Bridget Jones's diary

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Saturday 9 March

9st 2, alcohol units 7, cigarettes 22, calories 2,145. Minutes spent inspecting face for wrinkles 230.

Hurrah! Night out with girls. Resolve to unburden self about disconcerting declaration of love from Mark Darcy.

7pm Oh no. Rebecca is coming. Evening with Rebecca is like swimming in sea with jellyfish in: all going along perfectly pleasantly then suddenly get painful lashing, destroying confidence at stroke. Trouble is, Rebecca's stings are aimed so subtly at one's Achilles' heels, like Gulf war missiles going "Fzzzzzz Whoossssh" through Baghdad hotel corridors, that never see them coming. Sharon says am not 24 any more and should be mature enough to deal with Rebecca. She is right.

Midnight Argor es wororrible. Am olanpassit. Facecollapsin

Sunday 10 March

Ugh. Woke up feeling happy then suddenly remembered horror evening. Was just about to broach Mark Darcy story when Rebecca suddenly said, "How's Magda?"

"Fine," I replied

"She's incredibly attractive, isn't she?"

"Mmm," I said.

"And she's amazingly young looking - I mean she could easily pass for 24 or 25. You were at school together, weren't you, Bridget? Was she three or four years below you?"

"She's six months older," I said, feeling the first twinges of horror.

"Really?" said Rebecca, then left a long, embarrassed pause. "Well, Magda's lucky She's got really good skin."

I felt the blood draining from my brain as the horrible truth of what Rebecca was saying hit me. "I mean she doesn't smile as much as you do. That's probably why she hasn't got so many lines."

I grasped the table for support, trying to get my breath. I am ageing prematurely, I realised.

"How's your diet, Rebecca?" said Shazzer.

Aargh. Instead of denying it, Jude and Shazzer were accepting my premature ageing as read, tactfully trying to change the subject to spare my feelings. I sat, in a spiral of terror grasping my sagging face. It all made perfect sense. In the past people were always assuming I was younger than I am, but that has all stopped. Only the other day, Richard Finch was talking about people in their "mid to late thirties" I swear, as if I was one of them.

"Just going to the ladies," I said through clenched teeth like a ventriloquist, keeping my face fixed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. "Are you all right, Bridge?" said Jude.

"Fn," I replied stiffly.

Once in front of the mirror I reeled as the harsh overhead lighting revealed my thick, age-hardened, sagging flesh. I imagined the others back at the table, chiding Rebecca for alerting me to what everyone had long been saying about me, but I never needed to know.

Was suddenly overwhelmed by urge to rush out and ask all the diners how old they thought I was: like at school once, when conceived private conviction that was mentally subnormal and went round asking everyone in the playground, "Am I mental?" Worst of it was, 28 people said, "Yes".

6pm Fed up. Once get on tack of thinking about ageing there is no escape. Life suddenly seems like holiday where half-way through, everything starts accelerating towards the end. Feel need to do something to stop ageing process, but what? Cannot afford face-lift. Caught in hideous cleft stick as both fatness and dieting are in themselves ageing. Why do I look old? Why? Stare at old ladies in street trying to work out all tiny processes by which faces become old, not young. Scour newspapers for ages of everyone trying to decide if they look old for their age. Simon rang up to tell me about the latest girl he has got his eye on. "How old is she?" I asked, suspiciously.

"Twenty four"

Aargh aargh. Have reached the age when men my own age no longer find contemporaries attractive and want younger women. Being a woman is a nightmare. No sooner have young women learnt to deal with fact that men are always wanting to go to bed with them instead of taking them seriously it is suddenly all over and have to start reinventing selves again.

7pm Going out to meet Tom. Decide need to spend more time on appearance, like movie stars; spend ages putting concealer under eyes, blusher on cheeks and defining fading features. Surely Tom will not think I am old.

"Good God," said Tom.

"What?" I said, "What?"

"Your face. You look like Barbara Cartland."

"Tom, do I look really old for my age?" I said miserably, accepting that some hideous time-bomb in my skin had suddenly, irrevocably shrivelled it up.

"No, you look like a five-year-old in your mother's make-up," he said, "look."

I glanced in the mock Victorian pub mirror. I looked like a garish clown with bright pink cheeks, two dead crows for eyes and the bulk of the white cliffs of Dover smeared underneath. Suddenly understood how old women end up wandering around over-made-up with everyone sniggering at them and resolved not to snigger any more.

"What's going on?" he said.

"I'm prematurely ageing," I muttered.

"Oh for God's sake. It's that bloody Rebecca isn't it?" he said "Shazzer told me about the Magda conversation.. It's ridiculous.. You look about 16.

Love Tom. Even though suspected he might have been lying still feel hugely cheered up as even Tom would surely not say looked 16 if looked 45.

Tuesday 12 March

Aaargh. Just picked up paper to discover we are about to go to war with Peking. Aaargh aargh. Pictures of warships everywhere. Realise have spent last weekend of peacetime worrying needlessly about premature ageing. Resolve in future to be less superficial and appreciate important things in life. Also intend to purchase facial exercise video.