When I turned 30 earlier this year, a bunch of my friends sent me a familiar message:
“You’re 30, flirty and thriving!”
Of course, I understood the reference.
It’s a callback to the 2004 rom-com “13 Going on 30,” in which the protagonist Jenna Rink has a meltdown on her 13th birthday and wishes she were “30, flirty and thriving,” just like the women she saw in a magazine spread. Magically, Jenna turns into gorgeous, “Alias”-era Jennifer Garner overnight.
But this isn’t a “Big” (or “Little” or “17 Again”) scenario: In “13 Going on 30,” the older Jenna also jumps 17 years ahead to what her life would have been, had she continued along the path of crying at her birthday party, and caring more about being cool than being kind to her best friend Matt.
On Tuesday, “13 Going on 30” turns 15, the age that I was when I first watched the fantasy film. Here’s how I felt returning to the movie at age 30. (Obligatory 15-year-old spoiler alert: Plot details of the movie are discussed.)
Before Garner was relegated to playing sweet-natured moms, she really nailed this part. She fondles her chest and flops her entire body over a chair in disbelief as you would had you just found out you became an adult overnight.
Apparently, being a senior editor at a fashion magazine is a high-paying gig. Jenna works at fictional glossy “Poise,” and lives in a huge apartment in a gorgeous building in Lower 5th Avenue in New York City. (I looked the address up on home-buying site Trulia, out of curiosity, and learned that a 2BR/2BA at that actual property is going for $3.25M). She also goes on shopping sprees at Henri Bendel and Chanel.
Jenna even has an enormous corner office and a secretary. I do not have these things. Did 13-year-old me think adult me could work at a media company and have these things?
Yes, we all adore the handsome, talented and philanthropic Ruffalo now, but I must admit, I overlooked the actor a decade ago. Like the younger Jenna, I was more into the idea of the athletic, popular pretty boy. Teenage me blushed over conniving hottie Freddie Prinze Jr. in movies like “She’s All That,” instead of sensitive artist Ruffalo in “13 Going on 30.” In the movie, Ruffalo plays the older Matt, the guy Jenna so clearly should be with and should never have neglected at 13.
I realize that Ruffalo’s loyal, honest and soulful Matt is actually is the dream guy. At least, I see that now. As a teen, I was confused. But teens these days seem to get it: They’re going for nice guy (and Ruffalo lookalike) Noah Centineo of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” fame.
Older Jenna continues her junky diet of chocolate-chip pancakes, Fruit Roll-Ups and Razzles, and adds pina coladas (“Not virgin!”) to the mix. I really wanted a scene where Jenna gets horrible stomach pains from eating the things she used to as a 13-year-old. That’s being 30, Jenna!
You know the scene that made me tear up ( Ariana Grande parodied it in her “Thank U Next” video): Jenna finds out Matt is getting ready to marry another woman, tries to be happy for him and cries outside holding the dollhouse that he made for her younger self. It’s a devastating turn of events.
Oh, and I adored that backyard wedding, which feels refreshing when I hear many of my friends stress about locations, guest lists and catering costs.
But then I realized the reason that Matt and Jenna could have a small outdoor event like that is because Jenna doesn’t have any friends other than Matt. Bummer.
Ultimately, the movie ends with younger Jenna doing the right thing and siding with good-natured Matt over the popular mean girls. She decides on the path that will make things better for her future self. Conversely …
I try to do this “gratitude” thing whenever I’m stressed about work. I think, what would my 13-year-old self think of what my life has become?
I remind myself how teenage Carly, the one who created stop-motion movies with Barbie dolls and wrote silly essays for the yearbook, became someone paid to interview filmmakers and write stories for a living. I try to channel the chutzpah younger me had, wearing a hot-pink leg cast and being the first to dance at a bar mitzvah, as I gather to the courage to ask challenging follow-up questions on a red carpet.
I’m convinced that “13 Going on 30” has inspired that thought process for me: That reminder that I should strive to become someone my younger self would be proud of.
To me, that feels like “thriving.”