We’ve all got a dirty little secret. A vulgar habit. A nasty pastime we strive to hide from others. Because if the world knew of our crude obsession, we’d be mocked. And rightly so.
I grapple with my secret as I stand in line at the supermarket check-out, trying fruitlessly to resist its seductive call. No, it’s not the king-size bar of Milky Way Midnight Dark. Not the carcinogenic carton of Camel no-filters.
My vice is fueled by the front of a glossy gossip magazine brandishing words on which no intelligent person should find herself fixating: Courteney Cox and David Arquette split!
Let me be clear. I don’t like either one of these actors. I neither admire nor relate to them and might very well turn down an invitation to join them for tapas. And I love tapas.
Yet I feel compelled to know that the couple is ending their marriage after — apologies in advance — not having had intercourse for several months.
Why do I need this information? I don’t know. It embarrasses me that I care about celebrities’ love lives, but I can’t look away. I must know if Jake Gyllenhaal has fallen for Taylor Swift! I must know why Bradley Whitford and Jane Kaczmarek divorced after 17 years! I must know what movies Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan watch on stay-at-home-date-nights! (I must try to try to find celebrity examples whose names are easier to spell … )
“I can’t help but look and be curious,” confesses my equally captivated friend Melissa Lynn Block. “We are intrinsically fascinated by drama: Love won! Love lost! …”
In our defense, we would rather ruminate on the romantic tanglings of people we know. But if our friends and family members won’t oblige our nosiness by, say, breaking off an engagement with a bisexual costar or trying to block the release of a poorly lit sex tape, well, then, as Melissa says, “the celeb stuff is right out there and easy to consume.”
But our interest can’t be dismissed as simple voyeurism (although it might, possibly, be considered complex voyeurism — you know, like the smart kind). Celeb dating news actually tells us something rare and real about people whose entire personas have been carefully crafted by PR whizzes. With the exception of matches manufactured in agents’ offices — the kind designed to make a ratings-boosting SuperCoupleTM out of this week’s It Girl© and Sexiest Man Alive® — we can learn a lot about people by examining their dating patterns:
Jenny McCarthy, Katy Perry, and Isla Fisher go for wild-and-funny (Jim Carrey, Russell Brand, and Sacha Baron Cohen). Josh Duhamel and Gavin Rossdale go for feisty-with-pipes (Fergie and Gwen Stefani). And John Mayer goes for, well, anyone with a SAG card.
It’s heartening to see superstars humanized the way that only dopey-faced puppy love can. Their names and faces seem too big to be paired, too inflated for couplehood; then they squeeze into a cozy little twosome. They already get more attention than any Homo sapien should, and yet the affection they truly crave comes from the giddy guy/gal whose hand they’re gripping on the red carpet.
Come on. That’s sweet.
Until it isn’t. Celebrity breakups are devastating to prying peepers like mine. Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes. Brad Whitford and his wife-of-many-consonants. After years of being photographed hand-in-hand — mostly by unwelcome paparazzi — you sever your alliance, alert the media, and leave us all wondering if love is just a conceit conjured up to sell your movies.
I mean, really. How disappointing. Maybe you should keep your dirty little secrets to yourselves.