It is a Truth Universally Acknowledged that Diaries Are Full of Crap: 10 Signs You Might be Obsessed with Bridget Jones

Driving home from a party several weeks ago, a friend and I got onto the topic of relationships and marriage, as single girls often do.
“You know,” she said suddenly, “I kind of have this picture of you with a Mark Darcy-looking husband, reindeer jumper and everything, holding a baby.”
“Hmm, that doesn’t sound half bad,” I admitted. “But don’t get my hopes up, because it is a truth universally acknowledged that attractive English gentlemen in reindeer jumpers don’t casually stroll into my life on a regular basis. If they did, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now.”

As I reflected on her words, I wondered just what they said about me. The truth forces me to admit that Bridget Jones’ Diary is probably my personal scripture—one that’s proven alternately bolstering and baffling, depending on my mood. ON the one hand, every other page, I find myself identifying with Bridget as I would with any of my “real” girlfriends, and Bridget’s endless stream of self-deprecation about her weight, lack of a boyfriend, and culinary ineptitude makes me feel better about myself. ON the other, if Bridget is such a realistic portrait of the late-twenties/early-thirties single female experience, then it should logically follow that we will all find our Mark Darcy, but I digress.

As I found myself running late for the same event after which the above conversation had occurred, cursing to myself over my inability to locate a clean pair of nickers, I had a frightening realization: “Oh my god, you’re turning into Bridget Jones. It’s finally happened.” I’m now convinced that “Bridget Jones Syndrome” is going to become the modern-day form of female hysteria. Compilers of the DSM, get on this, stat! I’ll even do some of the work for you: ten signs you might have Bridget Jones Syndrome:

1. You find yourself running late for a party, searching in a panic through your closet and hamper for a pair of nickers muttering, “Shit. Shit. Arghargharghargh. Cannot find nickers. Maybe will check behind sofa.” (You subsequently discover said nickers behind the sofa with no recollection of how they might have gotten there).
2. You think that a man whose wardrobe includes a reindeer or diamond-patterned sweater or bumblebee socks has a superior fashion sense.
3. When the guy you’ve secretly fancied for ages asks you on a date and you immediately send an email to three of your closest friends with the subject line: “State of emergency! Meet at Café Rouge! Now!”
4. When you find yourself preparing for a date by making a checklist that includes the following items: hide diary, grannie panties, and incriminating photos; clean flat; wax legs; exercise stomach muscles; develop inner poise.
5. When you refer to your commitment-phobic ex-boyfriend as “Daniel” and fantasize about him being beaten to a pulp (quite rightly) By Colin Firth as Mark Darcy…or Colin Firth as self, because essentially in the collective female imagination, the two have become irreversibly conflated.
6. When the phrase “Turkey Curry Buffet” is code for dinner party at your parents’ oldest friends’ home, where people who’ve known you since you were running round the lawn with no clothes on will make suggestive comments about your singleton status and biological clock and men you’ve called “Uncle” since you were 3 years-old who aren’t really your uncle will pinch your bottom and inquire obnoxiously about your love life.
7. When your ex rings or texts you and you find yourself pausing before reaching for the phone to whisper the mantra “cool, unavailable ice-queen.”
8. When not hearing from your current boyfriend for several days leads you to concoct increasingly elaborate theories about his silence, ranging from the simple “He’s just extremely busy” to the slightly far-fetched (or paranoid) “Oh God, he’s been kidnapped, or eaten by an Alsatian, or fled the country to avoid having sex with me.”
9. When you find yourself studying an atlas before dates with your extremely intelligent boyfriend in the event he quizzes you about the geographic location of obscure foreign countries (or, you know, not-so-obscure foreign countries, like Germany).
10. When you consider your boyfriend’s tendency to diffuse awkward situations by going into the bathroom as good relationship diplomacy.
So: there you have it. If you recognize any or all of the above signs in your behavior, you might have Bridget Jones Syndrome. Extensive research has shown that the best remedy is eating chocolate and drinking a Bloody Mary (tomatoes =vegetable serving to counteract low nutrition value of chocolate) while watching the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Now, I’m going to send this off with a suggestion for inclusion in the DSM, but—oh, goody! Telephone! Maybe is Mark Darcy! Byeeee!

