By Jo Frater, author of Moving On
London in the 1990s, as a singleton working in media, was everything Helen Fielding described. Bridget Jones and I sat with our friends in wine bars, knocking back Chardonnay (so much nicer than cats' wee-flavoured Sauv Blanc) discussing our love lives, diets and friends, thus nicely avoiding the fact we were social outcasts for not being 'smug-marrieds'.
Fast forward twenty years and me and the fictious Bridget Jones once again find ourselves in similar situations. We are both widows with young children. She has two, I have three. I am fascinated that Helen Fielding has followed this storyline as, since I was widowed seven years ago, I have been amazed at how little contemporary literary reference there is to us 'young widows'. And let me assure you, there are more of us around than you would like to think.
Since my wonderful husband died suddenly of a stroke, I have found solace with a number of other women in similar situations. We have moved on to Pinotage these days and are more likely to discuss the various merits of a slow lingering death over a sudden shock one, but the strength of women around a table with a bottle of wine has not diminished, if anything it has taken on greater importance. Because there are still so many people that 'just don't get it'. Yes, the 'smug-marrieds' are still the bain of our lives... those people who complain that their husband hasn't put up a picture they bought LAST week, can you believe it, and endlessly regale us with stories of their lovely family hols. Try going on holiday on your own with three little kids. I defy you to find somewhere that doesn't rub your nose in the fact that you are on your own, no longer a happy family. Just like we didn't fit in as singletons, but four hundred million times worse.
From our first exposure to fairy tales we are programmed to expect happily ever afters in our bedtime reading. No-one seems to write about the unthinkable happening - until now. Coincidentally this week sees the publishing of my novel, 'Moving On' by Endeavour Press. A tale of four women.... all widowed before they were forty.
So thank you again, Helen Fielding, for acknowledging those of us who don't quite fit in to society's tidy boxes. The Pinotage is on me!
Jo Frater, author of Moving On, published by Endeavour Press.