25 Years of Bridget Jones’s Diary: A Valentine’s Day Date for All the Single Women in their 30s

Pop Culture

25 Years of Bridget Jones’s Diary: A Valentine’s Day Date for All the Single Women in their 30s

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

I’m too old to pretend that I’m not a complete sucker for romcoms and the books that make up their source material.

Viewing #284703 of When Harry Met Sally? Yes, please. Crappy adaptations of Pride & Prejudice I’ll watch them all. Hell, the first time Daphne and Simon’s pinkies grazed each other, I spilled my wine (of course there was wine involved, there always is) in glee. It’s the reason no new romantic interest can be allowed a peek into my OTT history. Let’s face it, the “Continue Watching” and “Recommended For You” swim-lane on Netflix, Prime, and Hotstar can and do determine the fate of a fledgling romance. You simply cannot look at a man the same way once you realise he’s a DC guy. Ew.

My favourite romcoms and I even have annual dates. Bridget Jones and I have been each other’s Valentine’s Day date for several years now, no matter who we’re dating or doing. This year’s get together has an added edge – Helen Fielding’s worldwide best-selling novel, of which the movie is a namesake, turned 25 a few days ago. It is possible that I might be currently tearing through my well-loved copies of the four books that make up the Bridget Jones quartet in preparation for our big date this year. The source material must be shown reverence and respect, after all.

I’ll admit this though, as enjoyable as the movie and the books were in the early 2000s, when I first stumbled upon them, I’ve only come to truly appreciate them in the last five years, as have several other friends who found themselves unexpectedly single in their 30s. Somehow, for a cocktail of reasons, we weren’t expecting it. I mean, do you blame us? Every RWA and kitty party has at least half a dozen Sima aunties whispering poisonous nothings into the ears of mothers with daughters in their 20s. There was a time when we wondered if we’d be allowed to even cross 25 without being parceled off to the US as the carry-on luggage with an IITian groom. No one told us we were going to have to do life as single women in their 30s.

Bridget Jones and I have been each other’s Valentine’s Day date for several years now.

Obviously, we turned to pop culture to fill in the educational gaps. And mine was the unlucky generation that stupidly believed that Sex And The City was the scaffolding around which our generational identity could be built. As Julia Roberts says in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Big. Hug.” (But I can’t go shopping now, because that’s not what adults do every time they’re miffed, and also because, well, finances, or the lack of them.)

There is no love more powerful than the one built on a foundation of profound disdain. So Bridget has Carrie Bradshaw to thank for all the love she received from women (like me) who very quickly realised that our lives will never look like the Cosmopolitan-sipping foursome’s. While that’s a rude, disappointing realisation when it first hits, somewhere along the way, when you start wanting to throw friends out of your house at 10 am and slip into the covers with a hot water bottle, you’ll even have the sense to be thankful for it. Spending the night in heels in dresses with plunging necklines and dangerous slits that demand that you wear thongs that keep riding up the bum is my idea of a personal hell.

You can take dozens of definitive quizzes to find the answer to the question that has plagued all of womankind since 1998 – are you a Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, or Samantha? – but the truth is that we’re all secretly Bridget, the woman who dutifully records the loss of 72 pounds and a gain of 74 and can admit to herself unemotionally that chances of getting laid increase exponentially while wearing a tent-like underwear (no it’s not a “panty”) that lovingly holds all the jiggly, squishy bits in, even if she feels a moment of excruciating embarrassment when the object of her carnal cravings sets eyes on them. Eyes on the prize, ladies. Eyes always on the prize.

Oddly enough, there’s so much in common between Bridget and Carrie. Both are single women in their 30s, with careers in publishing, with a linking for alcohol and cigarettes, in love with a successful, emotionally unavailable man, with three close friends to help dissect every prospective and ongoing relationship.

The truth is that we’re all secretly Bridget.

But where Bridget’s clumsiness is authentic and her preoccupations relatable, Carrie and Co., just make you feel bad. Most of us are never going to be as fashionable as Carrie, as driven as Miranda, as confident – sexually and otherwise! – as Samantha, or as pore-less as Charlotte. I didn’t realise it in my 20s, when I was trying hard to be so many people all at once that all SATC ever did was make me feel bad for being normal, and romanticised the idea of being in a codependent relationship with a man-baby.

And then there was Bridget. Gauche, clumsy, but still, confident. Struggling with loneliness, but with enough self-respect to walk away from her version of Mr Big because she doesn’t want to just be his “good enough”, which is what makes her relevant even today. Because far too many women, even now, are secretly obsessed with the idea of reforming the rogue and being the only one who cured him of his commitment phobia. No, no, no, no. Be like Bridget. Bridget wants a man, but doesn’t need his validation.

She’s the unlikely single-girl role model I didn’t know I needed, until I saw her unsexy struggle to get into her corset. God knows I’ve had my share of those, when I thought I’d rupture an organ and bleed to death in the middle of a party, but at least my ghost would be fashionably girded.

Who can be a better V-Day date than that? Bumble boys may come and go, but Bridget and I are forever.