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Just a Little Smile is All it Takes: Happy Birthday Colin Firth

Winter, 2008: the near-end of my first semester as a PhD student. In the midst of end-of-semester insanity, I’d gone home for the Thanksgiving holiday to see my family. While everyone else in the family gathered in the living-room to decorate the Christmas tree, I sat curled on the sofa watching the BBC television adaptation of Jane Austen’s /Pride and Prejudice/ for a seminar paper due two weeks later. My father, as he so often does when I visit, wandered into the room at intervals to inquire about my progress and whether or not I needed anything (AKA another cup of coffee…or a tranquilizer). What he discovered probably made him suspect I’d require the latter. There I was, feverishly pecking at the keys on my laptop: pausing, rewinding, scribbling, rewatching, and—it goes without saying—occasionally attempting, without much success, to suppress a fangirlish squeal of delight.
“Research?” Dad asked delicately while I manufactured an expression of intense concentration.
“Yes, for my Jane Austen course.”
Dad’s gaze swiveled to the wet-shirted, dripping delight that was Colin firth and then settled back on me. “Well
, I’m glad your graduate studies are being put to good use.”
Just then, my mother joined him, took one look at the television, and declared, “So this is why you declared a specialization in nineteenth-century literature. Suddenly it all makes sense.”

My fascination with Colin Firth has been something of a family joke for as long as I can remember. One long-ago Christmas during my childhood, a distant relative I no longer remember sent me a gift that at the time, they’d probably only picked out because it was the nearest to hand: a video of Hallmark’s 1987 television adaptation of “The Secret Garden”.

The day after Christmas, I sat curled on the rug in front of the television, the distant shouts of the neighborhood children trying their new bikes and roller-skates drifting in through the open window. At that moment, it didn’t matter that they never included me in their games—that I couldn’t ride or skate or run as quickly as the rest of them; I was far too engrossed in the story unfolding on the screen in front of me. At the time, I still had enough usable vision that if I sat close enough to the screen, I could still distinguish faces. Suddenly, in the final scene, I found myself scooting as close to the set as I could without actually pressing my face against the glass.
“This wasn’t in the book,” I thought as I watched, intrigued. A grown-up Mary Lennox was standing in her garden with Ben Weatherstaff, and suddenly from behind her came a voice, tender and caressing, and slightly crisp at the edges—a summer breeze with just a hint of fall: “Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.” I shivered as Mary turned and saw who it was, and as I caught a glimpse of his face, I thought, “That’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.”

Why? Why that man? Why that face? There wasn’t anything immediately remarkable about it; neutral in appearance, passive in expression, but with a hint of something rippling beneath the surface like a lake stirred by a light breeze. That was what intrigued me—that carefully modulated reserve, that passion kept in check. Then I watched him kiss her, and I think my heart spilled into his hand then and there.

That was the first time I saw Colin Firth, though it wasn’t until quite a few years later—after I’d become much more familiar with his work—that I made the connection. Since that moment, I’ve been mesmerized and a bit haunted by that face—a face I’ve never forgotten, though it’s been years (longer than I feel comfortable admitting) since I’ve actually seen it. Over the years, I’ve made (and have been the subject of) plenty of jokes about this…lifelong love affair, for lack of a better term: that Colin Firth is the reason I can’t walk past a fountain or make an omelet without smiling; that (according to my mother) I’ve taught so much of his work in my courses I should probably list him as a guest lecturer; that he’s the reason why I refuse, on principle, to accept a marriage proposal that does not begin with or contain the words, “You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Admittedly, in fairness to Mr. Firth, even though I can no longer reread /Pride and Prejudice/ without hearing his voice, I really think the blame for that last one should be laid at the feet of Jane Austen, since it was she who wrote those words.

