Let's just get this out in the open, because it's going to be eating away at me for the remaining thirty-ish weeks until I turn 30:
I've failed at my twenties.
Correction: I've failed at all the listicle versions of what kind of woman I REALLY ought to be by now: what things I should have done, what feelings I should have felt, and how nice a shoe wardrobe I should have amassed.
If you believe my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I'm probably the only woman in the world who feels this way, but I'm going to come right out and say it:
I hate "women empowerment" listicles.
The most recent one making the rounds is a "20 Things All Women Should Do Before Getting Married" shame-fest (published right here on HuffPost), but the genre isn't new. Every couple months, another list pops up (or gets "discovered" again) telling you the 10 things you should know by 21, or the 30 things you should have done by 30, or the 24 basic milestones you've missed that you'll obsess over for the next 24 hours.
Don't worry, as soon as I finish writing that last one, I'll post it on your Facebook wall.
My guess is that these lists are supposed to be inspirational, but to me, they just feel like another way to see if you measure up.
And inevitably, at least if you're me, you don't. I'm in a long-term relationship. I think it's pretty good. But maybe it's not, because I'm not sure I've really "suffer[ed] major heartbreak," unless you count the death of family members, which doesn't seem to be what the authoress was going for.
In fact, there's a lot I should be doing in the love department. Picking more fights, for one, so that I can have "at least one major blowout," then make up, just to... I don't know, prove that I can? Apparently screaming matches with a to-be spouse are the Everest of relationships: you do it because it's there.
Also, if me and the boy are gonna make it to marriage track, I need to find a friend with benefits fast, the better to start laying some groundwork for next year's summer fling, and in the meantime, date around, in case I've been spending too much time NOT having this-isn't-the-right-fit relationships. And then dump those people, because dammit, ending things is EMPOWERING.
Probably all of you have already done all those things, which is why you're sending me this list in the first place, but I'm gonna need to reorganize my schedule.
And those are just my biggest, least debatable failures on this specific, most recent list. Other lists also have me questioning my resume (yes, I've removed all the "padding," but is it awesome enough for 30???), my finances (no, I'm not ready for retirement), my interests (seriously, read one capital-c, canonical Classic a month? Does Hunger Games count?), and my kissing ability, which I'm almost positive doesn't, and-I-quote, "communicate perfectly what you would and wouldn't like to happen next."
Even the most seemingly-anodyne suggestions on these lists stress me out. For Christ's sake, how can I know why people say life begins at 30 when I'm not even 30 yet? Is that something I'm really supposed to have figured out in advance? WHAT ELSE DON'T I KNOW?
Instead of giving me that all-important sense of sister solidarity, the ladies-should-do-and-know lists just feel like another way to keep score against one another, one of those false boosts to our confidence (or weirdly devastating moments of existential crisis) that can only happen on the Internet.
We've all seen the studies about how Facebook actually makes us feel more pathetic and isolated, since it's basically a highlight reel of the lives of everyone you've ever known, including the people you hate. These lists have the same flavor, like a romantic-comedy montage of what your twenties "should" look like. And when they don't, you inevitably feel the same way you do when you see pictures of your friend's $42,000 honeymoon in Thailand: "Shit, where have I gone wrong?"
So please, for the love of my sanity, can we all stop judging our lives against arbitrary checklists that reflect everything about the writer, and next-to-nothing about everyone-else-ever's reality (I hope)?
The format might not be as convenient, but somehow that feels closer to the point.