Tag Archives: Bridget Jones’s Diary

It Isn’t Only a Diary: How Bridget Jones Helped Me Find Myself

Dear Bridget,
I’ve wanted to write this for some time now, but whenever I sit down to draft a letter, the words get stuck between my brain and the page. It seems odd, really, to suffer an attack of writer’s block when addressing a woman who was once famously accused of verbal incontinence. You, with your candor and ready wit and your lack of (or perhaps refusal to activate) your brain-to-mouth filter, have often inspired me to practice greater honesty in my life, with others and, more importantly with myself. I have also discovered, as have you, that alcohol, while a seemingly effective tongue lubricant for confessing honesty, occasionally does more harm than good. Over the years, I’ve tried to express to others how much your story means to me, but nothing I’ve ever said has felt like an adequate tribute, so in honor of the 20th anniversary of your story’s publication this year as well as your return to the silver screen this month, now seems a fitting moment to thank you.

I first met you as an overwhelmed, twentysomething, budding feminist graduate student in English Lit, between crying over my inability to grasp Michel Foucault and eating entire cartons of ice-cream. When not slaving over novels that I seemed destined never to finish reading and feeling intellectually inadequate because I couldn’t use the word epistemological in a sentence, I gradually discovered that my social life had slunk off into the darkness, crawled beneath a pile of dirty laundry, and died. As I slumped on the sofa with a bottle of wine and a bag of pretzels, I convinced myself, in a fit of despair reminiscent of my elementary school days, that no one wanted to befriend the strange, bookish blind girl; never mind that I was pursuing a graduate degree in English and was entirely surrounded by strange, bookish people. I imagined everyone was attending swanky wine and cheese parties on Saturday nights and couldn’t be bothered inviting me because no one wanted to give me a ride. The fellow graduate student on whom I’d been crushing turned out to be a Mormon divorcee with three kids who flirted blatantly with me while being engaged to another woman and then tried to set me up with one of his friends. Had I known the textbook definition of a fuckwit at that time, I might never have landed in that particular mess, but I digress. To add insult to injury, my roommate (an undergraduate who was also blind) told me one night that “you dress like a woman twice your age, and it’s really off-putting. People think you’re older than you are.” So now I was not only unpopular; I was so criminally unfashionable that even other blind people shunned me.

Thus I found myself, during winter break after that first semester, de-fogging my brain with your diary. As you poured your heart into my lap, counting calories and alcohol units, self-consciously scrutinizing yourself in dressing-room mirrors, and worrying about dying alone and being eaten by an Alsatian, I realized something. Your struggles, your insecurities, your doubts, your fears were mine too. When I agonized over whether or not the size of my butt was the reason I couldn’t get a date or sulked about not being invited to any fabulous parties, you were doing the same. For one of the few times in my adult life, I experienced the thrill of bonding with another woman over the struggles of, well, simply being a woman.

I had spent most of my life struggling to fit comfortably in my own body, let alone fitting in everywhere else. Rationally, I knew that I couldn’t bow to the stigmas of disability; I couldn’t conform to the image that many people associated with a blind person who groped every day for one of three identical pairs of jeans to avoid a citation from the fashion police. How though, I wondered, could I construct a body image that reflected my personality without having my physical appearance and fashion trends filtered through the eyes of others? Trips to the mall were my personal purgatory, spending hours in front of a mirror that reflected nothing to me, relying on others to tell me honestly whether or not horizontal stripes made me look like a circus tent. This reliance on the judgement of others’ opinions of my body, believing that I couldn’t construct a self-image without the ability to see my own reflection, instilled me with a deep sense of self-loathing. I believed that if someone else told me that I was too tall, or too fat, or my hair looked like a bird’s nest, then it must be true, because they could see what I couldn’t. My body was disabled, abnormal, and therefore unattractive, and this, I gradually learned to believe, explained why I seemed to be a social pariah.

Then, Bridget, I met you, and I felt, for the first time, that someone understood me. My struggles, my self-scrutiny, my feelings of inadequacy had nothing to do with my disability and everything to do with the realities of being a young woman trying desperately to keep up with, as you put it, “Cosmopolitan culture.” You, Bridget, helped me to recognize that what I see in the mirror every day is as much a projection of what I believe my self-image to be as what is actually reflected there. On the one hand, you critically yet comically revealed a sadly enduring pressure on women to maintain unrealistic body image standards; on the other, you revealed to me that I wasn’t alone in my insecurity. My seeming inability to maintain a steady, healthy relationship with a mature adult male had nothing to do with my so-called disabled, abnormal body or the circumference of my thighs and everything to do with the fact that I simply hadn’t met the person who was ready and willing to love me just as I am; moreover, it didn’t (and still doesn’t) matter if I ever do, because being a woman of substance means loving myself with all of my flaws, not defining myself in terms of how others, especially others of the opposite sex, choose to see me. You gave me the courage to believe that if I choose to pursue love, I should settle for nothing less than someone who celebrates my strength and values me as a strong, independent woman; if I choose to remain single, my life and my work make no less valuable contributions to society because of that choice.

