Bryony Gordon is better off dreaming of babies than a quick fling
Published 01/07/2014 | 11:00
The columnist Bryony Gordon has been getting some stick from feminists because she's claimed that what most young women really, really want is a nice boyfriend, and, if lucky, a baby. "It's amazing," she has written. "In 21st century Britain you can write about taking cocaine and having an affair with a married man, but what really gets people going is the fact that you want to settle down and have a family."
But then, isn't that just what feminists struggled to get away from? All that stuffy conventional wisdom about the purpose of a woman's life being to find a good man and "settle down"? Today, women have choices. And to choose to be autonomous, independent and lead your own life as you please is just as valid – and more admirable – than the dreary traditional search for Mr Right.
Except Bryony has written a revealing – sometimes described as an "embarrassing" – autobiography, descriptively entitled The Wrong Knickers, which catalogues the chaotic decade of her 20s, this being a recitation of sex, drink, drugs and ending up at the clap clinic (after a phone message from an ex – "I just called to say you gave me chlamydia".) Even at the clap clinic she manages to pick up a guy – there to get a test for syphilis. Hey ho!
There have always been novels and memoirs about a girl's amorous adventures in the years when she shops around for a mate. In its own way, Jane Eyre is such a story, as are the works of Jane Austen. Bridget Jones has famously emblemised this narrative, but that's nearly two decades ago now. Bridget Jones counting cigarettes and calories is a little pale next to Bryony's controversial account of "a decade of debauchery".
There's the report of the guy she meets who just wants to do a line of cocaine off her breasts, although the logistics prove frustrating and the sex turns out to be perfunctory.
There's an encounter with Russell Brand, just before he became famous, when he showered her with flattery and then dumped her for a supermodel. And there's the creep who wants to do something weird with butter, and when it's all over, hands her back a pair of knickers – someone else's: the wrong knickers!
Bryony Gordon was brought up to aspire to feminist principles by her mother, the writer Jane Gordon, but even Jane was moved to give old-lady advice to her daughter about, perhaps, acting a little more aloof with men?
Maybe she wouldn't get involved with so much soulless sex (where the guy says to her, soullessly, "this is just sex") if she, er, practised a little more self-restraint?
But then the drink and the cocaine don't really go with self-restraint – as many of us could have ascertained. At one point, Bryony tells her friend Chloe that she gave a sandwich to a homeless person, because if she gave him money he might spend it on drink and drugs. But, says Chloe, "what else is there to spend it on?"
For her 30th birthday, Bryony received six bottles of champagne, a knit-your-own boyfriend, some Topshop vouchers and a wrap of cocaine.
Meantime, yes, some of her peers were in steady relationships and settling down. In this generation, the romantic proposal is: "Do you think we could live together?"
But Bryony goes on encountering the many Mr Wrongs out there. There was the ghastly man who made her pay her own train fare to Manchester so they could have a hotel sex encounter – while he kept one eye on Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight.
There was the married, or partnered, man in the fashionably minimalist London flat – so minimalist it contained just two photographs, quickly hidden, of his absent partner.
And no, she doesn't appreciate it when one of these jerks takes a condom from his wallet. Far from regarding this as "responsible", she thinks him a "presumptuous, arrogant bastard". How dare he assume he was going to have sex with her!
Though she does admit that she's often acted like a slag. Yet soon into her 30s, miraculously it all changes. She stops being a "ditzy flibbertigibbet", meets a really nice guy called Harry, and the relationship gets off to a good start because they don't jump into bed right away.
Indeed, Harry is quite reserved about sex – which, nowadays, can make females suspect a guy is gay. But Harry and Bryony get together happily, and one blissful day, she takes a pregnancy test, and – oh, heaven! – it's positive. Now Bryony is a fulfilled mother of a 14-month-old daughter – and married to Harry.
"During my 20s I was supposed to be strong and independent and not care about men ... I felt bad for wanting a boyfriend," she explained. "Being single – you were supposed to love it, embrace it, revel in it. And so it was that I spent my 20s making out that I was super-happy with casual sex. In trying to be a strong and independent woman, I had clubbed myself over the head and dragged myself back to the Stone Age.
"I think it's time that women reclaim their right to want a romantic partner and a family."
Bryony has been accused of being 'traditional' – an unforgivable offence. Yes, the search for love is, perhaps, traditional, but that doesn't prevent it from being truthful. And sometimes you have to get the wrong knickers flung in your face before you cop on to what's right.