Sites like Buzzfeed regularly run listicles that pretty much reduce women in their twenties to superficial creatures who can hardly take care of themselves. But the twenties are a wonderful time full of discoveries and level-ups — so we made our own list!
#1. How to say no
Whether it’s a friend asking you to meet her for drinks when you’re exhausted after a week of grueling meetings, a colleague who wants you to do them a nontrivial favor that you have no time for, or a guy you don’t have chemistry with who wants a second date – say no.
By your twenties, you know what it’s like to depend on someone who doesn’t come through. Don’t be that person. Assess what you have going on and how you feel and be honest about whether the proposed item is something you really want to take on. If it isn’t – just say no.
#2. How your body works
You’ve had your body for a while now – you should know how it reacts to certain things, whether it’s three martinis, spicy food or only four hours of sleep. Respect your own boundaries. Your body is full of gauges – never ignore pain, weird discharges, or urine and feces that look unusual. Yes, you should pay attention to these things.
Even unusually killer cramps and insane mood swings when you’re premenstrual could indicate that something else is up.
#3. How to have an orgasm
My mother once told me about a conversation with one of her girlfriends, who was also married, about how she thought she might have had an orgasm. Times have changed somewhat, but we still live in a world where female sexuality is the target of oppression. If you don’t know how to orgasm by your twenties, devote some time to exploring the matter. If you can’t make yourself cum, how can you expect a partner to do so?
Once you know, focus on letting your partner know what kind of stimulation makes you crazy – it doesn’t have to be a serious conversation! A simple “I love it when you do that” or “I can’t stop thinking about how great it would be if you did this” as part of a naughty message exchange is more than enough.
#4. What you don’t want in a partner
You’ve been dating a while. You may not know what you want – and that’s okay, your twenties are a time of a lot of change – but you should pay attention to personality traits or habits you don’t like. Don’t look at your exes as horrible mistakes, but as lessons. Every relationship you have helps you get just a little more information about the sort of person that’s likely to be a suitable long-term match for you.
By thirty, you should know that while people change, slamming them against your expectations over and over isn’t the way to arrive at a solid relationship, only a union that fits because the individuals within have been fractured beyond hope of recognition.
#5. How to have safer sex
By your twenties, it’s highly probable that you or someone close to you has a scare over sexually transmitted illness or pregnancy. That’s a valuable lesson. Sex is always a risk and by now you should be aware that even “just this once” can have long-lasting consequences. Always use a condom – and remember that oral sex can still transmit STIs.
Did you know that in the porn industry, people don’t brush their teeth before a scene because abrasions can aid transmission? They also get tested every 28 days – and there are still cases of STI and HIV on occasion. Take that page from the “Doing It Like A Porn Star” playbook and get yourself tested frequently, especially if you’re playing the field or haven’t become exclusive with a partner yet.
#6. What a friend is
You’ve probably told someone who likes you that you just want to “be friends.” Why is friendship always given as a consolation prize? Friendships are your support network and this structure should be sturdy, comprised of people who have your back no matter what and who can keep whatever secrets you decide to impart.
As you leave the social environment of university and head into the real world, you’re going to need to be a lot more discerning. It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and there’s no time for people who won’t be there when the going gets tough.
#7. How to break up with someone
It’s not easy breaking up. Sometimes it hurts even when it makes sense. Sometimes neither of you wants to, but you have to because of some external factor. Sometimes the other person just doesn’t want to let you go. Ending things is messy, but by your twenties you should have a fairly good idea of how to do it. And how, when you do it, you can’t undo it.
#8. Where your parents are coming from
Family is a complicated thing. Even if you’re on great terms with your parents, you’re not going to agree on everything. That’s to be expected – you come from very different times, each with its own set of anxieties and mores. When they tell you how you should be doing things, listen and use their feedback to get a better sense of who they are. You don’t have to convince them to accept your choices: this is your life.
But knowing who they are and where they’re coming from will help you broach any topics that you might eventually choose to share with them. If your family should reject you for choosing a lifestyle they disagree with, remember: blood may be thicker than water, but the human body is overwhelmingly water. Family, in the end, is made of the people who stand by you and among whom you feel safe.
#9. How the machines you rely on work
If you drive a car, you should have a basic understanding of how it works and at the very least know how to jump it or change your own tire.
The same goes for computers and phones: if you depend on it, make sure you know how to maintain it and execute simple fixes. If your product has a warrantee, know what is covered and what isn’t – don’t listen to the sales pitch! Read the fine print and keep all pertinent items (receipt, warrantee terms, product serial numbers) in a safe and accessible place.
#10. How to manage your privacy and reputation online
Everyone is online and everyone – from people thinking of hiring you to people who are thinking about dating you – is logging in to check you out when you hit their radar. Despite this, a startling number of people don’t bother to get informed and stay up to date on privacy settings on social media.
In a climate where even the founder of a social network can have his private photos exposed whenever a new privacy model rolls out, it pays to stay informed. Let your friends know when it’s okay to tag you or mention you on public or friends-of-friends updates. You can’t control everything, but you can make sure that looking up your name doesn’t just turn up page after page of keg stands.