In the same way that you dramatically imagined that everyone had forgotten to invite you to their Christmas parties, I allowed my acute loneliness to exaggerate the perfection of everyone else’s lives. I imagined that everyone else had a successful job, a fashion magazine-approved BMI, glamorous circles of friends, and wildly sensational sex lives. Their reality, I gradually discovered, was far closer to my own. You gave me what I’d spent most of my life searching for: the validation that my lived experiences as a woman were, in many ways, no different than those of other women despite sometimes being constructed through the lens of disability.

After connecting with your story, my life didn’t magically change overnight, but that reading experience opened a space for me within the communities of women I began to encounter. You helped me to find a voice to participate in the narratives that women told and bonded over every day, from agonizing over the seemingly unattainable quest to find a perfectly-fitting pair of jeans to wondering if the barista at Starbucks who always gave me extra foam was hitting on me. Having reached this realization, I gradually found myself forming deep, enduring female friendships with women who have loved me, laughed with me, cried with me, eaten countless trays of chocolate chip cookies with me, drunk through enough bottles of wine to fill a black hole, and endured hours of agonizing dressing-room scrutiny and relationship analysis as only women can. You, Bridget, with your self-deprecating humor and your willingness to keep buggering on, taught me to embrace the wonderful, tumultuous, imperfect beauty of simply being a woman.

Making a New Start: or, How I Discovered the Wisdom of Bridget Jones in a Fortune Cookie

Several weeks ago, I met a few friends for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant, and as usual, at the end of the meal, each of us broke open our fortune cookies to read aloud, between crunches, the nuggets of wisdom tucked inside. I generally put about as much faith in fortune cookies as I do in my weekly horoscope; neither have ever contained phrases like “A million dollars,” “You’ve won an all-expenses paid trip to England,” or “full time employment.” They’re slips of paper baked into a hard pastry shell, after all, not the Amazing Kreskin. This time turned out much the same. “Welcome the good change coming into your life soon,” my cookie prophesied.
“How suitably vague,” I mused. “That could involve anything from winning the lottery to ‘The Big Bang Theory’ returning to Thursday nights and thus restoring order in my universe.”

On the drive home, I found myself chatting with my friends teenage daughter about relationships. In a mojito-inspired burst of Bridget Jonseian wisdom, I suddenly heard myself declaring, “Never settle for someone who makes you want to do everything they want to do. Don’t sacrifice your identity for anyone. (unless he’s 6’1 and English. Then maybe you can negotiate, but just a bit). Nobody makes you whole. You’re an individual with or without anyone else. You don’t need anyone to make you a whole person.”

“Why,” I wondered as I got ready for bed, “is it so easy to give advice to others and not follow it ourselves?” Everything I told my friend’s daughter I’ve learned from my own experiences. My bruised, battle-scarred heart tells a story of resilience. I’m proud of those bruises. They remind me that I’m brave enough to fall in love and strong enough to survive and climb out from beneath the rubble of crushed dreams. I thought again of my flimsy fortune and suddenly recalled that this month, I will celebrate what I’ve affectionately termed my “Bridget Birthday.”

Anyone who’s seen the 2001 film adaptation of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary knows that it all began for her in her 32nd year, and by “it,” she means everything. Between losing and gaining a job, losing and gaining a boyfriend, and learning how not to climb a fireman’s pole, Bridget learns that being a woman of substance doesn’t mean getting it right all the time; rather, it means learning how to fall, and how to brush yourself off when you do so you can try again and maybe, or maybe not, land on your feet the next time.

Bridget Jones writing in her diary
“It is a universally acknowledged truth that when one area of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”- Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), image credit Miramax

As I thought about Bridget’s story and how much I’ve learned from her about how to be a woman in a world that seems full of wrong turns and roadblocks, I made a resolution to make this year, my 32nd, the year of Bridget. So, to start things off right, I’ve made a list—not exhaustively long because I’m nothing if not practical—of my Bridget year resolutions.

