Earlier this week Huffington Post announced what had been rumored for days: that Heidi Klum and Seal, the celeb couple touted as having perhaps the storybookiest marriage of them all, are splitting.
When I scanned the "Heidi Klum and Seal" trending results on Twitter, I was struck by the pervasive heartbreak and rug-has-been-pulled-out-from-under-me-ness of the tweets. A sampling:
@tonimr: Nooooo, Heartbreak!
@JackynuCarreonb: I lost hope in Celebrity love
@PBJstories: Does anyone else feel like if life's true fairy tale couple can't make it, no one can?!
@juliesnow1978VM: There's no hope for anyone
@JRosellenM: Ohmygosh, I have no hope at all left in true love or believe that marriage can last. So shocked!
Really, @JRosellenM? Really? We're all doomed because Heidi and Seal are ending their marriage?
I wondered two things, while browsing oodles of 140-character breast-beatings over two celebrities not personally known by any of the tweeps kvelling:
1. Why do I appear to be the only one who is not particularly surprised by news of the Heidi-Seal split?
2. Why do any of us look to celebrities as examples of model marriages?
Imagine, for a moment, what it's like to be surrounded by bowing-and-scraping groupies who never tell you "no," or "you're being a total jerk," no matter how heinous your behavior is. What it's like never actually to pay for anything because you live on swag. What it's like to jet from one VIP vacation spot to the next, to buy an island just for kicks, to sell the first photo of your newborn -- a newborn that does not look all that different from every other newborn -- for a few million bucks.
Now, if this were your life, do you think you would have acquired the skills to weather hard times, to work though long stretches in which you and your partner feel disconnected, to accept that after years of being with anyone, no matter how gorgeous and charismatic that person might be, that day-to-day life with one's same-ole spouse can feel, well...dull?
My guess is no! You would not have acquired these skills because many of us who don't expect every day to feel like a jet ski romp down the French Riviera haven't acquired them either.
So when news hit that Heidi had begun the process of becoming unSealed, I was not at all surprised. Because I can predict which celebrities have expiration dates on their marriages based on sexual and soul-matey hyperbole.
Certain celebrities are famous for bragging to Oprah, to the tabloids, to the barrista at Starbucks, about the fabulosity of their unions. Whenever I read about the often stupendous boasts of these luminaries, I wonder how long it will be before HuffPo Divorce is breaking the news of their marital demise.
Here's what Heidi Klum told People Magazine upon first meeting Seal:
"When I saw him, I was like, wow! He is different and so tall and dark and just handsome. I saw the package — and I mean the whole package, literally. I was like, 'That is a man.'"
Jada Pinkett Smith, whose split from husband Will Smith is rumored to be imminent, is also known for her TMI blasts about her sexploits with the (soon-to-be?) X Man:
“My husband and I always make time for sex! Always! No matter how busy we are. And if I told you the places! You would not even believe! It’s crazy the risks that we take!"
Another technique to invite domestic trouble? Assure the world, often on live TV, that you and your celebrity spouse are soulmates, will be together forever and/or have dropped zillions on lavish marriage proposals and nuptials.
Remember when Katy Perry and Russell Brand got married in October '10? The Ritz Carlton wasn't good enough for them. No sirree. They exchanged vows inside a tiger reserve in India. They made numerous TV appearances declaring happily-ever-after love. Brand even announced on the Ellen Show, just one month before he filed for divorce: "I'm married to Katy perpetually, until death do us part!"
My theory is this: the likeliness of a celebrity split is in direct proportion to the degree of bragaddocio. Celebs tend to crave adulation. They want to be the biggest, the best, the fairy tale-iest. Yet when reality sets in--and it always does--when you've renewed your vows six times at your cliffside estate in front of 200 or so of your closest friends, how, pray tell, do you continue to up the endorphin ante? Who can sustain such non-stop romantic hijinks?
There are plenty of celeb couples who last but no one ever thinks of them because they're not giving interviews about their soul-matiness or the quality of their significant other's genitalia. They do not propose atop glaciers and exchange vows on game reserves. They most certainly do not ask E! Entertainment to pay for their nuptials. They raise families in normal places like Connecticut and Montana. They do not tip off the paparazzi before they head to the mall.
Consider: Jessica Tandy was married to Hume Cronyn for about 150 years and as far as I know she never once publicly referenced his package. Paul Newman bragged way more about Newman's Own than about Joanne and they stayed contentedly wed until he died of cancer. Amy Madigan and Ed Harris are so on the down-low that people don't even remember they're married, or who Amy Madigan is, for that matter.
So why is it that we continue to describe the showiest celebrity couples with qualifiers like "storybook" and "fairy tale"? Actually, I would agree that those marriages do fall under the fairy tale category, because they are often just that -- fairy tales!
Why do we look at photos of Heidi and Seal and assume they're in forever love? Is it because they're gorgeous? That they stroll around Aspen with their posse of adorable, superbly-dressed, mixed-race children? Heidi and Seal, like most celebrities, are performers. And performers sell products: their images. Images, as in, on the surface. As in appeareances are deceiving.
Even if Heidi and Seal were to remain happily married, why do we view their relationship, or any celebrity relationship, as a template for ours?
I have absolutely no idea.
But I'm clear about this: I feel sad for Heidi and Seal. Divorce is world-shattering for anyone, celebrity or not, and especially when kids are involved. One might argue that celebrity children of divorce have it rougher than regular kids because so much in their life is not stable, nor rooted in reality.
If Heidi and Seal go through with their divorce, as it appears that they are going to do, I wish them and their children the very best.
But my advice to Ms. Klum, should she choose to walk down the aisle a third time: move to Montana, donate the money you plan to spend on vow renewals to charity, and keep your man's package between the two of you.