Dear Bridget JonesSeptember 11th, 2013 by Corrina Antrobus
Dear Bridget Jones,
I hear you’re coming back in October! Oh goody. I hope you’ve been well. It’s been what? 17 years now since your first book Bridget Jones’s Diary and 14 years since the film. Wow! Doesn’t time fly? It seems I’ve caught up with you and your 30 something antics. The ones which back when we were first introduced by your author Helen Fielding, seemed like the description of a life so far off. I mean, turning 30 something was ages away but you made ‘old’ look fun. Even in your kooky catastrophic description of life – the calories you obsessively counted, the fags you tallied up, the worthless men you courted…it was all recorded in hilarious diarised prose. It was all a bit of a laugh. But maybe because I thought I would never become ‘that’ woman – one who stumbles into her third decade with an unfertilised womb and an unfurnished wedding finger. Turns out I was wrong and I am exactly that, although to be fair I proudly pirouetted into the 30s ballpark rather than tripped up Afro first. Back then, I romantically read over the description of your life as a bit of an aspiration. The teenage me saw you as the cookie cutter of modern femininity and I wasn’t the only one – Bridget Jones’s Diary was in The Guardian’s top 10 novels that best defined the 20th century. The catastrophic dating games were all just a rite of passage. There was almost an anticipation to the eventuality of being downtrodden by various ‘Mr Daniel Cleavers’ whose treatment would warrant alcoholism and a Milk Tray obsession. But hey, the promise of finding my Mr Mark Darcy made it all ok. In the 90s BBJ (Before Bridget Jones) I never paid mind to my weight. As long as my clothes didn’t cut off my circulation I was good. But you, Bridge, weighed yourself everyday and scrutinised your daily consumptions and headed it up on your daily diary entries. So I bought a diary, purchased some scales and started scouring the back of Malteser packets for nutritional information. Thanks to you, I knew a Yorkie had 367 calories and I’ve not eaten one since Another Level were in the Top 10. In fact, thanks to you I knew what calories actually were and I can recall how heartbroken I felt when Raphael from drama class threw a pencil at me because I wrote it all in my diary.
You also helped paint the picture of what to expect from men:
Don’t bat an eye-shadowed eyelid if your boss emails you using the work messenger to say ‘your tits look nice in that top’. It’s a compliment. Date him. As you did. Have low expectations. If a man asks for your number he may not use it to call you. He might have just used your digits as lottery numbers.
If you do arrange a date expect him to bail last minute, but ensure you’re fuzz free and casually available just in case he rearranges. Or as you put it be on; ‘Permanent Date With Daniel Standby…glare psychopathically at the phone and eat things’.
Thanks to you, Miss Jones, I gathered that 9/10 men would sooner be tied down to a live railway in rush hour than tied to a relationship. My almost 20 year-old self was prepared for a love life of being a maggot on a hook waiting for a slimy catch. If I was flung back into the sea of singledom, I could always console myself with a bulimic’s dinner, minus the vomiting, because poor me deserved it and that’s what women did. You made it look so cool. My 30 something self now knows there was an irony in all that. Anyone who claimed ‘there is nothing so unattractive as strident feminism’ was surely joking. Wisdom has helped me recognise how firmly your tongue was lodged in your rouged cheek. I mean, heartbreak is always a possibility but if a hopeful Mr Darcy becomes a disappointing Mr Cleaver, I resist the urge to hook myself up to a Pinot Grigio drip and quaff speedballs of Celebration chocolates. I still call these acts ‘Doing A Bridget Jones’, acts I now know I’m too good for. A run around the park listening to Beyonce at deafening decibel levels usually puts me back in the saddle.
But, what about the teenage girls who will be meeting you for the first time as your new diary Bridget Jones Mad About The Boy hits shelves this autumn and eventually the cinema? The same girls who could be using you as a scalpel to carve a model of How To Be A Woman? I’d like to welcome you, dear Bridget, to 2013. I hear you’ve discovered Twitter and realised online dating is perfectly normal. But FYI, if someone says ‘nice tits’ don’t date them. Hopefully you will have realised that 9.2st is far from ‘fat’. Maybe you will have replaced the list of things you ate that day with a list of things you achieved that week and if your boss does say you have ‘nice tits’ you simply forward the email to HR. (Although this time maybe your boss is a woman). Smoking is a little passé now, BJ, but if you must smoke we have these things called e-cigarettes which may make you look like you’re sucking a kazoo but at least you’ll live to see 70. As for feminism, it’s come a long way since your first book in 1996. Please don’t trash it. We can now say to someone ‘I am a feminist’ without them ducking as they preempt a punch in the face from an ashy fist fresh from an afternoon at a bra bonfire. Even men are shamelessly calling themselves feminists. They are borrowing our jeans as we walk in their shoes. Here’s hoping your return evokes another generation of diary writers. There’s something to be said about recording life’s changing seasons in your own words. A self awareness and experiment of creative expression I certainly discovered as a result of being an avid reader of Bridget Jones as well as the Adrian Mole Diaries. It can be a useful yardstick to look back on when you need reminding that life sometimes sucks, but then it gets better and you don’t need a bottle of Chablis, a pack of fags or a tub of ice cream to believe it. To the girls reading your diary for the first time I hope that with your discovery they will also find irony as a form of creative expression and that laughing at yourself is crucial for character progression. As your writer Helen Fielding once said: ‘if we can’t have a comic female character, if we can’t laugh at ourselves without having a panic attack about what it says about women, we haven’t got very far with our equality.” Something I hope your new young female fans will realise before they buy those scales. Anyway. I’m sure you have loads to get on with. Maybe a baby to feed? A pension to apply for? All will be revealed in October I’m sure.
Can’t wait. Corrina Antrobus x