I’ve only been in England eleven or twelve days and I’ve already watched Bridget Jones’s Diary twice. Always skeptical of popular favorites- and not a Zellweger fan- I am seven years late watching this romantic comedy, and if current trends are any indication, likely to make up for those lost years very quickly.
I find the movie cathartic because Bridget not only has zero self-control, she wins Colin Firth because of her lack of self-control.
I too have wondered where mine went, although interestingly, am having far fewer makeout sessions and drinkfests then in the past when my self-control was at its peak. This is a quieter abandon.
I’m staring at clover fields for ten minutes at a time, just because it feels good to lean on the fence. I’m ignoring nearby adults in favor of rolling around on the beach with a four year old. I’m mentioning to my new boss, before I’ve even started officially caring for her children, that I’ve “gone through periods of depression myself.” More importantly, I’m doing these things without being aware that I’m doing them, only later to think, “That was a bit odd, wasn’t it?”
In the past, repressed as it sounds, I would have stared at the clover while thinking, “I should be walking/thinking/worrying.” I would have watched myself on the beach as though observing a stranger, through every roll. I would have kept my history of depression to myself until I knew my boss better.
My internal censor has always wanted me to appear outwardly normal, calm, reasoned, even-tempered, rational, sensible. My behavior is not normally normal, so this desire causes a constant mental battle between what I’d like to do, what I think I should do, and what I think everyone else thinks I should think I… you get the idea? Eventually you drop all the balls and stare at the surprised audience.
A few weeks ago I described a day in Barcelona to my Austrian friend. I mentioned that crazy men always try to attach themselves to me when I’m in a new city. Some normal-looking but mentally questionable man will start a conversation with me and attempt to take me to lunch, drinks, a chapel. I assumed this was a common female experience, like being leered at on the bus, so imagine my surprise when she hardly reacted. No, she said, that sort of thing never happened to her. “I must look naive,” I said, “Like an easy target.” Again she shook her head, pushing back her shoulders to demonstrate my posture. “I wouldn’t think so,” she said, “You always look so confident.”
I thought for a minute. This particular man had spoken to me as I doused a still-burning cigarette, laying near a trash bin, with my water bottle. “Maybe,” I suggested, “It’s because I’m always doing strange things.”
She nodded. “Yah, that could be it.”
Wandering a city alone, I will pause to pour water on a smoldering cigarette. With someone else, I will take into account who the person is, what impression it will make, and whether or not I want to make that impression. All that thought takes time, so I’ll probably just walk on by. Meanwhile, because I never do anything or say anything untoward until I’ve known someone for months, most people who meet me think I’m a big zero. It’s like holding up a mannequin and introducing it as me.
Fortunately, I was pummeled. Totally reliant on strangers in Spain, I didn’t have language, familiar cultural customs, or even time on my side. I needed help, right away, and I could only ask for it in the simplest of terms. Imagine my surprise when I was entertained, assisted, trusted, kissed, yelled at, lied to and touched by everyone I encountered. It was all real. It had to be, because I was.
Here I am still mostly at the mercy of strangers, and the censor remains a dwindling shadow. He seems a bit sad and malnourished, and I would happily watch him starve altogether. His theory is that not only do you have time to watch the field, but that if you don’t take the time to watch it you will wander in unprepared and be slayed. I’ve learned there is almost never enough time, and if there is, better to risk it being eaten as yourself, then survive as no-one.
And besides, Colin Firth is out there waiting.