The first thought I had as Bridget Jones's Baby opened to a scene of the single female protagonist spending her 43rd birthday getting wine drunk alone in her apartment to the tune of Celine Dion's "All By Myself" — an homage to the franchise's humble beginnings 15 years ago — was that if I'd been smarter, I would've hidden my own bottle of $4.50 Moscato under my sweatshirt and leggings, pretending to be with child myself.
In my defense, I didn't expect the lady taking tickets to be such a stickler about the movie theater's no outside food or drink policy. I certainly didn't expect she'd force me to pull my work clothes (I'd changed into my favorite pair of leggings as soon as I left the office for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who's worn ever pants) out of my bag to reveal my contraband beverage. I had even kept it in its paper sleeve just in case it accidentally ended up peeking out.
Of course, none of that mattered once it was on full display. I did my best to look innocent as I swore to her that I was just, oh you know, saving the bottle to take home after the movie. When she didn't buy my totally likely story, I gingerly placed the bottle (still in its paper wine sleeve) in the mostly empty trash. I lamented the fact that I would be watching Bridget Jones sober, but if I had to lose my wine, this was an admittedly fitting way.
Well, if I couldn’t drink my weight in wine to celebrate one of my favorite fictional role model’s return to the silver screen, at least I could do her proud by eating my weight in popcorn and mini Oreos, the perfect recipe for a food baby of my own.
Armed with my goodies, I settled into my single seat at the theater. And while I love the opening scene of Bridget Jones (both the original and the latest installment), I've seen it too many times in too many other movies starring single women. In many traditional rom coms, when a woman goes to the movies — or does anything, really — by herself, it is an event to be mourned, not celebrated. It's just a phase, something she's "going through." She'll get over it ... just as soon as she gets under Mr. Right. Then, finally, she'll be lucky enough to have someone, anyone(!), to relinquish precious armrest room, shush when he asks a dumb question and, of course, share her favorite movie snacks.
The prevalence of this stigma of implied sadness surrounding single women in popular culture is the exact reason why I, a single woman, chose to see a movie about another single woman alone.
I'm not hoping to be rescued from my cinematic solitude by some guy, no matter how white and shining his horse or, more importantly, how full his popcorn bucket, may be. Even if I'd felt the need to have a movie-going companion, I probably could've scrambled and found a gal pal, but I enjoy doing things on my own.
I don’t want to live my life as if it’s the purposefully pathetic beginning of a romantic comedy. This isn’t the opening credits. This is go time — and I’m not saving a seat for anybody.
I took more personal pleasure in seeing this funny, silly, and, yes, even inspiring movie about as a single woman alone than I would have if I'd invited a man (even one that I loved, cherished, and yadda yadda yadda) to accompany me. I imagine I would've spent the entire time worrying about whether he was enjoying himself instead of simply enjoying myself — and this is one movie I wanted to enjoy.
While the demonstration of certain universal themes might border on the absurd, that doesn't make their central tenants any less significant or true. I love ridiculous, "girlish" media for what it is: unflinchingly, unabashedly, unapologetically itself.
It's mental comfort food — best consumed in solitude, darkness, and massive quantities.
Fans of the franchise, mostly women — and single ones "of a certain age" at that — will be pleased with its return. And those were, indeed, the people who came out on a Friday afternoon to see this movie. I was far from the only singleton sitting in the theater. Many more sprawled in seats separated from all others, "daring" to entertain themselves by themselves.
And to the loners go the spoils. Jones has lost none of her knack for stumbling into both cringe-worthy and laugh-out-loud shenanigans since the 2004 sequel.
Even after all this time, we can relate to both the trials and triumphs of her experience — even if not all of us are in the throes of a paternally ambiguous pregnancy.
Renee Zellweger, despite coming under fire for getting plastic surgery in 2014, looks like herself in the film. While many may still criticize her, can they really blame the literal poster woman for "single women of a certain age" for buckling under the pressure of Hollywood's microscope on her certain age? It's unfortunate that women "of a certain age" fear looking that age lest they fade into the background before becoming virtually invisible. Zellweger was already on her way to pop cultural oblivion when she suddenly surged back into the headlines for perhaps disappointing, but nonetheless career-boosting, reasons.
She still has laugh lines, eye crinkles, the whole lot because she — like her character — has lived a full, adventurous life. But would Bridget Jones be resurrected at all if the actress playing her didn't change herself to accommodate Hollywood's approved idea of what a woman should look like at "a certain age"? Bloody well hardly.
I have yet to reach a certain age. There is “hope for me yet,” one might say.
But would it be so bad if, in 20 years at Bridget's age of 43, I’m still going to see silly movies that I want to see by myself simply because that's the way I prefer to see them?
Would it be so sad? Would it be the opening scene imploring the audience to think, "Well, it can only go up from here"? Or could it be the climactic event?
I believe it can. It already does.
Partaking in a solo activities purely because you want to is not only a form of self-actualization, but self-appreciation. I mean, aren't there plenty of happily married mothers — women whose lives have been deemed the culturally appropriate epitome of "fulfilled" — who would jump at the chance to see a movie by themselves? I'd bet my overpriced ticket and concessions that all the single ladies aren't alone in our desire to be alone.
After the movie ended (spoiler alert: happily, and with the promise of a fourth one on the way), I was satisfied — well, almost. I still lusted after my lost wine.
As I exited the theater, I toyed with the possibility of retrieving it from the trash. How gross would I be if I did? Did the five-second rule still apply if it was in a paper bag sleeve and there was barely anything in the trash, and also left there for more than two hours? Was this a showing of chutzpah or a cry for help? What would Bridget Jones do?
I held my head high, walked nonchalantly over to the trash can, plucked out my bottle of wine, and proudly put it in my bag. As soon as I got home that evening, I poured some into a glass with ice and settled in for a night with Netflix.
Cover image via YouTube.