Thursday, April 19, 2018
Opinion

Column: Divorce, Gwyneth Paltrow-style (w/video)

Ever since Gwyneth Paltrow became famous in her early 20s, she has made women feel bad about themselves. As Gwyneth's former high school classmate told a New York magazine reporter in the mid '90s, "Even people who don't know Gwyneth measure themselves against her success. … Gwyneth makes us feel extremely lame."

And so it was Tuesday, when Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin of the band Coldplay announced their split in the most Gwyneth way possible, telling the world about their separation in her lifestyle newsletter Goop, with a personal note and an accompanying expert essay about something called "conscious uncoupling." Because Gwyneth does not break up like the rest of us.

The gist of the essay — by Habib Sadeghi and Sherry Sami, doctors who integrate Eastern and Western medicine — is that the institution of marriage hasn't evolved along with our longer life spans. Divorce doesn't mean your relationship wasn't successful, they say. It just means that this particular relationship has come to its conclusion; you may have two or three of these successful relationships in a lifetime.

Instead of a typical, rancorous, regular person separation, you just need to have a "conscious uncoupling." You need to be spiritually "present" and recognize that partners in intimate relationships are our "teachers." You need to "cultivate" your "feminine energy" to salve any wounds.

Underneath that psychobabble is the message that goes along with all Goop productions: Even Gwyneth's separation is better than yours. The announcement of the split is accompanied by a gorgeous photograph of the supremely actualized couple, lounging in the grass. After the news broke, a friend of mine texted, "Honestly it made me want to get divorced! And I am not even married."

New-agey as it all sounds, Gwyneth's sun-dappled breakup announcement is just the same tired keeping up appearances that wives and mothers have long been expected to do. Certainly for the sake of their children, it makes sense for Paltrow to refrain from bashing her husband in public. But there is no admission of pain (besides a nod to "hearts full of sadness") or any other emotion that might be messy, inconvenient or real.

I was thinking about Gwyneth when I read an article about another "super mom," a woman named Melissa "Missy" Lesmes. She's a partner in a big-name D.C. law firm, a "party maven" and mom of four children ages 11 to 18, one of whom has Down syndrome. She's pretty, blond and fit. She wakes up every morning at 5:30 a.m. and doesn't go to sleep until midnight or later.

Just as Gwyneth presents herself as an ideal to strive for, Lesmes is also offered as something of a model woman. Their stories are meant to make mere mortals feel inadequate, but I finally had the opposite reaction reading about Paltrow and Lesmes in the span of an afternoon.

Both of their lives sound like a nightmare to me. Paltrow's because she has to behave outwardly as if everything is glossy and perfect all the time lest she ruin her "brand." Lesmes because she doesn't get any sleep, and because while she buzzes around being uber mom, her husband "lounges on the couch at the end of the great room, watching the day's tennis matches at Wimbledon on a huge, flat-screen TV."

As aspirational idols go, can't we do better? It's time to evolve past the 2014 versions of Betty Draper that continue to clog up our media space.

© 2014 Slate

Comments
Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the stateís fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the November b...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region wonít make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Floridaís citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nationís health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

St. Petersburg city officials are exploring how to cut down on single-use plastic straws, a commendable effort to make the city even more environmentally minded. But to succeed, City Council members should craft a modest, reasonable restriction that ...
Published: 04/10/18