Nearly eight years separate my youngest sister Jessica and I. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that many. Other times it feels like decades.
There are three other sisters between us, and for much of our youth I treated her as just another annoying little sibling, whom I was forced to babysit, drive around and chase away from my things.
The feeling was apparently mutual. Jessica famously once asked our mother, “When is that girl you babysit who lives upstairs going to go home?” Humph.
When she was 10, I went away to college. When she was 17, I married and settled in Ashland. She is now 23 and lives in Boston.
We don’t see each other much, and we still clash over many things. In her view, I’m the proverbial know-it-all, bossy older sister. In mine, she is the rebellious, spoiled baby of the family.
But there is one thing that we have always bonded over: Our love for the ridiculous comedic character Bridget Jones as portrayed by actress Renee Zellweger in the 2001 movie adaptation of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a novel by Helen Fielding.
I was home on college break when Jessica and I first watched it together. The sequel came out three years later and we would often watch them back-to-back when I was visiting.
“Silly little Bridget” became a running inside joke. We still quote lines from the movies when they fit into a story or answer the phone in a Bridget-like manner, (“Bridget Jones! Wanton sex goddess…”) when calling one other.
So this fall, when I spotted a story in Time about the newly released third novel, I snapped a photo of the article and messaged Jessica. “Another movie?” she replied. “No, another book,” I texted back.
“There are books?” she asked. Oh dear, I thought, trying to prevent myself from switching into condescending older sister mode. “Yes. I have always wanted to read them, but I never have,” I wrote back.
“We should read them together! It will be a sister book club,” she answered. I was a little surprised, but agreed.
I ordered the trilogy and my mother sent Jessica a copy of the first book for her birthday. We started reading this month.
They are very different than the movies, but even more hilarious, which I never thought possible.
The best part, though, is that when I’m giggling hysterically at Bridget’s neuroticism, 800 miles away, I wonder if Jessica might be too. Somehow that makes her seem a little closer.
Reading together has made me consider something else too. I am, in Bridget’s words, “A Smug Married,” with an established career and a domestic routine. Jessica is a 20-something “Singleton” (although with a very nice boyfriend), who is still searching for a career path.
Bridget has reminded me, in a way only she could, exactly how unconfident, humiliated and fearful I too felt in my “the wilderness years.” Maybe I need to cut Jessica a little more slack than I have been.
I have begun to wonder, too, if Jessica might ponder some of Bridget’s own misjudgments of her “coupled” friends and their own struggles with the next phase of life and begin to understand a little more of my perspective.
It’s just a thought.
Regardless, the books have given us plenty of fodder for many, many more years of goofy Bridget references we can share. That is enough for me.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH is a freelance writer who lives in Ashland.