1. Stop obsessing about your job

You have one. Many people don’t. It will lead to bigger and better opportunities in its own time. Life is a marathon, not a 50-yard dash.

2. Stop comparing yourself to others

When you set other peoples’ lives up as the gold standard for your own, you set yourself up for disappointment. Tell your own story. Live your own life.

3. Stop obsessing about being single

Just because you haven’t gotten married, bought a house, or had a baby, you’re no less of an adult than anyone who has. (Re: stop comparing).

4. Stop thinking of your heart as broken

Your heart may be bruised, but it beats, and it feels, and it remembers how to love, if you’ll let it. You’ve been hurt, yes—badly. So have a lot of other people. Your heart is whole, beautiful, and full of love. Your love is a gift; give it where you know it will be treasured.

Before you offer your heart to someone, check to see if he’s holding out his hand, ready to take it. If he’s not, it doesn’t mean you’re unworthy; it just means he’s not ready to hold something that precious and cherish it the way it deserves to be cherished. Don’t stand there thinking one day he’ll decide to hold out his hand and take it. When and if he’s ready, he will come to you and ask you to share it with him. If he never does, someone else will, because you’re worth it. Your heart is a one-of-a-kind, limitted edition jewel. It deserves to be treated as such.

5. At least once a day, tell yourself that you’re a strong, confident, woman of substance, comfortable with who you are, just as you are

Tell yourself this as many times as you need to until you believe it, and even when you do believe it.

Question

Do you make birthday resolutions? What have you resolved to do this year?

5 Times We Fell in Love with Colin Firth

He’s left audiences spellbound with his Academy Award-winning portrayal of King George VI in “The King’s Speech.” He’s displayed a surprisingly impressive set of stunt skills in Matthew Vaughn’s “Kingsman: the Secret Service.” He carved a permanent place for himself in the hearts of women the world over with his tenderly authentic portrayal of Mark Darcy in “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” But there’s a bit more to Colin Firth than a dive into a lake and the fact that thanks to him no one else can ever win an ugly sweater contest ever again. Ever.

Photo of Colin Firth as Mark Darcy wearing his reindeer jumper in Bridget Jones's Diary
Colin Firth as Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), image credit Miramax

In honor of his birthday today, here’s a look at 5 times the world fell in love with Colin Firth.

1. His 2011 Golden Globes acceptance speech

When he scooped up his Best Actor award at the Golden Globes in 2011 for “The King’s Speech,” the first of many accolades, it was easy to forget for 50 seconds that Firth was drawing on the talent for which he was being awarded. Nonetheless, post-gameshow press recaps praised him for essentially showing showbiz how it’s done.

Go home, Hollywood. Colin’s got this one covered.

2. His moment of gallantry at the 2012 BAFTA Awards

Colin Firth doesn’t break the Internet very often, but we all remember flailing when Meryl Streep, in an adorable if inadvertent Cinderella impression, lost a shoe while mounting the stage to accept an award, and Firth, in true Prince Charming mode, retrieved it for her while his wife Livia looked on with an expression that clearly said, “Sorry, ladies. This one’s mine.”

On a side note, reenacting this scene in the rain while running to teach a class doesn’t conjure Colin from the shadows to save you, as I discovered, to my acute embarrassment. But that’s another story.

3. His jab at Ricky Gervais at the 2012 Golden Globes

Colin Firth is the king of deadpan, and that is all. When Ricky Gervais, albeit jokingly, called him a racist kitten-puncher at the 2012 Golden Globes, this was Firth’s response.

Colin Firth 1, Ricky Gervais 0.

4. His moment of appreciation for Jane Austen

In a 2006 interview, when asked to name the women in his life, Firth replied, “my wife, my mother, and Jane Austen.” While some of us have since speculated that this was largely a tongue-in-cheek jab at the fact that his role in the BBC’s wildly popular adaptation of Pride and Prejudice forever entrenched him in Darcy mania, I have to confess that despite my healthy skepticism, I allowed a tiny piece of my heart to drop into his hand at that moment. You’ve said it, Mr. Firth, and you can’t take it back.

5. His flawless improvisation as Mark Darcy

We’ve all seen “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” We all remember that fateful snowy kiss that was likely the primary catalyst for my decision to drag my last boyfriend with me to a wedding in Wisconsin in the dead of winter in the hope that he might be similarly inspired. (He wasn’t. Because you were wondering. And he’s not my boyfriend any more, for entirely unrelated reasons. Let’s be clear on that). But many people don’t know that Firth ad-libbed Mark Darcys forever classic line at the conclusion of that snowy kiss scene.

