Seventeen years on, we still want to know. Thankfully, Helen Fielding’s heroine Bridget Jones returns in her third book this autumn. Stylist salutes the inimitable Ms Jones…
Words: Lucy Foster, Photos: Rex Features
There’s a little piece of Bridget Jones in all of us. That time you got stuck in the toilets at the theatre and had to be rescued by the general manager and an off-duty member of the Fire Brigade. Or when you drunkenly launched yourself at that handsome man at the bar, only to discover he wasn’t winking at you but actually had an unfortunate facial tick. Or that moment following a dressing down at work, when you sent a vitriolic text about your boss to your friend, only, in that awful, stomach-clenching moment, for your boss’s phone to bleep instead.
Humiliation, shock and awe. All the classics, right there, in one Bridget-shaped bundle.
Which is why we’re so delighted she’s coming back (the third book, Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy, comes out on 10 October): if nothing else, she puts our shameful social episodes into sharp relief, because no matter how hideously events transpire, none of us would actually turn up at a genteel garden party dressed as a Playboy Bunny. Or wear a waistcoat made of carpet, just because our mother told us to. Or at least, it hasn’t come to that yet.
And as we’ve moved on, so has Bridget. She’s older now (late 40s, we’ve been told), mother to Daniel Cleaver’s child (or so we deduce from author Helen Fielding’s brief return to her Independent columns in 2005), wiser (actually, thinking about it, that’s unlikely) and still wrangling with her own personal demons of junk food, alcohol and unsuitable men. Plus some 21st-century obstacles: Twitter, TVs that require three remotes to set to standby, and the unstoppable juggernaut of middle age.
So to celebrate her imminent return to the nation’s bookshops, and before author Helen Fielding reveals what’s in store, we asked four writers to imagine Bridget 3.0 – a Bridge for 2013. Online dating, binge drinking, trolling and a regrettable reliance on a skinny jean. Ah, Bridget, old friend, how we’ve missed you…
Bridget and… online dating
Writer David Whitehouse once lost a bet to his mother and had to watch the first Bridget Jones film all the way through without sighing
Wednesday 4 September
11st (Nasa coming round to check unshiftable mass isn’t a previously undiscovered planet), alcohol units 0, electronic cigs, erm… one never-ending one, calories 1,500, plus sandwich, cake and things. Don’t care.
6pm Entire day at work wasted trying to decide which dating website (portal? Channel? Platform?) is best for a single mother in her late 40s with no interest in dating. Paula, my assistant, says Guardian Soulmates, but she’s still young and so clings to ideals. And it looks full of tired home counties headmasters. Melanie in accounts says MySingleFriend. She says that being a woman on there is like slicing your toes off and dipping your feet into a tank full of men-shaped piranhas. Apparently you get a thousand emails a minute that all say, “Hey babe what u up to?” WTF? No thanks. She offered to write my profile. Would be more effective to stand in shop window covered in brie.
Kelly the intern reckons I should try Tinder.
“What’s Tinder?” I said. “Is it a drug?”
“It’s a new dating app.”
“Just what I need. Ten thousand hipsters looking at my photo and asking if I’m Judy Finnigan.”
“I’m on it.”
“You’re 19. You haven’t lost the battle to stop your bottom eating your legs. Yet.”
They made me promise to write a dating profile by tomorrow. That’s my homework for the night.
7.15pm Bought Grease box set on eBay. No idea why.
7.30pm Cleaver dropped the boy off. Saw him under the light and was delighted to find out he’s started to resemble a scrotum. (Cleaver, not boy.)
9pm Boy in bed. Sometimes I wonder if he wishes I was an iPad.
10pm Looked at old pics of Cleaver on Facebook. Time, you really are a brilliant, brilliant bastard.
Started trying to internet date but got distracted. Been two years and I still can’t think of anything to tweet, so I went for a picture of my tabbouleh. Which sounds a bit rude. Was then engaged in a charming dialogue:
@BENJILUVSLIFE: that looks like dog sick. Ur a fat old cow.
@bridgetjones48: I’m sorry, is that for me? Still not sure how to use this thing.
@bridgetjones48: Only really came to see what Stephen Fry says. Or Chris off Autumnwatch.
@BENJILUVSLIFE: imma gonna rob you fat cow YOLO.
Hmm. My first troll. Actually really unpleasant. BUT HE HAS GIVEN ME AN IDEA. Don’t know what a YOLO is, but it would be a good name for a LOw calorie YOgurt. NOTE – POSS NEW BUSINESS PLAN. Kate Middleton looks nice on the news. She’s only just had a baby. Where does she keep the baby weight? In her hair?
Thursday 5 September
154lbs, units 8, electronic cigs, one never-ending one, calories erm… one never-ending one.