The truth is, though, that I’ve cherished a long admiration of his work that has deepened as I’ve been given opportunities to study it more closely, both in my own work and with students. He reminds me daily that passion for one’s work is often more rewarding than recognition (though he’s certainly deserving of every accolade he’s received) and I love his obvious appreciation in so much of his work for the value and utility of literature. I cannot reiterate enough that I think the roles he’s had in literary adaptations are some of his best performances. (And before anyone asks, yes, I have had the privilege of listening to his recording of Graham Green’s novel /The End of the Affair/, and I was entranced).

I don’t know why I feel compelled to share this story; it isn’t a remarkable one by any means, but it’s one that never fails to make me smile. In my mind, I associate Colin firth with some of my last, and clearest visual memories. Over time that image, like so many of the others, has begun to fade, but whenever I hear his voice, if I close my eyes, I can just see that face—can just picture that tantalizing half-smile twitching at the corners of his mouth. Maybe I’m no longer the best judge, but that smile is still one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

The happiest of birthdays to you, Mr. Firth, and many happy returns!

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You are Cordially Invited: the Big Blogaversary Bash!

For the girl who has Jane Austen’s birthday listed as an important event in her iCal and is counting down the days to the bicentennial of the publication of Pride and Prejudice, you’d think I’d have marked my own blogaversary this past week with a bit more fuss and fanfare. Alas, the surprise blogaversary party you were all planning for my stats page was obviously canceled on account of the closing Olympic ceremonies…or having more interesting blog material to peruse. I prefer to think the former.

This year has witnessed me taking a bite out of the cultural capital that is vampirism with my adventures in teaching media through vampire adaptations. My readers watched as I struggled to overcome my fear of waxworks, contemplated the inevitability of aging and threw a highly successful, Bridget Jones-style birthday party complete with blue cake. I have been fortunate enough to have received two prestigious blogger awards during this last year, neither of which are in any way responsible for the expansion of my ego. I single-handedly coined a new term for analyzing nudity in BBC dramas, participated, with great success, in Blogging Against Disablism Day 2012, and pined over the pain of having to endure my boyfriend being shamelessly stolen by Katie Couric.

OF course, none of this would have been possible without the support of the five people who actually care to read my ramblings…and the random individual who apparently discovered my blog with the search query “Colin Firth is racist”. (He isn’t, of course, unless you happen to take Ricky Gervais seriously).

IN any case, I know you are all itching to paint the town pink in celebration of the birth of my blog, so I will not detain you any longer. Just do please remember that as you are toasting my health and longevity with a watermelon margarita, to finish your drink. There are sober children in China, after all.

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Help! Katie Couric Stole my Boyfriend!

Recently a friend of mine, thinking it would amuse me, shared this video with me.
Look at the way she’s stroking that photograph! It’s indecent, I tell you! That said, I must hand it to Katie Couric: she’s got excellent taste in men, albeit my man, who, for the record, she never asked permission to have.

Jealousy notwithstanding, I find the fact that Katie Couric keeps a picture of Colin Firth right beside a picture of her children oddly comforting. Suddenly listing his Birthday as an all-day event in my iCal seems like the act of a perfectly rational and sane individual. (Not, you know, that I’ve done this. I was merely offering a hypothetical illustration).

That said, I consider it my duty to inform Katie that her claim to be dating Mr. Darcy is entirely false—a fact that has absolutely nothing to do with his current marital status. Katie, honey, let me explain something to you. One of the joys of constructing your own fangirl universe is that you control all of the variables in that universe. Thus, if, in your fantasy world, Colin Firth is your boyfriend, he would naturally (and conveniently) not be married to a gorgeous Italian eco-fashionista who can rock an Armani gown made from recycled plastic bottles like nobody’s business.