Also, don’t post when you’re drunk or heartbroken – or, worse, both! That’s what secret socials are for!
#11. How to exercise self-control
You know many of life’s pleasures by your twenties! But you also know how to abstain. You can abstain from sex with people you’ve determined are not suitable partners. You can abstain from eating all the cupcakes. You can abstain from texting someone who is still not texting you back after a week. You can abstain. You might not always do it, but you have done it and you know why it’s a skill worth honing.
#12. What bad behavior looks like
You have suffered much by your twenties. And you’ve heard horror stories, too. You know how awful it is for someone to just disappear after several seemingly successful dates. You know how crazy it is for people to go through someone else’s e-mails. You have snickered at people who spend their nights stalking exes on social media. You know what bad behavior looks like – at least when it happens to you or you are an objective party listening to an anecdote.
By 25, you should know bad behavior even as you’re engaging in it yourself. And by 30, you should be able to refrain from being a batshit crazy, hyper-paranoid, passive-aggressive, coercive, stalkerish hostage-taker.
#13. How to set a goal
You know what it’s like to want. You want to write a book. You want to travel. You want to pay off your student loans. You want to have a partner. You want to fly a plane. You want to restore a car. You want that Lanvin coat. You want a Canon EOS 5D Mk III. You want. Excellent. By your twenties, you should be able to channel this want into a goal you can work toward. Remember the small wins, they’re important. By thirty, you should be able to see the lessons in your failures.
#14. How to avoid getting screwed
Paper – it’s crazy that we still rely on it, isn’t it? There are a lot of papers that don’t make a difference, of course, but there are quite a few that do.
Like contracts for work, leases for an apartment, insurance coverage terms, insurance claims, police reports, credit card terms, current credit reports, your tax returns, any W-9 and pay stubs, your Social Security card, passport, birth certificate, warrantees for big-ticket items you’ve purchased, certificates of authenticity for art pieces, maybe even a hard copy of your customer number for any services you receive (from internet to your GoDaddy account).
All these things should be kept in a safe place and preferably one with a handle that you can grab and take with you in the event of a fire, flood or zombie apocalypse.
#15. How to make some extra money (or save money)
Even when you have a steady gig, it’s always good to be on the look-out for ways to make some extra money on the side. Whether this is by designing webpages, writing listicles for a blog, selling the little craft projects you do on Etsy, an extra source of income can help you tackle debts and build a nest egg.
Never scoff at bartering – offer to trade your social media know-how with your aesthetician for bikini waxes, clean up the studio in exchange for yoga classes, get a free ticket to an event in exchange for taking photos. Get the most mileage out of everything you put time into. Everything.
#16. How to make the most of your job
You’ve been dealing with this project at work and it’s finally going to wrap next week – what do you do? Other than chug congratulatory cocktails, I mean. You write down the success. Keep a document on the cloud where you list every nontrivial thing you do at work. If there is press about it, keep the links!
An ever-evolving list that keeps track of your projects along with dates and summaries and your role in them can mean the difference between moving on up or toiling in obscurity. Let this document stand testament to your upward climb, whether you’re asking for a promotion or tailoring a resume to go elsewhere. Alternatively:
#17. How to dress for an occasion
Fashion is about self-expression. Whether you want to live in yoga pants or always show up dressed to the nines, the key is to know what occasions call for a general acceptance of social expectations. By your twenties you should pretty much know the difference among white tie, black tie, semi-formal, cocktail, business formal, business casual, casual, etc.
And if the invitation doesn’t say, you should know that asking is always better than guessing!
#18. How to make chit-chat
By your twenties, you should know how to make the sort of inoffensive chit-chat that satisfies people with whom you have no intention of developing very involved relationships – like nosy colleagues or your significant other’s parents.
You have a handful of amusing workplace anecdotes up your sleeve, along with amusing tidbits overheard on the television or seen on your social feeds. You know how to redirect topics that you’d prefer to avoid – “the government shutdown? I’m glad the post office seems to be working still. Has it had any effect on your life so far?” – and how to save a conversation from an inappropriate comment without embarrassing the person who made it – “duck penises are not something any of us probably ever imagined contemplating! But you know what has been on my mind a lot lately …”
And most importantly, you rely expertly on the fact that people love to speak about themselves and will take any opportunity to do so. By thirty, you should have honed your skills at remembering names and be capable of executing great introductions on the go.
#19. How to manage your time
You’ve had a few jobs for which you’ve gotten paid – a clear indicator that time is worth something. You’ve also had things crop up that made it impossible to keep plans. And you’ve probably double booked. By this point, you should be better able to manage a schedule that ensures you can take care of your needs (fun included), without disrupting obligations and commitments. By thirty, you should be capable of defending “me time” as fiercely as you defend work commitments.
#20. How seriously to take lists on the internet
This list was written by someone you don’t know who’s reflecting on her own experiences, not someone in possession of an immutable set of truths. As such, you know to take it with a grain of salt.
But you also know that it might possess some good ideas so even as you roll your eyes, you might take note of some of the things mentioned. Who knows, it might just make things a little easier. So good luck, and enjoy your twenties!
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