Bridget, Carrie and the Fantasy of Female Friendship

The girls

Just the other day various corners of the internet started burbling over the news that a third Bridget Jones movie might be in the works. I found the first movie charming, and the fragments I caught of the second movie were as gimmicky as I’d heard. The books, though—I’ve read those books more times than I can count, and I can’t quite tell you why, given how much disdain I have for things labeled “chick lit.” The only way I can explain is that Bridget Jones’ Diary was in some ways the first in this new wave of lightweight books about modern women, and so there’s a breath of originality to it, and also of true wit, given that both books are loosely based on Jane Austen novels (satisfying my lit-snob standards).

So how is it that I can love these books, about a somewhat vapid, self-centered woman and her dating life, and hate Sex and the City as much as I do? I’ll admit that I hate the show much less than I used to, because I’m old enough now to identify with some of what the women go through. But man, watching those chicks simper over $800 stilettos and play pun-laden head-games with the men they date is often enough to get me throwing things at the tv set.

The other day though, I was talking to a friend about our shifting social circles, and she hit upon something that explained why I love Bridget and other women love Carrie and co. so much. “I wish I had a group of girlfriends like in Sex and the City. Where we hang out all the time and know everything that’s going on with each other.” And I realized in that moment—the fantasy we find so appealing in these stories? It’s not about Mr. Big or Mark Darcy. It’s about Miranda and Charlotte, Shazzer and Jude. What we really wish we could have are those friendships.

When I was a teenager, I had a number of very close female friends who filled what I’ll call that “boyfriend/girlfriend space.” They were the people I talked to every day, who would pick up the phone at any hour of the night. Even when we had boyfriends, we were each other’s main source of emotional support. A few years ago, I reconnected with one of these girls, and after a brief visit she wrote me, saying, “it was wonderful to see you, but I was also kind of angry, because we don’t have the friendship we used to, and I don’t know that that kind of friendship is even possible anymore.”

Bridget and Shaz

Whether it’s a question of less time to spare, or increasing responsibilities, or lack of motivation—that energy we used to pour into our friendships in high school is mainly reserved for romantic relationships when you’re an adult. All of this is not to say I don’t have close friends any more—I have a good number, who I love to death, but there just isn’t that same intense connection that I had with those girls at sixteen.

And that’s what we see when the girls meet for coffee every day in S&TC, or when Bridget and her pals drop everything to get sloppy drunk and watch the BBC Pride and Prejudice together. I think for a lot of us, those friendships are increasingly rare. Maybe I’m too quick to generalize, but when I’m single the thing I miss the most is the closeness that isn’t by necessity romantic. A movie like Bridesmaids (which I adored), hits this same note—while it’s a movie about a wedding, it’s really a movie about how hard it is to have and hold on to your friends as you go through various phases in your life. I’d say I Love You, Man is about the same thing. I love these types of stories because they make me wistful, and make me laugh, and imagine weekly phone calls and a Sunday brunch that’s rarely missed.

One of the reasons it’s taken me so long to write again in this space is that I’ve been torn between the desire continuing to write about everything I’m taking in, art-wise, and the need to talk about the more personal things rattling around my head lately. This hits somewhere in the middle, but I’m probably going to try and keep things fairly professional around these parts. Nevertheless, it’s nice when what I’m consuming and what I’m feeling coincide so neatly—when I can read a sentence and think “that’s exactly it! That’s just how it feels.” It’s part of the reason we all love these silly little books and shows so very much. They remind us how not-alone we are after all.