The Dragon at the Table

It’s official. I am Bridget Jones. (without Mark Darcy or Daniel Cleaver)

It was a quiet Saturday night, I had just spent the day with nearly 200 high school students at a multi-school fencing meet and my body ached with the kind of fatigue that can only comes from being the surrogate sport parent (err… coach) to some 40 kids. All I wanted was a gin and tonic, some Chicken Tikka Masala — because, you know, I’m a child of the Commonwealth, and that’s our version of comfort food — and a mindless Rom-Com.

I was in luck. I had timed my take-out TV dinner and booze just right so I could catch the last half-an-hour of “Bridget Jones’s Diary.”

Mark Bloody Darcy.


I was 13 when I first read Helen Fielding’s cheery, timeless adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. In the back of my mind, I knew I was at least a tad more Bridget Jones than Lizzy Bennett, but I was too young to really relate to all the emotional ups and downs Bridget traveled along as she tried to make her way through work, family, and love.

Enter age 29. 

You know your 20s are basically over when 22-24 year-olds attempt to pick you up with the following lines:

– How do you feel about being hit on by a younger man?

– While you’re searching for Mr. Right, how about having some fun with a younger guy?

– I know I’m probably too young for you, but can I buy you that next drink?

I’ve officially moved out of the age bracket that qualifies me as the “young play thing” — the desirable, elusive object of affection from professional men in their 30s to mid-40s. This is not inherently a problem. I am on the verge of entering their age bracket, which makes me more of a peer and less of a fresh-off-the-collegiate-boat co-ed. I am no longer doe-eyed and naive. I am savvy. I know better.

You can’t pull a blindfold over my eyes… well you can, but you have to ask nicely. 

Readying myself to move on to a new decade doesn’t really require much prep-work, but I admit that there are a few things I need to acknowledge now that I could previously ignore — both realities and absurdities of life.

family-party-bridget-jonesI’ve reached an age where most of my friends are comfortably domesticated — if they’re not married and making plans for baby, they’re in the kind of relationships that seem destined for the altar. As you move further away from college, you move further away from the all-nighter, 4 parties a week (a night?) lifestyle. You lose one kind of social endurance and replace it with another. 10 PM seems a perfect bedtime and laundry is a perfectly acceptable weekend activity. You haven’t grown boring. You’ve grown more selective. Your friends grow more selective too, and as more of them find themselves in couples, your find your social life naturally changing.

The challenge with being the last single girl at the party is that everyone finds a way to let you know you’re the last single girl at the party.

Cut back to Bridget Jones. 

“Wednesday 1 February
11:45PM … “Yes, why aren’t you married yet, Bridget?” sneered Woney (babytalk for Fiona, married to Jeremy’s friend Coasmo) with a think veneer of concern whilst stroking her pregnant stomach.

Because I don’t want to end up like you, you fat, boring, Sloaney milch cow was what I should have said, or … Because actually, Woney, underneath my clothes, my entire body is covered in scales.”

Bridget asks her reader, why? Why is it that married/coupled-off people feel the need to corner us single folk about our love lives?

“Tell me all about your men and dating adventures! I feel like you have a new boy toy every time we meet!”

“Thank god I’m done with all that dating stuff I mean, how DO you DO IT? I mean, how DO you meet people!?”

“We have to find you someone. You’re so great! I’d set you up with one of Bob/Phil/Rich/insert-generic-male-name-here’s friends… but they’re all married too!”

“Mary/John is away Friday, so I’m free. Entertain me! Let’s go out like we used to… I’ll be your wingperson!”


“Maybe Smug Marrieds only mix with other Smug Marrieds and don’t know how to relate to individuals anymore. Maybe they really do want to patronize us and make us feel like failed human beings. Or maybe they are in such a sexual rut they’re thinking: “There’s a whole other world out there,” and hoping for vicarious thrills by getting us to tell them the roller-coaster details of our sex lives”

The truth is, us single girls approaching and in our 30s are the dragons at the dinner table — beautiful to look at, exotic, but no one’s sure when we’ll start spitting fire. We aren’t covered in green scales. But as we’ve watched our friends move on into happiness, and as we’ve trained ourselves to answer the inevitable “is there someone special?” we have had to develop a pretty thick skin.

Who am I and How did I Get Here?

It was my father’s proudest moment — the morning I called to say I needed to take the tool belt and hammer to work.

The hammer and nails I've learned a gallerist can never leave home without

Forget my two university graduations. Forget that NCAAs when I made All-American. Forget the afternoon I got the phone call offering me the job at the gallery. Forget the day when I tell him I’m engaged. No, my father is proudest when I’m fixing things.

When I was 5, my favorite toys were wooden blocks (read: cut-up wood scraps from my father’s basement tool shop), a small black hammer, and nails. There was not a Barbie to be found. Instead, I built things. Tables. Chairs. Houses. They were rudimentary, but they kept me occupied and were sturdy enough to survive Armageddon.

Eventually, I went on to junior high school and wood shop where I put my hammering skills to use making spice racks and stylized end tables and rocket-powered race cars. I was teacher’s pet — when the local newspaper came to highlight our school’s “technology” program, I was the chosen spokesperson. The front page of the paper was filled with a photograph of me in a Calvin Klein sweatshirt holding up a 3D room model I designed and constructed from foamboard.

Then I discovered Bergdorf Goodman. I retired my hammer in exchange for Marc Jacobs blouses and Stuart Weitzman shoes.

It's just like the Talking Heads said, "you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?"

Every once in a while, I find myself having an almost outer-body experience in which I’m staring down evaluating the person before me. I don’t recognize myself, and before I can ask, who is that, a flood of years past accumulate in front of my eyes — a rapid-fire timeline of  moments that lead me to that current instance and answer the question dangling in the air. Recently, it’s been happening often. I guess that’s the byproduct of finding myself in a new life phase.

This week’s exhibition installation — one where my childhood aptitude for driving nails into plywood proved particularly useful — inspired one of those outer-body experiences, an unexpected fit of nostalgia. Sometimes, I look at myself and say, gee, look how far I’ve come! Today, as I stood on the step ladder, employing the same hammer that was my favorite play thing as a kid, I was relieved that some things haven’t changed.

I guess I was also grateful my father thought it prudent to teach a 5-year old girl basic carpentry skills.