All joking aside, really, I think Colin and Livia are the most adorable couple ever, and from one Italian to another, I really must congratulate her on her taste in a life partner. She does us credit.

But I digress, for now we come to the real grievance: what every respectable woman knows is number one in the crush code of conduct, the rule of first-come, first-serve. According to Katie, her relationship with Colin Firth has lasted approximately four years. According to my rough mental calculation (and note that my abysmal arithmetic does not apply here), Colin and I have been together since 1994. I loved him well before he made a splash on the BBC, and no man has ever come between us. (Fine, there was that brief recent flirtation with Benedict Cumberbatch, but given the long distance separating us at the moment, Colin and I have agreed that an open relationship is just more sensible). All this to say: kindly step aside, Katie.

Question: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for a celebrity crush?

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Some are Born Great, Some Achieve Greatness, and Some, like Me, Have Great Blogger Awards Thrust upon Them.

A few weeks ago, I was morosely and systematically working my way through a pile of Yodels and Oreos while contemplating my dissertation-related distress and the possibility of my career in academia sinking in a quagmire of calorie-laden despair. How drastically my outlook has altered in such a short time; today I am seriously thinking of changing my career title to professional blogger extraordinaire, because the wonderful and fantastic Breezy K over at The Camel Life has seen fit to bestow upon me the One Lovely Blogger Award. Since she’s been single-handedly responsible for my increased blog traffic, I feel compelled to forgive her for outing my Sunday morning wine-drinking habit. (Not, of course, that she was referring to me…she’s confusing me with Bridget Jones, obviously).

As Colin Firth once put it, I don’t know if this qualifies as gentle reassurance, but right now this is the only thing standing between me and a Harley-Davidson (or, in my case, a pack of Yodels and a bottle of pinot grigio)

With all privileges come responsibilities, and I am now tasked with the challenge of revealing seven facts about myself and nominating seven magnificent blogs for this award. So, without further ado:
1- I have an irrational fear of sitting on the end-most seat on theme park boat rides. After years of struggling to trace the source of this fear, all that floats to the surface of my mind is a story my paternal grandmother told me about a girl who fell out of one of the boats on the Small World ride at Disney World and was caught beneath it. I’ve still not gotten over this fear despite the fact that the story of boat-girl was probably made up by my grandmother as a cautionary tale about not heeding the warning to keep all body parts inside the vehicle at all times. Stand up while the boat is in motion, dangle a hand over the side, and you’ll wind up a tragic story in the local paper…or else be devoured by the alligators that hide in the waters of Disney boat rides to snatch misbehaving children. (Sometimes I’m still amazed that I don’t need therapy…or that I choose not to seek it. Whatever).
2- I secretly (or, not-so-secretly since I’ve decided to broadcast it publicly on my blog) sometimes enjoy watching reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Don’t judge me. Yes, I’m talking to you in the back there…I know you spend every Monday evening parked in front of the television watching back-to-back episodes of “The Golden Girls” on Women’s Entertainment (not that “The Golden Girls” runs on Women’s Entertainment on Monday or any other evening from 8.00PM-midnight. I haven’t any clue if it does. I don’t watch it…or own it on DVD).
3- One day when I was in the sixth grade, my computer teacher told our class a funny story about a blind date he’d apparently been on the previous weekend. IN the middle of the story, I raised my hand to ask whether she had a dog or if she used a cane. The entire class burst into laughter and pointed at me. Apparently going on a blind date doesn’t refer to dating a blind person. Who knew?
4- I perform a cryptic Catholic ritual for alleviating mosquito-bite irritation. Once, when I was about five years-old, I was complaining in church about an exceptionally itchy mosquito bite that was interfering with my already minimal ability to sit still through the homily. My grandmother, in her infinite wisdom, leaned over and made the sign of the cross with her finger on the spot. The effect was instantaneous. Occasionally, in a moment of insect-bitten, skin-crawling, temporary insanity, I still find myself performing this gesture. I can offer no scientific evidence that it actually works, but if you should try it and achieve satisfactory results, remember you heard it here first. Note: Please be advised that this blog is not responsible for any accident or injury resulting from misguided use.
5- When I was a junior in college, my roommate and I discovered that part of an episode of “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” was being filmed at a local salon. Because we were both in denial about Carson Kressley’s sexual orientation, we spent a Friday afternoon visiting every salon in the area in the hope of seeing him…after we drew straws to determine which of us would propose marriage. We refused to come to blows over a man—even one as beautiful as Carson Kressley.
6- I once had a nightmare about being beheaded…by my parents. I’ve never really taken the time to delve deeply into my repressed memories for the psychological trauma in my childhood that obviously triggered this dream, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I had this dream the night I completed my first year of graduate school.
7- My secret superhero power is the ability to turn any liquid into vodka. I thought I’d end with the truth—just to anchor the rest.

