When I started my second job out in the working world, the CEO of my organization had a big 40th birthday celebration.
"Happy Birthday, Steve!" I said as I left the party. "Thank you, Alison," he said. "Forty is the best age."
I must have wrinkled my nose. At the ripe old age of 25, I was confused. I was thinking that 40 would be a depressing and slippery slope, careening toward the day that I would no longer have hair, teeth, or a hot body....
All gone. Washed up.
Unsexy. Unlovable. Life would be over.
"How come?" I asked.
"Because," he said. "You're old enough to know what you want, and young enough to get it!"
That conversation weighed on my mind for years, especially as my own "big birthday" approached.
And guess what? Steve was right. Forty just ain't what it used to be. Back when I was 12, I remember a print ad in my Seventeen Magazine, declaring "A woman of 40 can't look 30 by dressing like 20."
And what exactly, is 40 today?
Witness the lovely Leslie Mann. The blonde actress with the squeaky voice and an incredibly hot body. As Wikipedia points out, Mann was born March 26, 1972, and is best known for her roles in comedic films, many of which are collaborations with her husband, Judd Apatow.
In 2012, Elle named her "Hollywood's queen of comedy"
I was fortunate to attend the premiere of her latest movie, thanks to fellow ChicagoNow blogger Brandi Wall. We had second-row seats for a q & a session following their latest movie, "This is 40."
She and director, writer and producer Judd Apatow (" "Knocked Up," Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Anchorman: Ron Burgundy,") have joined forces on several movies, using their kids, Maude (13) and Iris (8).
And this one is a much different take on being 40. My recollection of age 40 in the movies is last where we left Meg Ryan (remember her?) in "When Harry Met Sally" in 1989.
Remember the scene where Ryan wails to Billy Crystal, after she learns her former boyfriend is marrying his "transitional" girlfriend?
"And I'm going to be 40!!!" she sobs, tears streaming down her cheeks as she snuffles into his ratty sweater. "In eight years," replies the practical Crystal. "But it's out there...someday!" she wails.
Cut to 2012.
And what is 40, according to Leslie Mann and actor Paul Rudd? Age 40 is....everything Steve ever told me. You do know what you want. You are young enough to get it.
And for Mann, 40 means being....nude.
Yes, for the first time in Leslie Mann's 17-year career, she is naked. In two scenes. I got the last question in their q & a. I knew what I wanted. Despite a woman (b******!) in the same row who was DETERMINED to get her question in there and commandeered the microphone that was being passed to me.
"Leslie, and Judd, I am a very big fan of your movies, and I'm honored to meet you, and have the last question here," I said.
"Better make it a good one!" someone sneered.
"I will, " I sneered back. "Leslie, this is the first time I've ever recalled seeing you nude in a movie. My question is, how did you come to that decision? And Judd, how was it filming and directing your wife naked in a movie?"
They both laughed. Leslie pondered the question, and said "I've said before that I would never do nudity in the movies. But over the years, you get comfortable. You get to the point where you say, why not?" she shrugged. "You don't care anymore."
Judd had a harder time answering the question. "How was it filming my wife with a crew of nine standing around? How was it, trying to match a blue chromakey and a number eight filler? That's how it was to film my wife naked."
"This is 40" is a romantic take on a long relationship. It takes you on a journey of being comfortable in your own skin while facing the challenges of aging, caregiving, child-rearing and keeping your relationship alive.
In my own life, I saw Steve's dreams come true. To this day, he has had everything in life he has truly wanted. Adoring wife. Children. Grandchildren. He has reached out to others. And he has become a respected elder statesman in his profession.
Steve was right. The movie was also right in that life is never over without a decision. It can't be taken away from you without your permission. Life is everything I want it to be. Yes, there are challenges, both behind me and ahead of me. But I have the confidence and faith to believe that I can get through them. At the edge of 2013, I am doing everything I wanted to do back when Steve told me that at 40, I was young enough to 'get it.' I went back to school at 40. I had an internship at 40. I had a radio gig. And I lost 30 pounds. At 40.
Career and life do not stop. And if you take the lessons from the challenges, life can be golden, I believe, at every age.
See "This Is 40.". If you're under 40, you will be encouraged. And if you're over 40, you will be renewed in mind and spirit. It is never too late. And with the new year coming, it is time to renew mind, body and spirit.
Leslie Mann's body awaits!