There’s a significant event taking place in my life this week. No, I’m not getting married, going skydiving or declaring my passionate commitment to ensuring the survival of the bufo marinus (cane toad). Instead, I’m awaiting the release of the newest Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding.
And like the lead up to any significant life event, I’m getting nervous. I’m worried that the reality will not live up to my expectations. How could it? After all, it’s been 14 years in the making. A prospect which is terrifying in itself for revealing just how quickly time is flying.
My copy of the first volume of Bridget Jones’ Diary is literally falling apart from the number of times that it has been read, taken on holidays, dragged to the beach and leafed through in times of need. The novel has been something of a constant companion in my life – providing reassurance that I’m not the only (slightly frumpy) person who obsesses endlessly about the trivialities of life, whilst paying little attention to anything of significance.
The fact that Bridget is entirely fictional has been completely erased from my consciousness. Along with reassurance, I have looked to her for guidance (yes, really) and inspiration. I think of her as a real person, who lives, breathes and counts calories – stuck in a perpetual state of 31 year old-ness. This is the beauty of Fielding’s creation. She is the embodiment of every woman’s (and occasionally, I suspect, man’s too) emotional vulnerability and propensity to second guess oneself. Everybody has had a ‘Bridget Jones’ moment at least once in their lives (whether they acknowledge it as such or not) and everyone can identify with the struggle to find and maintain their unique identity in the chaos of the modern world.
A few things about the prospect of a 51 year old Bridget Jones scare me.
The biggest one I think is that, fundamental to my love of Bridget, I had complete confidence that she would one day sort herself out. By that I mean that she would reach a place in life where she is happy with her weight, body, friends, relationships and career. My belief in her reaching this stage is linked inextricably to the belief that I will too. To reveal anything other than a ‘happily ever after’ ending shakes the foundations of my assumptions about life. Obviously I know that life is never this simple, but one needs to have hope.
My love of Bridget is mirrored perfectly by her admiration of Elizabeth Bennett and her search for a Pride and Prejudice-esque happy ending. And hey, Helen Fielding – Jane Austen didn’t ruin Bridget’s life with a new book revealing that Mr Darcy had died and that Lizzie was still tarting up for the local country dances in her 50s, dammit.
Bridget’s appeal is that she is the ultimate stereotype of a panicking woman still single and stuck without a rewarding career in her early 30s. As an incredibly wealthy widow with two children, she is no longer easy to relate to for most of those who embraced her wholeheartedly the first time around. Without having actually read the book yet, I would have preferred to read about the struggles of her marriage to Mark Darcy – listened to her complain about his boring lawyer friends, worry incessantly about saying stupid things to his parents and battles over what to name the children – but knowing that she was ultimately happy.
None of this means that I won’t buy the book as soon as I can and probably read it within 24 hours, but I reserve the right to complain about it.