Bridget Jones' All-New Diary
November 2013. Grape: 0. Cigarettes: 10. Calories: Approximately 4000 (there’s birthday cake in the office). Minutes spent on Twitter: 200.
Sound familiar? Most likely it does. For there’s no doubt about it, when it comes to single women, there are few more famous representations than Bridget Jones. When her diary appeared, first as a UK newspaper column an astonishing 17 years ago and later as a global publishing phenomenon, single women everywhere rejoiced.
Here was our everywoman. A grape swilling, chain-smoking hapless heroine for modern times, who made us all feel that little bit better about our own dating disasters. We were there with Ms Jones when her romantic hopes were dashed by the dastardly Daniel Cleaver. We laughed alongside her when she veered from one mishap to the next at work. We understood the dynamic when she complained about her life with her equally long-suffering friends. And we cheered (oh how we cheered) when Bridge finally looked beyond the dodgy Christmas jumpers and found lasting love with the dashing Mr Darcy.
Lasting, that is, until the revelation last month that Darcy had died. Twitter went nuclear as women across the globe, women who had grown with Bridget, who had rejoiced in her eventual romantic success a decade ago, vented their upset online.
It was not the return of Bridget we were all expecting. When author Helen Fielding revealed she was resurrecting our favourite single girl, we expected a happy ending. OK, it seemed unlikely that the disaster prone diarist would suddenly be a polished and poised yummy mummy. But we did expect she’d still be Mrs Darcy.
Of course, real life doesn’t always have a happy ending. But with the death of Mark Darcy came another – the passing of Bridget’s relevance to single women today.
When the book, Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy, hit the shelves, the critics were quick to speak out. For in place of the thirty-something we’d all known and loved was a chaotic fifty-something, juggling life as a single mum of two kids with trying to find love online.
Realistic? Maybe. But when Bridget started asking men to follow her on Twitter, she took a big step away from the way modern women operate. As one British critic put it “I hardly believed a word of it. I didn’t believe that a 51-year-old woman would tot up the number of minutes she’d spent on Twitter, and spend meetings about her own film script sending texts.” And she’s not alone. If popular opinion of the book is to be believed, it seems our favourite single girl has lost pace with her real life compatriots.
Defending her decision to bring Bridge back after a decade of happy-ever-after, Fielding told British Vogue, “In the same way as the whole tragic, barren spinster thing was hopelessly outdated when I wrote the first book, the idea of a middle-aged woman being expected to start growing curly grey hair and wheeling a shopping bag is totally irrelevant. Women of my age are still dating and looking great. A woman’s sell-by date is getting later and later, and quite right too.”
Indeed. But the joy of Bridget was that we saw ourselves in her. And when she starts chasing after younger men on Twitter, she loses us. Not because she shouldn’t be dating, of course. But perhaps because we ourselves don’t want to envisage a future in which we’re doing the same.
“I totally got where Bridget was coming from before, chasing after a man who wasn’t good for her rather than the one who was,” one friend told me. But at 40 and single herself, does she still see herself in Bridget’s shoes? No. A resounding no.
Why? Dating has changed a lot in 17 years. Sure, many people meet their partners online. But that speaks only of modernity, not of desperation. And while many women do struggle with finding a work life balance, the idea of jeopardising one’s hard earned reputation at work because they’ve become giddy over a toy boy is more than a little jarring.
While in the 1990s, the idea of a woman in her thirties being single and looking for a man was reasonably unexplored in pop culture, we’re now a post Sex And The City generation. Being single for longer, focusing on our careers and having children that bit later in life is now the norm. Women are increasingly the breadwinners at home. And while many will sympathise with Bridget’s efforts to hold it all together, the fact is that few will want to see themselves in the giddiness, the dizziness, the silliness that makes her life so chaotic in the first place.
Sure, she was our go to girl back in the days when singletons were widely seen as sad spinsters. She made it okay to be unlucky in love, a little behind in our careers and a bit of a disaster in the kitchen. But in these days of the sophisticated single girl, it seems Bridget has been left behind. Perhaps the biggest problem, the one we don’t really want to admit, is that we were happy that Bridget was happy and we were content to leave it there. Maybe, if we’re really honest, we’re all still craving that happy ever after…