I first met Bridget Jones in a used book store during university; I squirrelled my tattered copy back to my room and sped through it in one sitting.
I had transferred to Queen’s as a third-year student, partly because I regretted not going away for school in the first place, and partly because my hometown boyfriend went there. (As if in a Fielding novel, he dumped me immediately after I sent away my acceptance letter.) The room I had rented, sight unseen, was dreary, my roommates were unfriendly, and the only non-stranger in town wanted to sleep with other girls while maintaining the sexual status quo with me. I spent a lot of time in tears.
Bridget was older—30-something to my 21—and actually had a life (nights out at the wine bar! drunken snogs with the downstairs neighbour!), but seemed a kindred spirit nonetheless. We were both terrible with money and obsessed with losing weight, and regularly fell prey to emotional fuckwits. (I continued to sleep with my ex, on and off, for the next five years.)
I immediately passed along my copy of Bridget Jones’s Diary to my best friend back home, Sarah, and soon we were referring to our own quests for “inner poise,” peppering our conversations with exclamations of “Fack!” and “Gaahhhh!” and reciting our favourite passages by heart—“Jerrers, you fucking adulterous bastard! How do you open the bonnet on the Saab!” Needless to say, we were ecstatic when we heard a sequel was coming.
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason was, sadly, a so-so read. I quickly found myself frustrated with the fact that Bridget just couldn’t get it together already. The language didn’t delight as much, and a handful of continuity issues arose. “I don’t remember Bridget eating chocolate croissants in the first book!” Sarah declared indignantly, about our fictional BFF’s new favourite food.
While Sarah and I eventually grew apart, I remained devoted to Bridget, rereading BJD every Christmas. When it was announced earlier this year that Helen Fielding was writing a third book in the series, I had mixed feelings about catching up with current-day Bridget. But when a copy of Mad About the Boy landed on my desk, I couldn’t open it fast enough.
Bridget Jones was back, and she was… a 51-year-old single mother? I immediately felt, to quote Bridget, v. depressed. Somehow, it all seemed too real. The situation didn’t improve as I plowed my way through the book and found it rife with fart references, recycled jokes and constant Twitter gaffes (“Gaah! 85 followers gone away. Why?”). The plot piqued my curiosity somewhat—once I had recovered from a shocking, way-too-heavy twist that I won’t spoil for you—but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Bridget 3.0 wasn’t terribly… smart. I had grown wiser in the past 15 years; why hadn’t she? Inserting old Bridget into this new, serious situ was disconcerting and slightly disturbing. And what had seemed charming in her 30s (Bridget drunk-writes her Christmas cards) was lame at 51 (Bridget drunk-texts and -tweets). I continued reading with the grim determination one might employ to Facebook-stalk an ex.
At the end, I hoped to never hear from Bridget again (save during our yearly Christmas visit). Perhaps this was my fault, not Fielding’s. At 36, I’ve been feeling the passage of time more acutely, as I, and everyone I love, gets older. Of course, it isn’t all bad: I’m no longer dead broke, and I’m now married to someone who only ever wants to sleep with me. But watching people age—without evolving—is an awful kind of sadness.
“The trouble with trying to [date] when you get older is that everything becomes so loaded,” says original, best, book-one Bridget. Really, that’s the problem with getting older, period. Unavoidable, yes, but I’d rather Bridget—who’s at her best slurping Chardonnay, smoking fags and living an entirely superficial existence—be spared that fate.
Do you agree with Maureen? Tweet her your thoughts at @MaureenHalushak.