are lucky enough to have an SO take care of that…lucky them. But, eveyrone should know how.

    LemonFresh Reply:

    YES, THIS. This is the second year in a row I’ve had to show my new roommate how to use a washer and dryer. Both times the person in question was male and at least 24. One was almost finished his master’s degree, the other his PhD.

    The mind, it boggles.

  22. rsngphoenix8 says:

    I agree with everything..except I think you should be able to do these things by the time you reach 20. Childhood is the time to be a bit selfish and learn how not to be. By your teens you should be growing the f- out of that. By 20 no one is accountable for your actions but you. The sooner people come to understand that, the better off we’ll be. I guess that would be my addition to the list. By the time you’re 30 (or 20) you HAVE to be able to accept the consequences of your actions instead of pushing them off onto someone or something else.

  23. Kristin H says:

    At 30, you can no longer blame your parents for your life. If you’re an asshole at 30, it’s because you’re choosing to be an asshole at 30, not because you’re still struggling with the assholery your parents foisted on you at a tender young age. Time to be the person you want to be, 30-somethings!

  24. I think this is a pretty good list. Happy belated birthday!

  25. Susan says:

    TJ- this is a great list !! I,too, wish this was a birthday card to give to all 30 yr olds.

  26. Jennielee2015 says:

    LOVED this. Totally agree with every. Single. Point. Grow up! Be considerate! Don’t be a shuck!

  27. Swistle says:

    Oh, man, this part had me TEARING UP with laughter: “Maybe if I was the kind of person who expected to be married with a baby by the time I was 30 and I also wasn’t married with a baby, 30 would have felt like something. But I am married with a baby, and I am also not that kind of person.” I read it, like, three times, and laughed harder each time.

    Then I had MOSTLY dried my eyes when I got to “Maybe it’s pretty likely to be that last one.”

    And then while I was still enjoying that, I got to the part I deeply, deeply agree with: “No one stabbed you in the eyeball. They wished you well.”

  28. Alex says:

    Love it.

  29. Zhenobe says:

    Happy belated birthday, TJ!!
    Ditto about the list-every single point.

  30. Superjules says:

    You sure you aren’t just jealous of her mightiness? Or her wardrobe?

  31. I want to blow this up in poster size and give it as a gift, the recipient being those that throw ‘HOLY SHIT I’M 30, my life is ending, mid life crisis parties’ Trust me it is like a plague, and I’m glad you didn’t catch it! I had a moment when I reached 29, it was short lived, I opened my eyes and realized it isn’t any different than the disappointment of turning 18.. you’ve been doing and will keep doing the same things you’ve always done! It happens again at 40!

  32. Kimberly says:

    Happy belated birthday! I work with a bunch of people in the Boomer Generation who would do well to read this list. It should be required reading for the “Quarter-Life Crisis” crowd, too.

    I’d add: A person who is 30 should be able to read and follow simple instructions. We are surrounded by technology, yes. But it’s so much easier now to deal with it than it every was, IF you can read and follow simple instructions. If the instructions say “check this box to continue with your order” then check the box. If the instructions say “Scan your first item to begin checkout” then… yeah. You get the idea.

  33. Rachael says:

    I think maybe it goes with knowing your place int he universe, but I think by the time you’re 30 you should understand and embrace the idea of doing something you don’t care about/understand simply because it is important to someone that you care about. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter if you care – someone else cares, and you care about them, so just do it!