There’s one magic moment in Bridget Jones when she ends up at a tea party with her friend Magda and a group of “power mums”; all of whom are sniping competitively at one another as their toddlers poop on the carpet.
It is, says Bridget, a “nightmare scenario”.
“Thought head was going to burst with the racket,” she writes. “Eventually made my excuses and drove home, congratulating myself on being single.”
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This is a rare moment where the world’s most famous singleton is genuinely glad of her status.
The rest of the time, she’s beating herself up over being “boyfriendless” and neurotically trying to nab her man.
For Bridget, being in a relationship is simply one of life’s major goals; right up there with eating fewer Emmental cheese slices, or cultivating inner poise.
The weird thing is that while Bridget gives herself such a hard time about being single, the people she’s surrounded by are hardly glowing testimony to the joys of a relationship.
Her best mate Jude is perennially crying in the toilets at work due to her boyfriend “vile Richard” ( a “self-indulgent commitment phobic”).
And her other best pal, Tom, doesn’t fare much better at the hands of “creepy Jerome”, who abandons him after an ill-fated nose job.
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Bridget’s colleague Perpetua is hooked up with “rich-but-overbred” boyfriend Hugo, and seems to spend her whole life talking about fabric fittings.
And there’s “smug marrieds”, who in actual fact, have very little to be smug about.
Yes, they might be “having children plop, plop, plop, left, right and centre” but they’re not exactly an advert for the institution.
Woney is married to Cosmo, who, as he urges Bridget to get “sprogged up” at another dreaded dinner party, is “slapping his fat stomach and smirking so that his jowls wobble”.
Magda’s Jeremy is “a fucking adulterous bastard”, causing her to run riot across London in his beloved Saab convertible.
And all of the above are apparently so bored and sex-starved by marriage that they can’t help but sit there “mouths open, slathering” as Bridget regales them with tales of her own love life.
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As Magda tells her, post-affair, “you should make the most of being single while it lasts, Bridge”.
Even Bridget’s own parents aren’t immune to the rumbling marriage train-wreck, as Mrs Jones lives up to her name by briefly running off with the suave and uber-tanned Julio.
The Mr Right fallacy
You would have thought that, being surrounded by spouses who are either
b.) lechy (remember bum-pinching Uncle Alconbury?) or
c.) plain bellends
Bridget would get the memo that marriage isn’t all that.
But still, she clings to the idea that bagging her man is the Nirvana: the promised land of modern womanhood.
Yes, she portrays singles versus marrieds as two vaguely warring factions, but she never seriously acknowledges that the former could be better than the latter.
Being single to Bridget equals being “completely alone”, a “tragic freak” or even “half-eaten by an Alsatian”.
Of course, the original book is dated now, but it’s worth remembering that we, as the readers, collude with Bridget in her mission.
We want her to find her man. We’re all so conditioned by the narrative of marriage and relationships that we, like her, crave the go-to fairytale ending without even really knowing why.
If Bridget took a long, hard look at the couples around her, logically she would think: “yes I might sometimes feel like Miss Havisham in the company of smug marrieds, and I might occasionally feel alone. But hey, much better than dealing with that fuckwittage”.
Instead, she hankers after an idyll that isn’t even real.
The brilliant thing about Bridget is that she is neurotic, and flawed. We all relate to that part of her; it was what made her one of the 90s’ most enduring anti-heroines.
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And I really don’t agree with anyone who tries to argue that Bridget isn’t feminist. She is merely a symbol of her era, and her obsessive hang-ups about men and sex are central to her appeal.
But perhaps we can do her a favour now and re-frame her legacy. Because Bridget’s neuroses are part of her, and the reason that we love her.
We recognise her quest for Mr Right, but we also recognise the fallacy of that (just as we see the same contradiction in ourselves).
We know she doesn’t need Daniel Cleaver, or Mark Darcy, or even babies: no matter what the film endings tell us.
It won’t guarantee her happiness.
Bridget’s love life is an afterthought; instead, we like her just the way she is.
This article is part of a series called ‘Don’t Believe The Narrative’ – we’re rewriting the script for the over thirties; turning the spotlight on those who CHOOSE a different path; celebrating the adventurers and won’t settle-downers. Because this life stage doesn’t have to be all about babies, weddings and work promotions, just because the script says it should. You write your script, you choose your best moments – from epic travel tales to dinners with travel buddies. Share them with us on Instagram using #DontBelieveTheNarrative.
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