So, last night, I went out. Not like ‘out-out’ (let’s not get ahead of ourselves here) but I went out of the house after bedtime. And not just to buy milk, or a tub of formula from the Co-op near our house.
I went out to the cinema with my female family (and my dad, who can’t resist a meal out and a chick-flick, bless him) and it had been on the cards for a while.
When we saw the trailer for Bridget Jones’s Baby, which must have been months and months ago – I was still pregnant – we all said we’d go when it was released. And I remember saying: “Oh I’ll have a new baby by then! I’ll come – I’ll just have to express some milk for Mark to give her.”
And that was a very long time ago. And it also shows the naive reality of what I was expecting my life to be, while still growing my baby. Or maybe I wasn’t naive. But I was just expecting what most expectant mothers expect – for it all to be okay.
Because I never expected all of this to happen. But it did. And to actually get around to a plan that we made long ago, when so many other plans were cancelled recently, was an incredible achievement for me.
But it was more than that. I have been away from my children twice since Daisy was born. And both times it was for my blog. And don’t get me wrong, both great experiences, but it’s not the same as making the decision to do something for yourself.
And it didn’t even go to plan at first. I was worried I wouldn’t have time to feed two kids, get work done, and get ready in time to be picked up. I was rushing around like a blue-arsed fly when Mark came home from work. And then the plan to have a cheeky Nando’s was thwarted by their no booking for tables under eight rule, and the fact that it was heaving. We went to Frankie & Benny’s in the end and pretty much everything we tried to order they didn’t have.
But then I was with my family and it was a meal that I ate hot. And I didn’t have a heavy bag with me, overspilling with muslin cloths and toys that keep playing tunes that I don’t know how to turn off.
I reapplied my lipstick after I’d eaten, because I was relishing the feeling of being put together. Enjoying the way that jeans pulled my waist in, so different from ‘let it all hang out’ leggings. And I wore a choker. A trend I’ve loved, but never had a reason to try. And I let the very ‘human’ feeling I was having wash over me and settle on my skin.
I knew, of course, that I was definitely overdressed. I looked like I should be flirting with Mark, rather than discussing the menu with my dad sat opposite me, but I was dressed up for me. For my family, it was just a trip to the cinema. But for me, it was far bigger than perhaps it should have been.
I was giddy with we walked into the popcorn-scented cinema. I noticed the lack of desks to buy tickets and the new self-service machines and felt a little sad, because this is the cinema I’ve been to for years. And it had grown up and changed along with me. But as we travelled up the familiar escalators, I felt a buzz and a hum in my bones. I was excited.
I queued for a big Diet Coke with Nikky, my brother’s girlfriend (who I love). And I bought Bill a merchandised cup because, well, the mother in me never completely goes away even when they aren’t by my side. It was £3.00. But it was so worth it this morning when he saw it.
And then, after a quick wee stop, I was there, sat in the plush seats, adverts rolling and a small grin on my face.
When the opening scene began – and I won’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen it yet – I felt like I was being taken back in time.
I remember watching Bridget Jones as a teenager. The first was released in 2001 and I was just 13. The second in 2004 and I was 17. And even then I related to her. There certainly weren’t any Daniel Cleavers in my life (nor any Mark Darcys for that matter – sigh), but I loved this woman because she was funny, and useless, and brave and I found myself an unlikely idol in a really average woman. And that I found actually quite empowering.
I think that there is a Bridget Jones in all of us. I think that’s why we all secretly want to be her best friend. And we are somewhat disappointed that she isn’t real. But then, she is, we look at her every day when we look in the mirror. Or at least, that’s what it seems to me.
Parts of the older films were shown in this latest one, and the juxtaposition between her younger years and now was so powerful. Because (and humour me – I realise this is just a film) so much had changed. These characters that I love, they grew up. And I have grown up. And the feelings that were conjured up in me as I watched were so powerful.
I sat there and I laughed. I mean – I really laughed. And so did everyone else around me, and I felt so good being in such a happy place. And I even cried in parts.
It’s hard to write about without being a spoiler alert, but the whole plot surrounding babies, families, life not turning out the way you expected it to. It was so real for me. And there I was, five months after having a baby, and I found myself welling up. I find certain baby-related things hard to watch even still. I have had to avoid that where possible, but this was different.
And I realised that, well, life does work out eventually doesn’t it? There are always going to be challenges, Daniel Cleavers, embarrassing yourself in front of the man you love, Bridget Pants, and having to sort of fluke your way through life sometimes.
I also have realised, in the last few months, that mentally, I haven’t been okay. And it’s hard to put this down in words and publish it, because I know a lot of people don’t and won’t understand mental health. For that reason, I do tend to keep my cards close to my chest, because I feel that it is easier sometimes. But, realistically, I haven’t been okay.
I don’t know what it is, if I’m supposed to find a term for it. But I do know that I have blagged, faked, forced my way through the days sometimes.
And I realise now that I have just needed some time to adjust, to be kind to myself, and to find my way again.
What also got me recently is that, I’ve been poorly, physically, for a good few weeks. And straight away I was able to take time out to look after myself and heal my body. I had early nights. I drank lots of water. I took a long bath. I relaxed (or tried to – I’m terrible at that).
But my brain, my heart and my mind has been in pain for months and I have forced myself to endure so much and flip a switch and do cartwheels and magic tricks. Because I didn’t want to let anyone down, because I thought I was being stupid, and because I was most probably in denial. Ashamed. Unsure. Embarrassed. Ungrateful?
I needed to accept that the world did not and will not wait for me to join in again. And that if I want to catch up, and if I want to achieve, enjoy things, and be happy, then I have to try. And when I do that, I have to be ready to try. It’s okay to take a step back. But you have to accept that things won’t wait for you sometimes. Life does go on for everyone else, and you included.
I needed a mental break. I needed to step back from a very fast-paced world, rather than try and run the rat-race with broken limbs and no sense of direction.
I realised a lot last night, sat in a cinema, in the dark, laughing a fictional character that I feel like I know so well.
The biggest thing, above all else, is that I realised that I can still laugh. And I am still me. I’m still here.
So cheers Bridget. Thank you for making me laugh. For making me see. And for making big pants acceptable.