It’s always sad when a couple breaks it off, but even more so when they’re celebrities. Then it’s a public tragedy, for we all feel a part of their celebrity family, and thus our kinship is diminished.
It’s bad enough when celebrities die, which they do all the time, because like us, they’re only human. We miss them. We honor them with tributes, pastiches of our favorite film clips starring these newly departed. But when a celebrity couple calls it quits, we lose hope in all possibility for them and for ourselves. We are fatally flawed. If talent, money and fame can’t hold them together, what can?
I’m thinking of that glamorous couple that just threw in the towel. She was that mixed-race woman who was once very cute but then gained a lot of weight at the same time she underwent some unfortunate cosmetic surgery. She lost the weight, but there was something permanently “off” about her appearance from that point on. He was a talented musician and writer, but had a substance abuse problem that kept causing him to be arrested and sentenced to a long string of treatment facilities. Every time he graduated from one he would hold a press conference where he would promise that this time he was done with drugs and alcohol for good. Within a few weeks he would be arrested for drunk driving, in possession of a pound of cocaine or methamphetamine, and carrying an unlicensed firearm.
Indeed, they had more than the usual amount of troubles that most couples have to endure, but their love could not hold them together. Now they still have their troubles, but not each other.
I know there must be something wrong or lacking in me that makes me care so much about people I’ve never met nor am likely to meet. It’s easier for me to care about their problems than my own. This misplaced empathy is what my psychiatrist calls “insanity” and is partially the reason she prescribed such strong medication for me to take on a daily basis. If I skip even one dose I go into painful withdrawal. I can’t sleep. My limbs ache, and if I do drift off I endure nightmares.
It is then that I focus on my Brad and Angelina altar. Even though they’ve been divorced for a few years now, the memory of their happy time together gives me hope. I have little plastic statues of them mounted in a landscape of flowers. The landscape is also plastic, taken I believe from a model train set. I mounted this and the figures inside a shoe box, and made a little window at one end so I’m looking through a portal and into their happiness. When I told my psychiatrist about the altar she changed the subject, but I could tell from the face she made she disapproved.
Brad and Angelina had been given so much, but even with all that they could not stay together. Now they have everything anyone could ever hope for, but not each other. That makes me deeply sad.
I know I should keep the focus on myself. What do I want to do with this wonderful gift of life that I have been given? The fact is, I haven’t got a clue. Deep down I have no ambition. No matter how hard I try, I can’t take an interest in my own life. Who can care what happens to me if I can’t be bothered to do so?
Maybe t by focusing so keenly on the lives of celebrities, I’m practicing an empathy that I could someday focus on myself. At least that’s what I tell myself. Of course, I don’t dare imagine myself with a partner. If celebrities can’t pull that one off, what hope is there for me?
I’ve considered finding a very needy person who might allow me to take him or her into some sort of domestic partnership because they had few options. A refugee, or an invalid. Someone with a terminal disease and no insurance. But then I thought, how would that raise my self-esteem? Wouldn’t their presence be a constant reminder of my desperation? Wouldn’t holding another desperate person hostage only make me feel worse about myself?
Of course it would. So I decided to let that option slide and seek instead more universally acknowledged ways to raise my feelings of self worth. I decided to acquire a certification that would make me an expert. I enrolled in an online school to become a Life Coach. That way I would teach others how to feel better about themselves and in so doing, receive the same reward. And they’d pay me.
Life Coaches can earn big money if they sell their services to wealthy clients. One of the first lessons teaches that wealthy people often feel worthless. Their secret shame can be a goldmine to the right Life Coach.
The training only took a few weeks of reading online materials and passing simple tests. The readings were like a lot of psychology and sociology…stuff you already knew just rephrased into jargon which made common sense seem scientific and profound. I didn’t mind because I could make that stuff up, too. The real skill came in presentation. You had to be decisive and emphatic no matter how obvious and banal were the things you were saying. You could never stop selling your expertise. You were the expert and they were the client. Both of you could never forget that, not even for a moment.
I was surprised to learn how many wealthy people were also hooked on celebrity worship. Many of them had undergone plastic surgery to more closely resemble the celebrities they admired. I met a woman who had endured several surgeries to look more like Heather Locklear. If you saw her at a distance, and her hair was dyed just the right color and she was wearing the right clothes, it was possible to mistake her for the troubled actress who recently had been in the news for mental health issues.
My most successful client was a man who thought of himself as a chubby version of Mark Wallenberg. He kept referring to himself as “Marky Mark,” which was the name Wallenberg used in his hip-hop days. Again, in the right light and setting, he sometimes resembled the action film star. When you got to know him, you realized the true depths of his self-loathing, and it made you sad and somewhat frightened, because the enormity of his shame became palpable.
I was losing the ability to cheer myself up, so I stopped taking the medicine my psychiatrist had ordered, and stopped visiting her, as well. Instead, I began to buy costumes inspired by various television shows I fondly recalled. My first purchases were outfits that Florence Henderson wore as Mrs. Brady, avocado and canary yellow, lime green and light pink pant suits.
Although I am technically male, I consider gender to be an invented notion of little consequence. Dressing like Mrs. Brady made me happy and nobody seemed to mind when I went out in public. When heads turned it was often in approval, or at least surprise.
I was not yet to the point where I dared wear my “happy outfits” to work. It would disrupt the workplace and draw undue attention to myself. When you work in a bank, it’s best to keep a low profile. When in doubt, sit at your desk and pretend to be absorbed by a spreadsheet.
I was as surprised as anyone to see large photographs of me wearing the lime-green and pink outfit on the bulletin board in our break room. Some candid cameraman had been following me. Was it a chance encounter, or was I being stalked by a co-worker?
This led me to further introspection. Was I an object of derision or a message of hope? No one said anything to me, but I did encounter some whispered conversations which quickly ended as soon as my presence was known.
I continue to hold my head high at work or out on the town. Not all of us can be bona-fide celebrities, nor should we wish to be. We live as productively as we can, sure in the hope that integrity is its own reward. If we die alone, so be it. We all ultimately die alone. But the journey is the destination. Brad and Angelina know that. Now, so do I.