Waiting till Midnight for Bridget Jones

Helen fielding bridget jones mad about the boyI am fiftysomething.  I’ve been married 20 years.

I never dated my husband.   We just hung out at my apartment.

All right, I’ve been married two, maybe three, times.  But I assure you we didn’t date first.  We hung out.

I am, however, an expert on dating because I went on one date in 1992. I walked out on him after he said, “There sure are a lot of Jews around here, aren’t they?”

It wasn’t polite of me.  I know.  I just couldn’t stand it.

So I know how you feel if you’re stuck with somebody like that, even for half an hour.

And in your fifties it’s worse.  It’s bound to be.

And so I’m looking forward to Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones:  Mad About the Boy, her third book in the series (the publication date is tomorrow).   Reviewers are no longer keen on Bridget, now a 51-year-old widow.  And I wonder if they dislike the book because they are uncomfortable about Bridget’s sexual activity in middle age.  She dates a man of 30.

In your fifties, if you’re single, you should at the very least  be like Bridget Jones, I say.  Or perhaps like Lea in Colette’s Cheri and The End of Cheri, who also dated a younger man.   And how about the sixtysomething narrator of Emma Tennant’s Confessions of a Sugar Mummy, who wanted to “date” a 40-year-old?

Reviewers expect Bridget to be less shallow.  They think she should be more interested in her children than her sex life.

Christ.

They don’t expect this of men.

Here’s Janet Maslin of The New York Times:

Bridget Jones, R.I.P. You’re not dead yet, but you might as well be. In “Mad About the Boy,” Helen Fielding’s latest installment in this once-lovable series, there is a page that lists the things that have mattered to Bridget, now 51 and struggling mightily to take an interest in her two young children. They are: her weight, her number of Twitter followers, the number of texts she has exchanged, her difficulties writing a screenplay, a household infestation of lice and a head count of her boyfriends. The only conceivable reason to read about all this is that old habits die hard.

I share all Bridget’s interests.  Sure, I would rather not know my weight; sure, I have no Twitter followers; sure, I don’t do texts; sure I don’t write screenplays; sure, I don’t have lice in my household; sure, I don’t have boyfriends.

But other than that, we’re just the same.

So here was my plan for today.

  1. Read Bridget Jones:  Mad About the Boy.
  2. Hope I  find Bridget entertaining, because I liked the first book.
  3. Hope I find her dating life entertaining, because I’m not prim at all.
  4. Hope I don’t hate it that her boyfriend is 30.
  5. Point out that 50-year-old men often date women who are 30.
  6. Post about it.
Helen Fielding, age 55

Helen Fielding, age 55

The publication date is tomorrow, so I have to wait till midnight.

I have read five reviews, because editors no longer bother to wait till the book is published to publish reviews.

The Washington Post review was even stuffier than The New York Times. Jen Chaney in The Washington Post called Bridget

a self-involved flake. Is Bridget’s experience supposed to be relatable, as it was in “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” a book that critiqued society’s expectations of women as much as it fell prey to female stereotypes? Or is her ability to have sleepovers with a hot guy while relying on a nanny to scoot the kids off to school and day care supposed to serve as a form of chick-lit escapism for today’s working moms? It’s never clear.

Oh, please. Boyfriends/girlfriends are important at any age, and if she were a lesbian would reviewers react this way?  Who wouldn’t let a nanny take care of her kids so you could have a sleepover with a hot guy?

Do you have to be puritanical because you’re 51?

I’ll find out at midnight when I read the book.

3 thoughts on “Waiting till Midnight for Bridget Jones

  1. These responses are so ageist! So it’s ok for her to be a flake when she’s young but not when she’s in her 50s? Gimme a break! I actually am not particularly keen on BJ but I would still defend her right (as a book character) to still be herself even though she’s older!

  2. I look forward to reading what you have to say about it. I read the first two Bridget Jones books and saw both movies, and liked all the materlal (to be brief). As opposed to Drabble’s books where the reviewers were preponderantly male, these seem to be all women. That suggests dismissal and marginalization in the first place. It’s a type of book that begins before Mrs Miniver: self-deprecating, making fun of the self, turning despair into self-marginalization (The Egg and I, Diary of a Provincial Lady), and several of them started out as columns (saith Alison light in Forever England, where there’s a chapter on the type). Woman as wacky. One I thought of that I like is Miss Webster and Cherif by Patricia Druncker. She is a spinster librarian — where Fielding has broken with the strict limits of the kind is to make the woman who wants to live an independent life be older and yes have a sexy life and children. Now it’s not funny you see.

    There was going to be a movie and (wild guess) I wonder if Fielding killed off Mr Darcy because Colin Firth said he’d rather not (if the movie did go forward and if he did opt out). I’ve discovered that sometimes after a film adaptation is made from a book, the author of the book is influenced by what further film adaptations want to do.

  3. I haven’t started the book yet but…
    Yes, Karen, I think it is ageist, too. I wouldn’t expect Bridget to be a nun under any circumstances!

    Ellen, fascinating about Light’s book. And it is odd, isn’t it? The serious books go to men for reviews, the light to women. That cant’ always be true, though. Yet Drabble is so much a women’s writer that it struck me (The book isn’t out in the UK yet, so we’ll have to see what they do.)

    I hadn’t thought of Mrs. Miniver or A Provincial Lady, but yes, all are newspaper columns. An interesting way to talk about women’s lives.

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