Pro tip, nice boys: that’s how it’s done.

So, Happy Birthday, Mr. Firth!

Question

What are your favorite Firth moments?

From Feminism to Fuckwittage: 20 Reasons Why we Love Bridget Jones

On February 28 1995, across the pond in the UK, the following column appeared in the Independent:

Sunday 26th February

8st 13; Alcohol units 2 (excellent); Cigarettes 7; Calories 3,100 (poor).

2pm. Oh why hasn’t Daniel rung? Hideous, wasted weekend glaring psychopathically at the phone, and eating things. I cannot believe I convinced myself I was keeping the entire weekend free to work, when in fact I was on permanent date-with-Daniel standby…Right: work. Beginning on Ash Wednesday: “I will not fantasize about or behave ridiculously regarding Daniel Cleaver, boss of my publishing house” is to be relaunched along with the other New Year Resolutions: I will not smoke, I will get down to 8st 7, I will not recycle items from the laundry basket, I will not bitch about Perpetua but work positively with her.

8pm. Phone call alert, which turned out just to be Tom asking if there was any progress. Tom, who has taken, unflatteringly, to calling himself a Hag-Fag, has been sweetly supportive about the Daniel crisis. (He has a theory that homosexuals and single women in their thirties have natural bonding; both being used to disappointing their parents and being treated as freaks by society.)

When the Independent relaunched the columns in 2005, Helen Fielding wrote candidly and, it should come as no surprise, self-deprecatingly, of the Bridget Jones project: “Back in the winter of 1995 I was trying to write an earnest and frankly unreadable novel about cultural divides in the Caribbean, and was rather short of cash. The Independent asked me to write a column, as myself, about single life in London. Much as I needed the money, the idea of writing about myself in that way seemed hopelessly embarrassing and revealing. I offered to write an anonymous column instead, using an exaggerated, comic, fictional character. I assumed no one would read it, and it would be dropped after six weeks for being too silly.” Yet twenty years, three sets of columns, three books, and two films later, Bridget Jones remains a prevailing pop culture icon.

Photo of author Helen Fielding, seated at a cluttered table, surrounded by scraps of paper. Image credit: Pal Hansen
Author Helen Fielding (2013)

Bridget Jones’s Diary, first published as a novel in 1996, has sold over 15 million copies worldwide, has appeared on the BBC’s “Big Read” list of 100 books everyone should read, and readers of the Guardian voted it amongst the 10 books that best defined the 20th century. The 2001 film adaptation, “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” starring Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant, and Colin Firth, grossed a worldwide total of $281,929,795, and the 2004 sequel, “Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason,” adapted from the second novel (1999), grossed $262,520,724 worldwide. Most recently, on June 18th of last year, Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy (2013), the latest installment in the series, celebrated selling 1 million copies. From dieting to dating, starting a new job to single parenting, Bridget tells, with brutal honesty and self-deprecating humor, of the sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-heart-breaking truth of being a woman. For twenty years, readers have laughed, cried, and loved with Bridget, following every step of her life journey from her first date with Daniel Cleaver, to (SPOILER ALERT!) mourning the death of her husband, Mark Darcy (always remember…), and every cigarette, calorie, and croissant in between. So, in honor of one of the most beloved characters of Contemporary British Fiction, I give you: 20 reasons why we love Bridget Jones.

1. For making women everywhere feel less ashamed about harboring a secret fear of dying alone and being eaten by an Alsatian.

2. For the fact that, if you swap Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” for, appropriately, Renee Zellweger in “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” my Saturday nights pretty much look like this.

3. For introducing the term “emotional fuckwittage” into popular discourse, because it so eloquently and accurately encapsulates the post-breakup feeling of oscillating between heartbroken and hurling empty wine glasses at the wall. (Plus, unlike many words in the English language, the ease of pronouncing it increases with the number of alcohol units consumed).

4. For the time she actually *gasps* walked out on Mark Darcy.

It takes tremendous courage and a strong sense of self to stand up to someone you love the way Bridget does to Mark. From amidst spouting self-help platitudes and objections to obsessive-compulsive underpants folding, we can extrapolate a fundamental truth about all relationships here—that to love someone “just as you are” is far easier said than done. It involves recognizing that, however ashamed we might be to admit, we need validation. We need to be told and shown that we’re loved, if not exhaustively, at least often enough to feel emotionally secure. This is where Mark falls short until Bridget elucidates that for him.

5. For the time she didn’t beat Daniel Cleaver’s lousy, cheating arse to a bloody pulp when she discovered his infidelity.

