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Bridget Harrison Awarded Last Exception to Offical Ban of the Phrase: "the Real Life Carrie Bradshaw"

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If Helen Fielding and Candace Bushnell ever had a love child, she would be Bridget Harrison, the subject of my AM New York column this week.

The erstwhile New York Post dating columnist just released her first book, Tabloid Love, which I greeted with all the enthusiasm of a bitchy 13-year-old girl. "Oh great, another dating-columnist chick-lit memoir," I thought snarkily. "Let me guess: Sexy journalist pens jeremiad about men while maxing out AmEx with Manolo sprees? Been there, own the DVDs."

Of course, no one knows better than I how dead the "Carrie Bradshaw Junior" trend is. It's very dead. So dead, in fact, that it needs its own overgrown gravestone: RIP Early Millennium Cliché.

But somehow, Bridget Harrison makes it work. For one, it's not made up. She can't really help it if her life just happens to merge two of the most successful pop-culture phenoms from the past decade. Secondly, she's adorable - you can't help but like her. I actually cried at several sections, which, for a book with the subtitle "Looking for Mr. Right in all the wrong places," was more than a little surprising. Third, she has a British accent.

I realize that has absolutely nothing to do with her book - I’ve just always thought life would be so much better if everyone had British accents. Harrison proves that while life isn’t necessarily better, everything she says sounds better, so really, that’s all that matters.

In fact, as I transcribed our interview, every time I heard my grating, nasal Chicago accent (thanks Mom & Dad!), I found myself muttering "shut up, shut up!" When Bridget spoke, I was lulled into a dreamlike reverie.

Of course, any interview that starts out on the topic of vodka is bound to be a good one.

Julia: "The drinks at your book party last night were very ... potent... I'm still feeling the one I had." (Okay, I had two.)

Bridget: "Really? My English friends thought they were quite weak!"

Julia: "That's so strange." (Did I have three and not realize it??)

Bridget: "Well, English girls have been known to go to a party with American girls and all be given a vodka and tonic. The Americans are like, 'oh my god, this is so strong!' while at the same time the English girls are going 'Is there any vodka in this?'"

I suppose it doesn't sound terribly humorous now, in print, but just try to visualize Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones saying "Is there any vodka in this?" and suddenly it becomes much more amusing. Thus my point about desiring a British accent. Perhaps then my idiotic comments at parties would sound slightly less idiotic.

Okay, okay, probably not ...

(Read the text of today's column after the jump)

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BRIDGET HARRISON: EX-DATING COLUMNIST DISHES ON HERSELF AND NYC
AM NEW YORK – “THE DATING LIFE”
JUNE 5, 2006
BY JULIA ALLISON

The world of dating columnists is a small one, made smaller still by a continual exodus from the field, due to marriage (Amy Sohn), fame (Candace Bushnell) or the inevitable burnout (too many to name).

Bridget Harrison left for the final reason, but she persevered longer than most. Her column in the Sunday New York Post ran for three and a half years, earning the English-born journalist doyenne-status in a profession filled with neophytes.

But New York newspapers – like New York men – have short memories. In the two years since Bridget’s reign ended, several other adventuresses have tried their hand at her former job. None lasted more than a few months, which says less about them and more about Bridget’s persistent charm – both on the page and off.

Indeed, meeting Bridget for the first time, I found her personality so likable and her British accent so soothing, I wanted to her to be my new best friend. I had it all planned – we could have sleepovers at my apartment where I would express outrage at how New York men had treated her, while simultaneously researching possible husbands on eHarmony. Occasionally I’d yell random English slang: “Blimey! Snogging your mate’s man is dodgy, but brilliant! You must be knackered!” and demand we open another bottle of Shiraz while she translated what I just said for my roommates.

Still, when a friend of mine recommended Bridget’s recently released memoir, “Tabloid Love: Looking for Mr. Right in all the wrong places,” I smelled BS. Looking for Mr. Right? Typical chick-lit banality – and the cover quote from an overexposed Bushnell, touting it as “A real-life Bridget Jones meets Sex and the City,” didn’t help.

372 pages later, I think Bushnell understated it.

Bridget Harrison really IS Bridget Jones, thrown into Carrie Bradshaw’s life. With the plucky British attitude (Jones), the New York newspaper column (Bradshaw) and the amusingly disastrous luck with men (both), it’s downright eerie.

While “Tabloid Love” covers her entire tenure as a recently transplanted London reporter, the juiciest bits concern the exasperating dating life that shaped her popular column. “That was when most readers responded to me,” she says. “They seemed to really enjoy it.”

Sure! New Yorkers love a little Schadenfreude on Sundays (something to offset the NYT Wedding Pages).

Or maybe they identified with her. After all, Bridget is the anti-Bergdorf Blonde, a bit disheveled, completely unpretentious and totally relatable. She’s the girl who was once greeted by a date with “Are you wearing THAT?” at which point he informed her that she could be “one hot chick” if she “made more of an effort.”

In a town where each woman seems more perfectly put-together than the next, you’ve gotta love a gal who writes something like that.

Of course, nothing interests voyeuristic New Yorkers like someone else’s love life (except possibly someone else’s bank statements). Still, it’s hard to maintain that interest without offering a little bit more – in Bridget’s case, an explanation for the perverse difficulty of finding love in New York.

Although some of it might seem obvious to longtime denizens, she makes a solid analysis: With 500,000 more unattached ladies, “even if a guy’s on a date with a smart, beautiful woman, he knows there are plenty more where she came from,” she writes. Being smart and beautiful, those women “feel they deserve to be treated a little bit special… To guys this can translate into ‘demanding.’” The result? A “cutthroat dating environment” leads to singles who are “jaded and defensive – making it even harder to have a relationship.”

Her final point is the most memorable. Ultimately, your crappy love life is due to compact geography, cheap taxis and efficient public transportation.

Huh?

“Back in London, the time [and expense] it takes to get anywhere means you have to make a plan and stick with it,” Bridget explains. “In New York, you can jump from party to party every night without even breaking into a sweat. So if you’re having a drink with someone and it’s not fun, then it’s easy to move to something better.”

In other words, it’s an OBO town. With limitless options only minutes away, “why commit to anything, least of all a relationship?”

“Bloody hell,” she concludes cheekily, “I’m an anthropological genius.”

Looks like Malcolm Gladwell has some competition. Wait – is he single?

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Comments

You think doing interviews with a Chicago accent is bad? Try doing them with a Brooklyn accent and having every source say "Ah, so you're from Brooklyn, are you?"

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