Rachel Shimp, Seattle-based freelance writer/editor/proofreader (rachelshimp.com) has joined the ranks of 10YA. For her first re-view, she time-travels to her teenage years with 13 Going on 30, then lets us take a peek at some choice diary entries. Tantalizing? You be the judge.

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Dear Mr. Gorman,

I misunderstood the assignment. I thought the task was to watch a movie that was 10 years old for posterity’s sake—I didn’t realize you were supposed to be re-watching it with 10 years of perspective. Duh! Please don’t give me detention. I did my best.

Rachel S.

When 13 Going on 30 came out in 2004, I was somewhere in the middle—either 23 or 24 years old, embarking on a kind-of-grown-up life in a new town, 3,000 miles from home. I didn’t see it at the time because I wasn’t particularly into rom-coms (though I do like body-swapping films), and I had never seen “Alias,” so I wasn’t a Jennifer Garner fan. Seeing her in 13 Going on 30 made me wish I had been tuned into her sooner. What an expressive, funny nut job! As I settled into my first viewing of this highly fantastical ’80s nostalgia trip last night, I undertook the extra credit assignment with a highly grown-up dinner of fancy mac & cheese and a glass of pink Sangiovese.

It’s 1987 and Little Jenna Rink (Garner) is pretty cute for a dweeb. She’s practically a popular girl, I mean they use her, but they speak to her, and everybody knows that in junior high, even maltreatment is sometimes preferable to being ignored. There are two kinds of awkward adolescents, right—the ones who keep their heads down until graduation, and those that foolishly try to fit in. I remember when I left home for college, my mother said, “Finally, you can go be with your people,” meaning people with better vocabularies who had visited a big city. Although sometimes I wasn’t much better informed in my outsized quest for sophistication in Perry, Florida, population 10,000. I’ll never forget my mother’s cackle at the dinner table when I condescendingly called her and my stepfather boor-gee-ohce. By contrast, you get the sense that Jenna Rink from New Jersey definitely knows the correct pronunciation of bourgeois, even though she’s also a wiseass, in love with Rick Springfield, and performs a killer “Thriller” dance.

So it’s kind of weird that she cares so much about what the bitchy “Six Chicks” with their side-ponytails think. She’s made a deal with the main Heather, to write a paper in exchange for the group’s attendance at Jenna’s 13th birthday party. They’re the only people invited besides Jenna’s best friend Matt, who lives next door. He comes over first and presents her with a totally creepy gift—a revamped Dream House that shows Jenna in a bubble bath reading her favorite magazine, Poise, and Matt pointing a stern finger at a loitering Rick Springfield downstairs. Then! Matt pulls out a package of Pop Rocks, no, it’s “Magic Wishing Dust” and sprinkles it all over Jenna. (If he’d turned out to be gay, I suppose there wouldn’t have been much of a movie here.) The mean girls come over and don’t like Matt’s choice of party music, the Talking Heads. They replace it with Belinda Carlisle just before everything goes to shit, and Jenna’s left rocking herself back and forth in the closet, wishing that she was—as quoted from a Poise article—“Thirty, flirty, and thriving.” Is this a horror movie? I need another glass of wine.

Who wants to skip age 16? 18? 21? 25? I practically had a nervous breakdown when confronted with my mortality at age 30. And let’s be real, a lot of times, getting your driver’s license changes EVERYTHING. Gimme the keys, Lisa, I can drive! Just hold on for one more day, y’all. But Jenna’s wish is granted and she wakes up 17 years later in NYC, in a really fit body—with breasts! There’s a weird brick beeping in her purse (it’s a cell phone) and a hot, naked hockey player in her bathroom. He calls her “Sweet Bottom.” Turns out she’s one of two executive editors at Poise, along with her frenemy from childhood.

What follows is a convoluted mess of a movie, a romantic fantasy of the highest order. There are so many creepy moments. That may be the most interesting thing about 13 Going on 30. Besides Garner’s aforementioned super-cuteness in discovering her new body, enjoying her Carrie Bradshaw-level wardrobe, and her new independence and career success, the film is basically set up to make her look like someone having an extreme psychotic break.

Matt’s pad in Greenwich Village has a Blue Velvet poster on the wall. He’s still weird, and is a professional photographer that Jenna hasn’t spoken to since that fateful birthday party. (The details he provides of the time lapse between then and now are incomprehensible.) So when Jenna shows up on his doorstep, he asks her, “Are you smoking pot, doing X, falling in a K-hole? Are you doing drugs?”

Jenna employs Matt (now played by the handsome Mark Ruffalo) to help give Poise a makeover. In the process she starts to take an innocent shine to him, stoking his old flame for her. She also discovers what a “not-nice” person she has been in her interpersonal relationships. Another bizarro occurrence is a trip back home to visit the fam, during which the 30-year-old crawls into her parents’ bed at night.

