When I was cast abruptly back onto the dating scene at the tender age of 38 I learnt very quickly that you could tell a lot about a man from what he thought of Bridget Jones.
It didn’t matter that Bridget Jones wasn’t real. What mattered was that the Bridget Jones story embodied what so many women of my generation fely about their bodies, their relationships, and their age. As Bridget struggled to negotiate the loathsome plus one requests at family weddings and parties, we struggled too, embarrassed at our own failure to be the epitome of relationship success with a husband and 2.5 kids. As Bridget fell for her loser boss played by Hugh Grant we cringed as we recognised our own stupid selves. We hoped beyond hope that for Bridget (as for ourselves)that the Daniel Cleavers of this world would love our minds as much as our bodies. But most of all when Bridget Jones bound her body insecurities up into her enormous knickers and Daniel Cleaver greeted the sight with ‘Hello Mummy’ we all smiled.
We all hoped like hell that there was a man out there who didn’t care about our bottoms the size of Brazil. Who wanted us, despite the fact that we’d forgotten to prepare with tiny knickers. Dammit, we wanted to believe that the right guy for us was out there and when we met him he would say that whilst our bodies were fun to play with it was ‘us’. our selves that he truly wanted to make love with.
Of course the movie embodiment of Bridget Jones was the actress Renee Zellwegger who famously had to gain weight to land the role. We didn’t care. We forgave her the fact that she had to put weight on (ugh!). We loved her crinkly eyes and her heart shaped face. We loved how she looked beautiful though she was still pretty. And I never really saw her as fat.
If that’s fat, then we should all be so lucky to be fat like that. Like Renee Zellwegger as Bridget Jones.
Though it appears the actress herself doesn’t feel that way. In fact if there was ever a stark contrast between actress and the part, it’s exemplified in Zellwegger’s facial reconstruction as seen earlier this week in photos circulating on Twitter and online. She quite simply doesn’t look like her old self.
She definitely doesn’t look like the sparkly cheeky character Bridget Jones.
It’s not my place to judge what another woman chooses to do with their body but I can’t help feeling a certain sadness at Bridget Jones’ demise. She was the poster girl for the kind of woman I have hoped to be – real, not plastic.
The kind of woman who believes that stretch marks are tiger stripes, that lip wrinkles are battle scars, that hip chub is an important physical reserve for when life gets tough.
Renee and I are almost the same age – she’s 45 and I’m 46 – and when you get to our age, what’s in a year or two? I understand completely that her face and body are part of her personal brand and I know that I have been feeling insecure myself about body shape, weight, face wrinkles and the other curses of middle age. But to completely remodel myself? Wouldn’t that be somehow denying who I am at my very core?
I’m not a plastic surgery virgin. Though it is fair to say that the surgery I had to repair my broken (and I mean broken!!) body poost childbirth was so much more re-constructive than it was cosmetic that even medical insurance paid out. But I do remember reading in my cosmetic surgery books back then that surgery on the face was a significant psychological step.
There is nothing that confronts our sense of identity more than changing our face. It messes with our head in a big way, even if the change complies with what society prescribes as beautiful.
That is the huge horror in it all. All that pain, all that healing of physical scars only to create psychological ones. And what happens when society changes its collective mind and decides that long necks or stretched lips are now fashionable.
Oh wait, society already does.
When does it stop? When do we stop changing our bodies to fit in to what other people demand to see?
For me it starts now. For me it’s when we stop trying to be good enough, beautiful enough, skinny enough, young enough for someone else, and at 46 yrs old that time is now.
As Coco Chanel said – “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”
I wish I could tell Renee Zellwegger that. I wish she had reached this stage in her life and realised it for herself and in a sentimental way I wish her signature character Bridget Jones had known that too. In fact, I wish Bridget Jones and all she exemplified, mummy pants and bottom big enough to park a bike in and rest a beer on, was still here.
But I fear she’s gone. At least for me. Goodbye Bridget Jones. Rest in peace.