So now I’ve done you all the great service of unraveling the intricacies of my life. You’re welcome.

Now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…and the nominees for the One Lovely Blogger Award are:
1. You Knew What I Meant because anyone who’s felt like stabbing themselves with pointy objects after grading a stack of English essays will suddenly feel less alone in the world. Seriously, the urge to drink while grading has decreased significantly since I discovered this blog.
2. Year-Struck because her blog is like the perfect cup of coffee—full of flavor, and I twitch if I don’t get a dose of her every day. Also: I’m totally living vicariously through her travel posts, and I secretly want to ask her if she took a picture of Mark Darcy’s house when she visited Holland Park.
3. Kvetch Mom because her refreshing candor makes her the Bridget Jones of mommy bloggers, and that is quite possibly the best praise I can offer. There seriously ought to be a Bridget Jones Blogger award—it would be the Oscar of blog awards.
4. Tinkerbell because the pesto-crusted fish recipe she shared on her kitchen blog made me an instant family celebrity last Christmas, and because her posts are little sprinklings of fairy-dust in my day.
5. Gin and Lemonade because she reminds me to laugh at myself…and she likes watching The Big Bang Theory.
6. Whatimeant2say because she obviously doesn’t have enough awards, and because she’s far more dedicated than I am and actually finds the time to blog every day. I salute you.
7. Chicks with Ticks because they’re a breath of fresh air, quite literally. You’ll find yourself longing to smell the roses and dance barefoot in the rain.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to release these stirrings in the upper abdominal regions that are threatening to transform into dance moves. Thank you to all my loyal readers. I shall endeavor to continue to entertain you in the style to which you have become accustom.

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Sightless Snogging: Reflections on National Kissing Day

Without the terrific technological tool that is Twitter, I might have gone through the entirety of my life blissfully unaware of such holidays as International Coffee Day, National Gay square-dancing Day, and National Kissing Day, which is apparently celebrated today.

IN my experience, I have very little reason to actually celebrate saliva swapping. If there were a tonsil hockey team, I’d be on the bench, seriously.
Exhibit A: my first kiss- the sightless snog. He was blind. His mouth-eye coordination was slightly off-center. I was 16, and my first-kiss fantasy looked a bit like this film scene. I thought: what difference did it make if we were both blind? Real people, you know, on T.V, closed their eyes anyway, so technically we held a considerable advantage over the sighted snoggers of the world…except, well, not so much.

I knew precisely what was happening the moment I felt his breath on my cheek, and all I could think of was that joke: “What do you call a tennis match between Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder?…Endless love.”

The internal dialogue went something like this: ‘Oh god, that’s my neck. This is getting a bit too Bram Stoker. He’s missing. Should I, maybe, direct him a bit? Yes, I should guide him through it, verbally. Maybe this will be easier with a talking target.’

