Al Gore and his wife Tipper have hit Splitsville. The couple, who celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary a mere two weeks ago, sent an email to friends that read like a shopping list –direct, emotionless, efficient:
“We are announcing today that after a great deal of thought and discussion, we have decided to separate. This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further. Hope to see you soon.”
Following this news, I’ve been struck by two things: first, the speed with which the announcement was made, and secondly, the shock with which it’s been greeted. I’m glad, frankly, both Al and Tipper had the good sense to make the announcement plain, and not hide the ugly truth. There’s nothing more irritating than watching a very-public couple go through the motions of love, when in fact it’s mere duty to stand there smiling, awkwardly holding hands, making kissy-face, buying real estate together and cooing over one another’s accomplishments to ravenous reporters. You can fool some of the people some of the time. But.
Like Lloyd Grove at The Daily Beast, I was never entirely convinced of the kiss shared by the couple in 2000. It seemed staged, a calculated performance designed to garner applause, buzz, and general approval. We require our public figures to be married –or at least coupled, but really, why the shock? Men like Al Gore are beholden to an incredible (and incredibly demanding) bunch of folks; no one says it’s right to put career first, but it is the choice of many an ambitious individual to do whatever it take to make their dreams happen. Al has a rather big (if intimidating) dream: alleviating cataclysmic climate change. Some may think it’s arrogant, others, wrong-headed, but I guarantee you, it make for late nights at the office. When he gets home, he might just want a woman to feed him noodles and quote Neruda. Or maybe he wants a steak and a yack about hybrid motor technologies. Or both. I can’t say for certain. Maybe Tipper wants a nice, quiet man to mow the lawn and talk about American Idol. Or maybe she wants the cabana boy to bring her another strawberry daiquiri. Again, we just don’t know –and maybe we shouldn’t.
What’s so hilariously sad is that some media are either pathetically affixing blame (Washington insider Sally Quinn is blaming George Bush Jr. –cue Diva Julia’s patented Full Body Eyeroll) or they’re treating this as being a larger symbol of the decline of the American family. What? Embedded within USA Today’s article about late-stage divorces is the question (with link): “Divorce Threat Persists.” Wait a minute. Divorce is a threat? (you mean like climate change?) For most couples, breaking up is a blessing to all involved. Can we please get over our idea that separation is evil, and, for that matter, stop absorbing the details of others’ personal lives like some kind of blinking, pooping, web-drooling Sham-Wow?
I, for one, have nothing but the deepest respect for the ballsy honesty of facing public life solo after 40 years. If only more publicly-happy/privately-distant couples could be more honest. It might mean we have to adjust our expectations around what constitutes “happy” –in our celebrities we adore, and indeed, in our own lives. We might just decide the only kind of partner we want is the one in our business. Or not.
But please, more honesty, less PR-orchestrated, politically-correct lovey-dovey bullpoop. Forty years is a good long run. Yes, break-ups hurt, but staying together –to preserve a public image, to appease the public, for the sake of the kids and not rock the boat – that’s just … way worse.
So kudos, Al & Tipper. A toast to your new lives. Enjoy the steak and daiquiris.