Seven women in office wearing same dress Kate Middleton wore on the news. Everyone keen to know how my foray into internet dating went, so I told them. “One weirdly aggressive chat about low-cal organic yogurt with a chap who some simple Google research told me is a 15-year-old from Nuneaton who likes Call Of Duty, Drake and ‘BITCHEZ’. I’d add ‘virgin’ to that CV.”
The internet makes anyone sane want to be single for the rest of their life. I’m fine with that. Going for an Aperol spritz.
Bridget and… her friends
Writer Caroline Corcoran has just had the terrifying realisation she is now the same age as Bridget in the first book and is extremely alarmed by this news
Friday 6 September
Cigarettes 0 (excellent), electronic cigarettes 57 and a half, alcohol units 0 (vg), alcohol units if you count Waitrose organic red wine, which you don’t because it’s essentially health food
6pm Ugh. Small problem. Having proper adult dinner party and forgot food. Texted Shazza as she lives next door to aspirational health food deli shop. “FINE, I’LL F****** BUY SOME F****** MOROCCAN-TOPPED HUMMUS.” Is slight concern as fridge only contains: superfood salad, 4x Tesco Finest white wine, farmers’ market brie (v posh), 17x Petits Filous. Luckily Tom’s on a Fast Day and since she caught Vile Richard posting naked pictures on Grindr, Jude’s been totally off her food.
11pm Shazza arrived emptyhanded. “F*** f***, I forgot the f****** hummus.” I had to remind her to say “flip” because little Diana and Dodi* might hear.
I rescued the situation by making a brie salad with Pinot Grigio dressing (easy, it’s just white wine on salad) and got everyone drinks.
“Bridge, I’m f****** breast feeding,” said Shaz and Jude started crying because things were better when we were drunk all the time.
“We should go to Paris again,” she slurred.
Shazza told her that people don’t have time to “just go to f****** Paris” anymore, because it’s taken us four months to arrange to meet at my house and that’s in f****** Walthamstow.
I was too scared to ask her to say flip again. Or tell her that her breasts had leaked all over her new Whistles top.
Jude was doing another miserable Facebook update on her iPhone, hoping Vile Richard would comment, but he was probably having sex with an 18 year old he met 20 minutes ago in the pub.
Everyone else comments – “Poor u, babe” and “Hun! What’s wrong?” – but me, Shazza and Tom don’t, because we know about Tough Love from Jeremy Kyle.
Tom turned Emeli Sandé up to mask Jude’s wails and I decided it was time for my bombshell...
“I bumped into Mark Darcy,” I yelled.
Shaz dropped her apricot Petits Filous and folded her arms.
“Bumped into? Or watched his Facebook check-ins and hung around there?” she asked.
My cheeks burned, but that could have been yesterday’s organic skin peel.
“So what the flip did the emotional flippin’ flipwit say?”
“Well, we had coffee – not actual coffee, obviously, my insomnia would be awful. We had a kale smoothie. And he said that thing again: that he likes me. Just as I am.”
“But now, when he says ‘just as you are’, does he mean with Botox?” said Shazza.
“Does he know your hair’s really grey?” sniffed Jude.
“And what about that non-surgical facelift? Does he mean I like you ‘just as you are after a non-surgical facelift’?” said Tom.
“Because to be honest Bridge, that’s a bit offensive.”
(*Oh yes. I have two children. LONG STORY. Bloody Cleaver.)
Bridget and... her mother
Stylist's features editor Lucy Foster actually did once dress as a bunny girl to a party. Like Bridget, it’s something that she’d rather forget
Saturday 7 September
10st 7lb (10lbs surely dispersed by body fluid loss and near-death experience), alcohol units 10 (v necessary), calories 4,000 (mostly from hospital canteen in form of chocolate muffins to counteract shock).
As weekends go, this could be disastrous. Accompanying 75-year-old mother to her local ‘Yoga with Dogs’ session. Her rescue Alaskan malamute, Sarah Palin, is exhibiting attachment tendencies. Mother has been advised by her homeopathic vet to calm dog anxiety with a tincture of something resembling organic canine Xanax and a programme of intimate dog and owner stretching.
The trouble being that since mum had that incident with that Per Una maxidress and the escalator at M&S, she can barely lift a shopping bag, let alone a 70lb dog. So, naturally, yesterday, I was tricked into doing the honours.
“Now, darling, have you thought recently about your chakras?” she asked, before I’d even had time to speak into the handset. “Er, no… I… Mum?”