In the end, he gave the whole thing up as a bad job and just sort of bumped his cheek against mine in something akin to Eskimos…or those cartoon gnomes on Nickelodeon. I think Mark Darcy would agree here that nice boys definitely do not kiss like that.

Question: do you remember your first kiss?

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Livin’ it Up when I’m Goin’ Down: a Dream Ride on the Wonkavator

“If you had to be trapped in an elevator with anyone, living or dead, real or fictional, who would that person be, and why?”
For the past several semesters, I’ve begun every class I taught with this ice-breaker question. I do this for two reasons. Reason #1: the elevator has to be, without a doubt, the single most socially awkward small space in existence. In the same way that we feel socially obligated to wish people a “good morning” regardless of whether or not the morning is, in fact, “good,” we also feel that the rules of social etiquette require that we converse with our elevator companions, even if said elevator companion looks like the Craigslist killer and desperately needs a lesson in the proper application of soap and water.

On the way to teach my first class of the semester several years ago, I found myself—guess where?—in an elevator, panicking over the last-minute realization that I had no ice-breaker activity. Thus was inspired the above question, which has yielded responses from students ranging from their favorite celebrities or sports players to Luke Skywalker, because, according to the student in question, “He could just use the force to get us out.”

Reason #2 speaks to my twisted sense of logic; in a flash of alleged brilliance, I thought that being entertained by others’ fantasies about how they would spend their time trapped in an elevator might aid me in overcoming my own fear of being trapped in one. Over the years, I have been the victim of a recurring nightmare involving some elevator-entrapment scenario: I’m trapped in an elevator alone; I’m trapped in an elevator with a friend; I’m trapped in an elevator with Kevin Spacy in his role as the serial killer in “Seven”. Most frequent, however, is the scenario in which I’m trapped in an elevator that floats in midair and turns cartwheels—a kind of Wonkavator on crack…or an example of what would happen to the Tower of Terror ride at Hollywood Studios if left to its own devices.

After the most recent occurrence of the dream several weeks ago, I decided to conduct some extensive research on the subject. Approximately fifteen minutes spent on Google revealed the following from Suite101.com (and note, the falling and sideways-moving elevator scenarios are the closest to my recurring wacky Wonkavator nightmare): “Falling elevators might represent feelings of helplessness or inadequacy. If you dream that you are in a falling elevator, you could be dealing with something in your personal life that you feel is getting out of control…The good news is that if the falling elevator does represent something you’re losing control of, admitting it to yourself is the first step in the right direction.” Well, thank you, Suite101, for confirming that my life is out-of-control, because my high blood pressure and the empty vodka bottles are obviously an insufficient indicator.

On the subject of the sideways-moving elevator, Suite101 has the following nugget of wisdom: “This motion is neither forward nor backward; therefore, you are not moving anywhere.” Again, apparently the empty vodka bottles are an insufficient indicator of the lack of any positive forward movement in my life, so my subconscious feels the need to send me nightly bulletins. ON the upside (pun entirely intended), “one theory about lateral movement is that any movement at all is good movement; therefore if you are moving sideways on an elevator, you are making some kind of progress.”
Well, that’s comforting. I’ll be sure to pull this pearl of positivity out of my pocket the next time I find myself eating nutella out of the jar and channeling the energy of every available brain cell into conjuring Mark Darcy from the realm of fiction to appear sitting comfortably beside me on my sofa while I watch “Bridget Jones’ Diary”.

Challenge: to the first person who can correctly identify the song lyrics from which I’ve taken part of the title of this post, I will blog about any topic of your choosing. (No Googling, because that would be cheating, and we all know that cheating is an offense punishable by a term of imprisonment that involves watching the 2005 version of “Pride and Prejudice” until you beg for mercy. You’ve been warned. And if you’re wondering how I intend to monitor your honesty, well…that’s my secret. Let’s just use the Honor System, and bear in mind that god is Watching…when he isn’t too busy inventing new ways to confuse Harold Camping).

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