Names have been changed.
On the surface, I seem to have nothing in common with Bridget Jones. But after three movies and a serious reevaluation of my life, I found myself going down the same path as her.
Created by the London-based news publication The Independent, Bridget Jones is a “thirty-something single working woman living in London” who scribbles in her diary about the ups and downs of her career, friends, family, and romantic encounters. I, Wen Hsiao, am a working woman entering her twenties and typing about the ups and downs of my career, friends, family, and romantic encounters. Like Bridget Jones, I’m really, really bad at dating. Unlike the also fictitious Carrie Bradshaw, Bridget Jones is more approachable. No Manolo Blahnik heels, no Louis Vuitton handbags—just glasses of wines, having “wobbly bits,” and a weak spot for Hugh Grant.
Becoming Bridget Jones is not something I fear, but something I want to endure. I’m turning 20 in less than a month, and I don’t think I’m ready for that. It feels like just a few days ago I was worried about turning 18, but being in my twenties seem different. While some of my 20-something friends are taking a year or two to figure out what they want to do, others are getting married and thinking about starting a family—and they’re paying taxes.
With all of that in mind, I decided to interview seven women who are my age or older, and many of whom are in the same spot I am: unable to keep up with the dating field and suffocated by what is expected of women our age.
When we move out of our hometowns and adopt our own family of friends, we can’t help but worry about what we’re leaving behind. “Family always comes first,” Lucy said, “and learning to step away while knowing that they can cope without you is always difficult at first. But having that gap makes me look forward to catching up and spending time with them.”
When asked about how she feels about dating at this age, she responded, “I think we are the most unromantic generation. Everyone is too picky and demanding these days—within seconds you can learn what someone looks like, their height, job, or degrees, and with so many people to look at, no one gives time to each other anymore.” She followed up with an anecdote about her dating experience: “I turned up [to the date] drenched from the rain [because I’d been] riding my bike without an umbrella. Mascara was smudged under my eyes, my hair was stuck to my head, and I looked like a wet rat. It’s safe to say I didn’t get a text back [after the date], but maybe that was also because of my personality? I’ll never know.”
Now in her twenties, Bee has become increasingly aware of the glass ceiling. “Society has a way of making women in their 20s feel as though they have limited options and a pretty narrow time frame.” On top of that, the comparison between 20-somethings is intensive: “It feels as though you’re falling behind because someone from your high school is on their third kid and your biggest concern is teaching your cat not to knock over his food bowl.” Even in the midst of adversity, though, she finds motivation, noting that “dating today is so shitty it can be good. There are so many dating apps and horrendously bad pick-up lines that it makes you determined to find the one good fish that’s left in this ever-shrinking pond.”
When asked about her friends and family, Amber noted a few epiphanies she’s had in her twenties: “The older I get, the more I realize how unnecessary it is to have a million friends… I only have a handful of close friends now, [but they’re] people I truly trust and feel 100% comfortable with. As for family, you only get one. I’ve definitely learned to appreciate how much my family does for not only me but for each other.”
In our twenties, we all have different goals—for Harper, it’s all about being financially independent. “In all honesty, I want to stop looking at my dad when the bill comes at the end of the meal,” Harpers exclaims. “I want to buy my parents everything they deserve, but right now, that just isn’t a reality.”
When asked about dating, Ophelia was blunt: “I mean, men are men… Shit ain’t gonna rock well.” She also likened the dating process to “pulling teeth,” though she did attribute this in part to being too picky and having difficulty finding someone she could relate to on an emotional and empathic level.” Things have worked out in Ophelia’s favor, though, as she’s now dating a “wonderful, lovely boy now who is perfect.”
Hook-up culture is not always on women’s side. When speaking to the topic, Violet noted, “I don’t really know where to find the right guys.” In her experience, Tinder is “a mess—most people are there to hook up, and only a small portion actually want to meet someone and get to know them.” She said dating people from school or work “feels kind of awkward if something doesn’t work out,” and bars “are for one-night stands or hookups. Help?”
Laura mostly focused on the pressures that come with a woman’s twenties, musing that “society has [emphasized this idea that you should be] hard-working, making your dreams happen, settling down, learning how to cook, traveling, and partying with [your] girls. But no one ever talks about the times in college when you can’t leave your place for days because you’re stuck working and it’s hard to find a solid group of friends or have enough money to actually do any of the things you want.”
Laura also noted that even in your twenties, there will be times when you’ll feel inadequate—you’ll be forced to grow up quickly, but people will still look at you like you’re a child. “I dated a guy for three months, only for him to break up with me because I’m two years younger and his friends teased him about my baby face… [It] made me feel extremely unlovable and paranoid.”
But for Laura, relationships like that have been a learning lesson and a launching pad to better things. “I’ve been in a relationship for the last two years with the most loving boyfriend. We’ve grown a lot together between finishing high school and starting college—he’s become a really big part of who I am, and being able to grow alongside someone with whom I’m madly in love has made growing up a little less scary. I never feel lonely in college because I know I always have him, even though he’s on a different continent.”
Becoming Bridget Jones might seem inevitable, but I know I’ll come out stronger than ever—just like Lucy, Bee, Amber, Harper, Ophelia, Violet, and Laura.
By Wen Hsiao