Josh Duhamel and Fergie have announced that they are splitting up after 13 years together, and eight years of marriage. I’m only dimly aware of Josh Duhamel as an actor who’s been in every Transformers film except the one that I’ve actually seen, and Fergie as the singer of one of the best party songs of all time, ‘I Gotta Feeling’, but as soon as I heard the news, I felt a familiar sense of woe creeping in.
It’s the same one I felt last month when I heard that Anna Faris and Chris Pratt were breaking up, also after eight years of marriage. It certainly wasn’t as strong as when I heard that Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck were getting divorced (“but they always seemed so nice!”, or when Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall broke it off (“but they were made for each other!”) and it was only a tiny bit of the intensity as when I heard about Will Arnett and Amy Poehler’s split, when I let out an anguished “No!” as though I’d just heard that one of my own relatives had fallen down a well.
Maybe it’s because they have so much history together – this morning, Facebook brought up the very first picture of me and my husband ever taken. It was taken in about 2000 in my university college class photo. I had no idea that, 13 years later, that cheery man in the front row and I would be going on our first date, or 17 years later, we’d be investing in a wildly expensive set of windows together.
We don’t know why Duhamel and Fergie split – in a statement, they said that they had been separated since early this year. “To give our family the best opportunity to adjust, we wanted to keep this a private matter before sharing it with the public,” the couple said. “We are and will always be united in our support of each other and our family.” Sob.
There is something about certain celebrity breakups that leaves you feeling a bit gutted. A little part of my heart crumples. It’s the opposite of whenever I see a picture of one of the royal babies (when it grows and grows until I resemble a manga teenager in love). Don’t get me wrong: I’m just as devastated if someone I actually know breaks up, but there’s something about an A-list break-up, especially between a long-term couple, that feels especially Love Is Dead. If Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds broke up, I would have to take an extra-long Pret break to stare into the abyss.
Maybe it’s the fact that everything feels bigger and zanier when there’s a bit of Hollywood around it, and so any relationship that can stand that pressure cooker atmosphere seems automatically more amazing. Celebrity relationships seem to take place in dog years rather than human years, whereby the celeb bubble is so insanely weird that eight years of marriage works out seven times as much in the civilian equivalent. Once a famous couple has got past the first few years, you get the feeling they’ve been together forever, and Will Never Part. That, or perhaps it’s two of your favourite celebs who “just seem genuinely lovely!!” and you’re so excited about them getting together that they become your A-list totem.
And, however old you are and however realistic you become, there’s still a bit of magic there. Just as they always manage to dress beautifully, and have amazing hair and makeup (even though you know there’s a stylist, several hairdressers, and a celebrity makeup artist), so it’s easy to drift into an imagining that they manage to drift through their relationship in just such a magical way (even though you know this is complete bollocks and they’ll also argue over whose turn it is to do a white wash and de-poop the cat’s litter tray, albeit perhaps a more sparkly version).
Life is difficult, and movies and music are escapism. And sometimes, celebrity relationships provide a bit of that fairytale too – witness Brangelina, or the nostalgia for Elizabeth Taylor’s “eternal” love affair with Richard Burton (even though she had a bunch of other marriages, and pinched one of her husbands from Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds.)
Ultimately, a break-up is a break-up: hugely sad for those concerned, and for their families. Perhaps the thing we want most of all is the idea that there is a magic wand out there to fix the hurt – because, for the rest of us, there really isn’t.