But the thing that pissed me off about this movie is the treatment of Matt’s current fiancée. They actually make her a character, one whose desire to settle down with Matt is tinged with a sincere kind of anxiousness. If they hadn’t fleshed her out, I wouldn’t have minded him getting all starry-eyed over Jenna’s return. But the fact of Jenna swooping in and swooning Matt on the eve of his nuptials is really annoying. Maybe I say that because I’m 33 now, and more like the fiancée. The old flames…well, they had their chances.

And yet, when Jenna does some harebrained thing and goes to Matt’s house to make peace hours before his actual backyard wedding, he gives her a brush-off speech that I love, until he says, “You don’t always get the Dream House, but you come really damn close.” Excuse me? Ugh, I am pouring my third glass of wine.

Finally, the movie takes wish fulfillment all the way by wrapping it up with Jenna waking up again at age 13, and literally racing through frames, time, and space again BACK to age 30, but this time with Matt—the guy she shouldn’t have taken for granted. They’re unpacking boxes in front of their own pink Dream House. So much for Jenna’s career success and personal growth and self-actualization. It’s all, and I do mean ALL, about MARRIAGE. I’m getting angsty here.

I sat in silence as the credits rolled. I wondered, what year did that book come out, something about…oh yeah, “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.” Was this a conspiracy? 13 Going on 30: You’re a beeyotch!

The Salon of Shame

Highly recommended for Garner’s physical comedy and a killer ’80s soundtrack. Also useful if you want to get reacquainted 13goingon301with your younger self. The best thing this viewing did for me was inspire me to dig out my old journals. I’ve read from the 1995 editions at “Salon of Shame” a few times, but I hadn’t gone back to 1993 probably since that time. I decided to compare them with some entries I wrote when I was 30. Here’s a bit from each. The one I wrote at 13 must be the only example ever of a younger me giving advice to an older me—maybe somebody sprinkled my ass with Magic Wishing Dust and I went back in time.

“I don’t want to be original, Matty. I want to be cool.”

1993:

8th grade…wow. I always thought 6th was the best year but 8th has left it in the dust. For the first 2 or 3 months, I hung out with Anna and her crew in the library in the mornings and at break. I was happy with my friends, no social pressure. But then I started seeing some cute guys around, talking to other people, and I realized…I don’t know what’s going on. My small group was closing in on me, felt like, so I slowly emerged from the library. Summer, a girl in Band with me, had always been friendly to me, I hung out with her, Amanda, and Sarah outside. It was nice to get out of the stuffy old library and meet some new people. Since I was outside more, I got to talking with other people—Mindy, Angie, Courtney—there were so many friendly people I hardly knew. I still stayed friends with Summer and them, but hung around Min most of the time. We got along really well.

Let me stop right here and say something. I don’t use people as ‘stepping-stones,’ and I did not use anybody. It just worked out that I kept meeting people, I kinda drifted from group to group. I like knowing a little bit about a lot of people more than a lot about one person. Anyway, here’s the part I hate. McCall and I had always been friends, and I decided to try and join their little group. I acted like them, dressed like them—I felt as if the only way they’d like me is by trying to be like them. Shame! Now that it’s all over, I realize how important it is to BE YOURSELF. If you feel like you have to hide your real self to be accepted, then forget it. IT’S NOT WORTH IT. This is, by far, the most important lesson I’ve learned this past year.

One day I looked at myself in the mirror and said, “Who are you kidding?” This is getting you nowhere. So I gave up. Then Baseball season came. I met a lot of new people, including guys, through baseball, so I was just basically friends with everybody. I got really good at small talk. Socially, it was a fantastic year. I went to at least 8 parties, and was invited to more. It was the only year I had to choose between more than one thing to do on a Friday night. I think I watched TGIF once. I want to say one more time, BE YOURSELF. I think just about everyone wants to be accepted by a certain group. But while you’re getting to know them—speak up. Don’t be afraid to stick to your guns, and never compromise if you don’t think something’s right. Be original. Make people like you for who you are, not the mask you hide behind. I’m glad this happened to me when it did and I’m glad I ended up feeling like an idiot. At least I’ve learned how important originality is, and that’s one of the best lessons you can learn.

“Thirty, flirty, and thriving.”

2010:

6/20

Slow and steady at work. It’s been good the last few days. I stayed up all night dancing and making out but managed to keep on keepin’ on at work. Dan beat me at Scrabble 370-240.

7/1

Rebekah and her mom took me to Spinasse for dinner! Then we saw the new Jeunet movieMicmacs and we laughed a lot and had good conversation.

7/12

It started out on a highly productive note, then after the work meeting, Peach and Roger and I had Mai Tais at West 5 and I fell on my face walking home. Not really related, because I’d sobered up, but stupid nonetheless.

7/27

Great weekend in San Francisco with Lu & Reb! House/spring cleaning this week. Colette took me to happy hour, then the Chanel and Stravinksy movie. Then we cha-cha’d at the Tiny Castle!

8/15

Rewarded by the universe for working a double, in the form of a hot man on a motorcycle visiting me at work!!

9/10

Not much required of me. An interview, a story, easy work, good coffee.    

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