Sometimes it takes more strength to walk away than it does to throw a punch (not that we will ever fault Mark Darcy for valiantly, albeit ineffectually, taking matters into his own fists).

6. On the other hand: sometimes, a good tongue-thrashing is the only way to get a point across.

Preach it, sista!

7. For the time she survived a horrifying experience in Thai prison with only a Wonderbra, a Madonna song, and a scrap of paper containing a Kipling poem as her tools of survival.

8. For the time she inadvertently stumbled upon the secret to gourmet cooking that Marco Pierre White certainly never shared with us: the way to a man’s heart is through a mess of blue soup and congealed green gunge.

9. For the time she had the courage to ask Colin Firth the question that has been torturing Pride and Prejudice fans for the past two centuries: “Do you think Darcy and Elizabeth would have had sex before the wedding?” (He thinks they would have, by the way. Obviously. Ya know, because you were wondering).

10. And speaking of Colin Firth, this interview just makes all of my fantasies look like the diverting daydreams of a perfectly sane, well-adjusted woman.

I no longer feel ashamed. Thank you, Bridget.

11. For educating us about the mystical properties of terracotta oil-burners, which do, in fact, take in milk. Ask Mark Darcy; he swears he saw it with his own eyes, and a barrister would never lie under oath.

12. For volunteering herself as the comic poster child for basic ski safety, such as, rule number 1: when skiing, always wear skis. Neglecting this usually doesn’t end well.

13. For believing that certain skills, i.e. the ability to ski, the ability to write eloquent Christmas cards, and developing inner poise, improve in direct proportion to number of alcohol units consumed while endeavoring to perfect said skills.

14. For reminding us that women of substance don’t pine over ex-boyfriends and sit waiting for the phone to ring in manner of Pavlov’s dog.

15. And then for making us feel better when we do engage in Pavlovian dog-like behavior and promptly indulge in breakup sex with said ex when he does decide to ring. Because people are human.

16. For the time she succeeded in getting Mark Darcy to defend the postmodernist merits of “Blind Date.” Because let’s face it, there’s something deeply satisfying about the knowledge that even hoity-toity top human rights barristers who drive fancy cars and live in wedding cake-shaped houses in Holland Park are still human enough to occasionally be slaves to mainstream popular culture.

17. (SPOILER ALERT!) For the time she helped Billy and Mabel to mail Father’s Day cards to Mark under the address “Daddy, Heaven, the sky.” Because sometimes being a single parent means accepting that, whatever you do, there is still a gap in your children’s hearts, and the only thing you can fill it with is extra love.

18. For her saint-like show of restraint at the smug married dinner party during which she was forced to endure Woney asking why she wasn’t married yet in a simpering voice while stroking her own visibly pregnant belly. Here’s the thing, all you Woneys of the world: when you ask a singleton that question, this is what we’re really thinking: “Because if I had to cook Cosmo’s dinner then get into the same bed as him just once, let alone every night, I’d tear off my own head and eat it.” But thanks to Bridget, we know that sometimes inner poise is nothing more than biting one’s tongue to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, and this is what makes us superior creatures and women of substance.

19. For educating readers about the pitfalls of tweeting under the influence of alcohol. Exhibit A:

11.07 p.m. @JoneseyBJ ‘They toil not, neither do they tweet.’ Hmm. No, they do tweet though. Thasu point with birds.

11.08 p.m. @JoneseyBJ Anyway f*** em. Stupid birds flapping around tweeting all over s place. Oh oh look at me! I’m a bird!

11.15 p.m. @JoneseyBJ Hate birds. Look at that movie ‘The Birds’! Birds can turn MAN-EATING.

11.16 p.m. @JoneseyBJ Pecking people’s eyes out with 60s hairdos. Vicious nasty birds.

11.30 p.m. @JoneseyBJ 85 followess gone waway. Why? Why’wasi hwohave I don? Comeback!

@JoneseyBJ Noo! Follwers draining away as if through sieve.

@JoneseyBJ Nooo! Hate bireds Hatetweetings Hate drainqine away follwoers. An goingsoto bed!

I’m now going to keep that on my desktop as a caveat against “Twunking.”

20. For reminding women everywhere that sometimes feminism is not about political movements, or defying marriage statistics, or plotting ways to lock men in kennels until they’ve learned to wash their own socks and do the washing up, but about living honestly, being true to yourself, and listening to the quiet voice in your heart that tells you to love yourself, just as you are.

So, here’s to you, Bridget Jones, just as you are!