Vogue meets Bridget Jones. The aloof fashionista meets the hapless Everywoman. I didn’t know what to expect as I handed over my ticket at the door.
The event was a discussion between Vogue’s Culture Editor and Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding, prior to the release of her new novel, Mad About the Boy, and it was to be held in my favourite spot, Housing Works Bookstore, also known as ‘my office’. I am considering having a name plaque made and leaving it on my corner table so that others realize it is my office as there seems to be some confusion.
I was curious how these two cultures of women would look sitting side by side in my office. I took my seat, not in my usual corner but dead centre of the room, put on my glasses and blatantly stared. Women (and three men) filed in, placed their handbags (not the men) on the floor and looked around to assess the crowd for themselves.
Initial impression? More Bridget than Vogue. No gratuitously expensive handbags, no catwalk looks. My left ear was trained on a conversation between two women behind me on the extent of their painkiller intake. “I’ve been taking three instead of the prescribed two. I mean, they’re strong, but that extra one makes all the difference.”
Beside me, a woman played word games on her phone, her fingers furiously tapping letters arranged on a grid on the screen as if she was against the clock.
A girl in the aisle across from me, a fashionable type, clutched her plastic glass of red wine high in the air and repeatedly smoothed her hair as if she was stroking a pet.
Many gathered had bought the hardback and were stooped over the pages, attempting to get as far into the story as possible before the author arrived. There would be questions after.
The events organizer stepped up to the microphone. Just before introducing the author to the stage, she reminded the audience that Housing Works hosts weddings on weekends. “Your dreams could come true here,” she said. In my office? Since when?
Helen looked very fashionable in a black dress. Not too low cut, not too tight, not too short, but sexy all the same. And she had a nice pair of pins, I couldn’t help but notice. And expensive 1950s style stilettoes. I am the Everywoman who happens to have more than a working knowledge of high fashion. I can’t undo the training; I judge on appearances. Helen looked like a Yorkshirewoman who had lived in LA: the homely flush set off against the Hollywood highlights. She chuckled throughout, and when she did her shoulders rose up to her ears and shook. She reminded me of a Geordie friend of mine.
Her voice is breathy and what she said was funny and insightful. The only problem was that her timing always seemed to be slightly off. This meant that the audience’s laughter was delayed, making me apprehensive and then relieved when it happened. I don’t like good jokes to go unrecognized. Maybe it was my timing that was off.
At one point she interrupted her answer to express how anxious she had been coming tonight. The knowledge that Vogue was involved had added pressure and she admitted that was behind the shoes, the heavy silver ring on her finger. “I accessorized and everything!” she announced. “But I’m so happy that it’s actually just in a bookstore, and lovely.”
It’s in my office, Helen.
Later, as if to bring home how much she felt at home she took her shoes off, set them aside and wriggled her toes with pleasure. The crowd applauded. The Bridgets were definitely winning.
I was anxious about coming too. Helen acknowledges her role as the “godmother of chick lit” and my relationship with that genre of writing is fractious at best. I hate self-help books, and Chaka Khan, and don’t believe men are from are from Mars. A writer who doesn’t like chick lit whose first novel is set in the fashion industry? Pull the other one, it’s got bells on! Ah, but that was my master plan, you see.
I admit I have read all her books, although I didn’t buy this new one. Maybe I”ll wait till it comes out in paperback.
Sorry, Helen, but my office is coming down with books.
You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.