Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Mister Bridget Jones

Hours spent wanking, 1 (not good); hours spent surfing porn on Net, 1/2 (very good); minutes spent leering at underage schoolgirls, 36 (accidentally drove past school at 4pm, NB must remember route); times thought about sex, 9,500 (average).

I saw the new Bridget Jones sequel the other day (Bridget Jones: The End of Reason), and it got me thinking on the power disparities between young women and the rest of us; and how that intertwines with the sad fate of thirty something unmarried women.

But first, a bit of background. For those who have recently been cryogenically suspended, Bridget Jones’s Diary (and likewise its sequel) is the amusingly angsty confessional of a thirty-something single career girl (cum housewife manqué), penned in wittily bitty diary-style by millionaire Notting Hillbilly Helen Fielding.

Although the films are not as funny as the book, both convincingly capture the whiny, vulnerable, sometimes charming, always passive-aggressive voice and attitudes of the biological-clock-watching unmarried professional woman. The reason the book was so PHENOMENALLY successful, aside from its comic acuity, is that it was the first to skewer this easily recognisable and increasingly common sociotype. Go to a dinner party in any city and you’ll meet your own BJ. She’s the vaguely neurotic woman who sits at the corner of the table with her Manolo shoes and eighty pound haircut wondering whether she could cope with babypuke on her Prada. Of course she’ll probably never find out if she could cope with babypuke on her Prada, because she’s, tragically, trying to find a man in a sexual marketplace constantly restocked with lots of ever younger, ever slimmer members of the sisterhood. Hence Bridget’s pitiable neuroticism.

So: only women bleed. But is it true? Is it true single women of a certain age have it any worse than men? I’m a forty-one-year old metropolitan male, blissfully and undeservedly attached to a very charming (29 year old) woman, but I can well remember what it is like to be a thirty something single male. And I can therefore inform the world that the male single situation sucks just as much as the female. Married men might think the lawn looks heavenly from the opposite bank - that being a bachelor in your thirties is an enviable state - but it’s an illusion. Yes, it does get easier to sleep with women, in a way. There’s less competition from one’s peers. Men can get better looking as they get older, up to a point. And there are lots of those desperate older women (aka Bridget Jones) who aren't exactly difficult to get into the sack (as the film implies). But, the trouble is, who’d want to hit the sack with Bridget Jones?

And there’s the rub. As Bridget herself says in her diary: ‘fear I might have reached age at which male contemporaries no longer fancy me’. Too right, Bridge. Women in their late thirties have lots going for them: they’re wise, well-dressed, full of anecdotes, sexually experienced, often quite presentable, and they’re positively brilliant at finding the right Tuscan tiling for that period fireplace. But stand them next to any caramel-eyed 19 year old with a flat little midriff, and for most men the sexual/marital steeplechase is over before the starter pistol’s cool.

Genetics are to blame, naturally. There weren’t many thirty-seven year old female ad executives on the African plains, so our hunter-gathering ancestors never developed a taste for them; instead they did their best in the circs, and opted for the most demonstrably fertile bit of post-pubescent Australopithecine fluff.

All this leaves us modern men, the inheritors of those crude, youth-loving genetic urges, a bit stuck. All men are in thrall to beautiful young women. And, for the older male, that’s doubly true: male thirty-somethings are in thrall to just about any young woman. Time was when I was, say, twenty-two, I used to fancy about one in ten young women. In my late twenties, this proportion started to go up, to about one in five, maybe even one in three; now I fancy (theoretically, of course) just about all of them. Gimme any woman under twenty-five, I’d be happy. They get blanket approval.

So what’s wrong with this? It creates a power imbalance. For men, older men especially, the world is like a state in the Deep South where the color laws have been repealed but the old apartheid attitudes abide. And young women are the whites, die blanke. Men still instinctively step off the pavement to let young women pass. They still reflexively wait for young women to go through doors first. They will still pay for a young woman's dinner despite fifty years of feminism.

And golly, do these girls make the most of their privileged status. They parade the streets like moustache-twirling blue-bloods in antebellum Memphis. They possess the roads, the magazine covers, the film posters, the TV shows; they are the apple of society's eye and everyone else pales in comparison. And men follow behind (well, I do, at least), staring wistfully after these creatures - staring at them like Romanian plebs gazing at members of the Securitate: awestruck, anxious, sullenly admiring. Like the citizens of Ceaucescu’s Bucharest, men are resentfully frightened of these mysterious but powerful figures in their glamorous Italian sunglasses and long leather coats. Men are resentfully frightened of the power that young women have over them.

OK, I'm going a tiny bit over the top. It should be remembered that, unlike most members of the Securitate, some of these girls can be disabused of their panties with a little suavity and flair. The trouble is, when you do this, the thirty-something male soon realises that he and the girl have about as much in common as Saddam Hussein and the lady mayoress of St Ives. You have zip to say to each other. And that’s the bitterest truth of all for the libidinous thirty-something man.

What does all this prove? I think it goes to show that, perhaps, just perhaps, Bridget was right all along. Single thirty-something men are, as she says, Total Emotional Fuckwits, fairly keen to have children and settle down but still yearning for the sexually unavailable; whereas single thirty-something women are, as she infers, tragicomic loons, frightened of ending up dead in their bedsits and eaten by Alsatians, yet somehow unable to be satisfied with any one particular man who might just save them from this fate. And all of us, thirty-something women and thirty-something men alike, are neurotically obsessed with much younger women.

Frankly, we’re made for each other.


DJ said...

Have you been TOTALLY Honest with the stats at the top of your post?
Hehe just ribbin ya! Good post.

Lisa said...

Just as my panties become moist over your you and your interesting blog, you have to go a mention your girlfriend. Why do that to a nice girl?


Lisa said...

Just as my panties become moist over your and your interesting blog, you have to go a mention your girlfriend. Why do that to a nice girl?