If you were between the ages of 15 and 28 back in the late nineties, you read Bridget Jones’ Diary.
Bridget Jones’ Diary was a comic romance novel about a chubby 32-year-old single British woman who couldn’t get a date because she was so damn fat. How fat was she? My friend, she tipped the scales at 136 pounds.
Man, what a sack of lard.
The entire book, written by Helen Fielding, talks about Bridget Jones desperately DESPERATELY trying to keep her ballooning weight under control so she can marry a nice guy and not put up with emotionally abusive jerks like her boss because, you know, she’s too fat to be choosy about lovers.
136 pounds people. Yes, she weighs 136 pounds. At one point in the book she even goes up to 140! I mean, once you hit 140 pounds I think the fire department has to remove a wall from your house just to get you out of the living room, right? Oh Bridget.
Anyway, imagine reading Bridget Jones’ Diary as a teenage girl.
To be more precise, imagine reading Bridget Jones’ Diary as a teenage girl who weighs 170 pounds.
Now imagine reading book reviews of Bridget Jones’ Diary where all the reviewers talk about how overweight Bridget Jones is supposed to be. Then imagine reading all the news articles about the movie adaption of Bridget Jones’ Diary where glamorous movie star Renee Zellweger had to stuff herself silly and gain thirty pounds and ruin her body to star as overweight 136-pound Bridget Jones.
Again, here is a reminder that I was 170 pounds at the time. And a teenager.
I didn’t have a lot of friends or social acquaintances back then. I certainly had no boyfriend! I had no real person to bring me down to Earth and say “Hey, it’s actually normal for teen girls to be 160 or 170 pounds, especially tall girls.” I was a very solitary person who read comic books and Lord of the Rings. And an insanely popular best-selling romance novel that cast a 136-pound woman as a fat loser unlucky in love.
Anyway, wow. If Jones was fat at 136, I had to be morbidly obese at 170. I was lucky I didn’t need my mother to heave up my skin folds just so I could scrub all the crevasses!
So there I was at 17 years old and 170 pounds, reliably informed that my weight was just grotesquely off the scale, and trying to live my life fairly normally despite all of that. I knew people who told me I looked nice were just lying because I was 170 pounds! Any guy who asked me out on a date was probably just teasing me or maybe had lost a bet. I was 170 pounds people! I wasn’t dumb!
(BTW, I want to now apologize to all the guys in high school who asked me out and only got a cold stare in return. I’m really sorry. It takes a lot of guts to ask someone out and I should have been more polite. Believe me though, it wasn’t you. It was me. And Bridget Jones’ Diary.)
Anyway, I didn’t really begin to snap out of my body dysmorphia until college. My freshman year in college I started hanging out with more friends. I was more comfortable. Other people were hooking up all over the place during freshman year. I wasn’t hooking up (170 pounds, remember?) but I was enjoying the new freedoms of living away from home. There was booze and movies and fellow geeks to discuss Lord of the Rings with during late nights.
One night I managed to sneak into a frat house party. Several popular girls were in the corner drinking beer from solo cups and talking about how fat they were. “I am so fat,” bemoaned one girl, sighing and pinching her navel-ringed belly. (Needless to say, none of these girls were fat)
Another girl was sitting on the couch. She was entwined with a very hot guy who I knew was her boyfriend. She chatted with us while letting the guy’s arms snake around her. The entwined girl, in a total teen girl power move, acted like it was normal to be desired by the most good-looking guy on campus. I respected the hell out of it.
The entwined girl on the couch addressed the belly-pinching girl. “You are NOT fat!” the entwined girl said, “Oh my Gawd, you so are NOT fat!”
“I am though,” said the belly-pinching girl.
“You are NOT,” said the entwined girl. She temporarily un-entwined herself from her boyfriend. “Babe, one sec,”
The now-un-entwined girl stood up, “How much do you think I weigh?” she asked the belly-pinching girl.
“Um,….” the belly-pinching girl said. She clearly didn’t know and wasn’t going to guess.”
“I’m 166 pounds,” the un-entwined girl said, “There is no way you’re heavier than me.”
The un-entwined girl then sat back down on the couch and re-entwined herself with her boyfriend.
I had been silently watching this from another corner the entire time. I was dumbfounded. Was the hottest girl in school really only 4 pounds lighter than me? How was that possible? If I were only 4 pounds heavier than the girl with the taut bod and the hot boyfriend…. maybe I wasn’t so morbidly obese after all.
With that the Bridget Jones curse broke. I started to have a more realistic view of what my body looked like.
I’m still not completely cured of course (is anyone really?) … but watching the Bridget Jones movie these days is still a surreal experience. (I tossed out the book decades ago).
Wow, people were really accepting the fact that 136 pounds was overweight back in 2001. Let that sink in. Like…. geez.