Last night I started the new Bridget Jones novel (despite reservations about the absence of Mr Darcy. Sulk). So far, I’m happy to say I’m not disappointed; it’s just as funny and ridiculous as the first two books, but with an added level of seriousness because now Bridget actually has to be a grown up and deal with grown up stuff.
The one thing that makes me a bit sad – apart from the Darcylessness, obviously – is that she’s now twenty years older than me. I read the original novel when I was eighteen, back when it was just a funny story but not something I could really relate to. Now I’ve hit my 30s, but suddenly Bridget’s 51 and dealing with a whole different stage of her life. Although it still involves the usual chaos and drunkenness. And Daniel Cleaver.
Now I’m no Bridget Jones. I don’t smoke like a chimney and I’m not obsessed with my weight. (Which may come back to haunt me later, given my love of cake.) My parents are normal and have never, to my knowledge, attended a Tarts and Vicars party or hosted a turkey curry buffet. And I’ve never, sadly, met any good-looking, single human rights lawyers.
But I do start each year making New Year’s Resolutions, which I never keep. I share Bridget’s talent for procrastination when I don’t want to do something. And I’ve now reached the age where my friends are starting to get married and have children. I’m happy to say none of them are Smug Marrieds, so I can go round for dinner without being quizzed about my love life. But I do have a Facebook timeline full of wedding and baby pictures, and have had to de-friend a couple of people for sharing a little bit too much information about their child’s toilet habits, because I really don’t need to know that stuff.
I did get a marriage proposal once. I was seven, and his name was Clive. He wrote me a note in class, which as I recall said something like, ‘Will you go out with me and will you marry me and will you have two kids?’ (Back then we were a bit young to understand it wasn’t something I could do on my own.) After considering carefully for all of ten seconds, I decided I was too young to be tied down and said no – which turned out to be a good decision. But that’s another story. And so my life as a professional singleton began.
Being single can be pretty depressing, particularly when you’re always the one turning up to events on your own, and all your friends seem to be pairing off around you. Valentine’s Day is a bit rubbish, no matter how many people tell you it’s just a manufactured holiday designed to make us all spend money (of course it doesn’t help that the people telling you this are all in a relationship and clutching the bouquet of flowers they just had delivered). Incidentally, while doing some research for work last year, I discovered this hilarious website offering advice to single people on Valentine’s Day. Definitely worth a read if you’re feeling blue, it’ll cheer you right up.
So yes, at times I feel a bit miserable and wonder why other people have found their perfect partner and I haven’t. Occasionally I have a little whinge to my friends, who I know full well can’t do anything about it (short of suddenly remembering that eligible bachelor they’ve got locked in a cupboard for just such an occasion) but who doesn’t like a good pointless rant from time to time?
But I also recognise that being in a relationship isn’t the most important thing in the world, and it bothers me when people assume my life is somehow worse because I don’t have a partner to share it with. A couple of years after leaving university, I met up with a friend for a catch-up. By that point, I’d moved out of my parents’ house, found a flat in London and got a job as an accounts manager at a successful publishing company. But my friend’s only real concern was whether or not I was in a relationship, and she was clearly disappointed when I said I wasn’t. That one fact took precedence over everything else I’d told her and meant she went away feeling sorry for me. Which in turn meant I ended up feeling sorry for myself, and that’s never fun.
Online dating is a good way to tackle the singleton blues, because you know you’re pretty much guaranteed a date and you’ve at least had a conversation before you meet up with someone. But it’s also quite hard work at times, and personally I always feel under pressure to make something out of it even if it’s obvious neither of us is really that keen. I think also, deep down, I don’t really expect to meet the man of my dreams on a dating site, despite plenty of evidence that people do just that every day. As a result, my experiments with online dating have tended to end with, yes, disappointment that I didn’t meet The One, but also, often, a bit of relief too.
Because when all’s said and done, I actually quite like being single. I like being able to do what I want when I want. I enjoy being able to be completely myself without worrying if my annoying habits are putting someone off. (Like the way I have to set the alarm for ages before I actually get up, and then hit snooze repeatedly so I can enjoy that delicious ‘stay in bed’ feeling. Or the fact that I’m always running late. Or getting lost. Or both.) I like having space for all my stuff (see previous post on my inability to throw anything away) and being able to
scatter it around organise it how I want.
Would I give all this up for the right person? Absolutely. But in the meantime I’m not going to sit around and feel sorry for myself. And I definitely don’t want my life to turn into one long search for Mr Right while I sit and write a diary about it. I’m quite happy to get on with life while he tracks me down. (And you can feel free to remind me of this next time I have a moan about being sad and lonely.)
Of course, if anyone does actually have an eligible bachelor in a cupboard, you know where I am.