“Well, it’s funny you should say that, because Minty, Sarah’s vet – she’s such a sweetheart, you would love her, I really should arrange lunch for you both at that bijou little café on the high street, they do wonderful goat’s cheese tarts – says that blocked chakras adversely affect everyone around you. And perhaps that’s why you’re having such trouble, you know… with men.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Well, darling, come on… it’s not like they’ve been beating down the door. And I’ve always thought you had so much to offer, if only they could see beyond the clothes…”
“Mum! I’ve been spending a lot on my-wardrobe.com.”
“You don’t need a wardrobe, dear. It’s the clothes inside that matter. Now, I thought it would be good for you to take me and Sarah to yoga. We can release our chakras together. And you and Sarah can bond. So you’ll pick us up at 11?”
11.20am Am lying on the floor with Sarah Palin lying on the full length of my body. She’s crushing my chest and the heat of her is making sweat run in torrents down my fat rolls. Is this what the menopause feels like? I’ve certainly lost my libido. Through Sarah’s shaggy mane, I manage to look to the side and see contented owners lifting their toy schnauzers while doing a reverse warrior. Christ, that’s got to be good for your core. Can’t get up. Struggling to breathe. Nobody is coming to help. Can’t they see my legs and arms beneath this hot canine rug? Why is no-one coming? I think death is coming. I think. I think this is it…
12.20pm Paramedic said that mild asphyxiation is nothing to worry about although I should maybe go back to A&E if I’m still coughing up dog hairs in a couple of weeks. Gave me a tetanus booster just in case. Mum thinks Sarah’s anxiety levels may have improved though. Silver linings.
Bridget and... festivals
Writer Anna Hart first encountered Bridget in 1997 in her Belfast school library. It was her first taste of how addictive and funny a female writer could be
Sunday 8 September
10st 4lb. (Binned scales in 2007, but fit into same pair of jeans so all fine. Just can’t wash jeans.) Cigarettes 0 (vg), alcohol units 0 (vg).
8am Bestival! V excited. Not been to a festival since student years, when it was all bad trance and boys on mushrooms. Abandoned festivals when started high-flying media career and developed principles like wanting to change my tights every day and sleep in bed, not in Argos sleeping bag smelling of socks. But Bestival is hipster Ascot, says Shazza, who got free tickets by pretending to be a fashion blogger. There will be bunting and pop-up sourdough pizza parlours. There will be bearded, freshly divorced graphic designers looking for fun-loving girlfriends to invite to the farmers’ market. There will be pics of me smiling in sunglasses all over Facebook for Darcy and Cleaver to gaze wistfully at. Going to Google ‘Coachella festival style’.
9am Incapable of putting on skinny jeans without comparing self to Cara bleeding Delevingne. Need Stella McCartney gilet but it’s too late. Have to get children dressed before Magda picks them up.
2pm We are here! Field is Fabian wonderland of carefree couples, barefoot children and buntingfestooned Bugaboos, plus men on stag dos dressed as aliens. I look at Shazza. “We’re going to need a lot of f****** gin to fit in here,” she says.
4pm Alcohol units: millions, but itsh fine thanks to Alternate Day Boozing: unlimited booze on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays but stick to recommended units on other days. Easy.
6pm Why did I leave my children at home? Am boozy mutton monster, not earth mama with bearded husband, beaming at each other as in Boden advert, surrounded by gleeful tribe of sunkissed folk all dressed like Sienna Miller.
7pm So glad did not bring kids! Am modern maternal genius! Parents all pushing children in wheelbarrows through crowds of stoned teens. Husbands sullenly tweeting ‘FML’ as furious wives spit, “You know I HATE Alt-J.” Spot one beard who looks like potential architect AND divorcé. “I like Alt-J,” I chirp, in manner of fun-loving dream babe, as his gilet-wearing wife pushes the child-barrow over my foot.
10pm Quite want sofa, been standing for ages. (Must check MyFitnessPal re calories burnt per hour of ‘drinking, standing up’.) Quite want wine in wineglass. Quite want to sleep inside cosy brick home, not in dubious £19.99 ‘pop-up’ tent from Argos. Quite want Netflix. Shazza arrives back from the toilets. “I have just,” she shudders, “been flicked by GINGER DREADS. A drunk man flicked me with his hair.” Need shower. Need Clarins bath products. We’re leaving.
Unfortunately, we can’t predict exactly what modern-day scrapes our Bridge is hopelessly failing to avoid, but we’re certain it’ll involve copious amounts of wine. Happily, the third book is out next month so we can reaquaint ourselves with the woman who made our 20s that bit more bearable. Here’s to you, Bridget. (Hic.)
Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy (£18.99, Jonathan Cape) is out on 10 October
Meet Helen Fielding and win a free book
Helen will be signing copies of Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy on 10 October from 12-1.30pm at Foyles, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H. The first 25 Stylist readers to email bridget@stylist. co.uk will have the chance to win a free signed copy if they attend the event on the day. Details of how to claim will be sent by reply email.