Every once in a while a story that is simply news to everyone else is highly personal to you. Like the recent wildfire coverage, if you're a Bastrop resident whose home was affected. Or the bleak unemployment numbers, if you're an incumbent president trying to avoid joining the ranks of the unemployed.
Today, it’s my turn to be threatened by a story that is just news to everyone else. It all started when I saw on my Facebook news feed (that’s where I turn for all my hard news) that Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher are reportedly splitting up. According to the story published yesterday in the highly esteemed New York Post, Demi told Ashton to “bounce” after a “booze-fueled boys’ night out” that climaxed (sorry) with Ashton bedding down with a 23-year old hottie. But the best part? This all went down on Demi and Ashton’s sixth wedding anniversary. Now that’s douchey with a capital “D.”
My immediate reaction was to panic. This was a direct attack on my boyfriend Clint’s and my relationship.
Demi and Ashton are not just another celebrity couple to me. They have been my relationship role models for more than three years. If not for Demi, I would have never agreed to date Clint. And under Demi’s tutelage, I have enjoyed the three best relationship years of my life.
Here’s how it happened. Soon after my divorce was final a few years ago, I met Clint. He was smart, funny and ridiculously good looking. But he was younger than me. Clint’s personality, looks and intelligence were all pluses. But his age was a huge negative. I have never been interested in younger guys. I am the youngest in my family, and a big part of my identity revolves around being the baby. (Just ask my brothers and sisters—they’re still holding out hope that I’ll someday grow out of this very long but no longer adorable phase.) It was not by accident that all of my romantic relationships of any consequence have been with someone not just the same age as me, but older. And when I say older, I mean the kind of older that is measured in years, not months.
My friends who knew and liked Clint came to his defense. They pointed out that these days more and more women are dating younger men. Just look at Demi and Ashton, they told me. Right around that time my neighbor (who was completely unaware of my struggle over whether I could comfortably date a younger guy) told me that her four year old daughter had been flipping through a fashion magazine and came across a photo of Demi.
“Look, Mommy! It’s Christina,” her daughter said, pointing at Demi’s photo.
The only thing Demi and I have in common looks-wise are that we both have long, dark hair and we are roughly the same age. (And when I say “roughly,” that term applies to me, not her, because there’s nothing rough about Demi.) I didn’t interpret my neighbor’s daughter’s comment to mean that I really resembled Demi. That would have been crazy. Rather, I saw it for what it was: a secret message from Demi communicated through my neighbor’s four year old daughter. Demi was volunteering to be my love life coach.
So, I took Demi’s advice and went out with Clint. I seriously doubted we would have anything in common other than the fact that we were both lawyers; and as topics of conversation go, that one is not very interesting. But I was wrong. From our sense of humor and political views to our general dislike of Westlake, we ended up seeing eye-to-eye on lots of important topics. I suspected that because he is tall for his age and I am immature for mine, we ended up meeting in the middle.
Still, given the age gap, I figured it would end up being a rebound thing. But one date kept leading to another and things were going well...until the ugly comments started. People called me rude names like “cougar”—a term I had never even heard before; and my sister sent me a link to the humiliating but hilarious cougar den skit on SNL featuring Ashton Kutcher himself. People made snide remarks about how Clint was closer in age to my son than to me, a fact that was both really creepy and technically true.
Throughout this rough stretch, Demi was there to offer strength and guidance. In homage to my mentor, the first Halloween Clint and I were together, we went to a party dressed as Demi and Ashton. I wore a long, straight black wig, and Clint wore a baseball cap and a t-shirt that said cougar bait. He carried around a copy of the book Kabbalah for Dummies and we both wore matching Kabbalah bracelets. The costumes were a hit, and the experience was a turning point for me in coming to terms with our age difference. I realized that while I didn’t need to highlight our age difference, I didn’t need to hide it, either. Demi and Ashton had an age difference that was even bigger than Clint’s and mine, and they not only made it work, they made it look good.
So, the news that Demi and Ashton were reportedly splitting up hit me hard. What did that mean for Clint and me? Who was going to give me relationship guidance now? And most importantly, what were Clint and I going to be for Halloween, which is barely a month away? (Clint suggested we could go as Post Break-up Demi and Ashton, but he said he would have to find a 23-year old hottie to come along with us so people would get it.)
Then it hit me. Celebrities! They’re just like us! They cheat on each other and get divorced! Here I was worrying only about myself when Demi needed my help. Demi had broken down barriers and pioneered the way for Clint and me, making it possible for me to have some of the happiest years of my life. Now it was my turn to give back.
Demi, meet me at camera three. Hi! Wow! Those “journalists” at the New York Post weren’t kidding when they said you were looking even skinnier than usual. But seriously, you look great!
Anyway, you were there for me when I needed you. You had something to teach, and I had something to learn. Now the tables are turned and the student has become the teacher. You were my love life coach; I can be your divorce director. It’s all part of the great big circle of [love] life.
So, Ashton’s a douche bag cheater and your relationship is over. Give some thought to whether he was never really the guy you thought he was, or he once was awesome but things changed somewhere along the way. This matters because there are lessons in there for you to learn so that you aren’t sentenced to a life of repeating the same mistakes. Figure it out, then move on.
You mentioned in a recent tweet that you are trying to find the light you lost. That’s the spirit! Divorce is hard work and you will definitely have some dark days, but know that life has big, new adventures in store for you. Seize this opportunity to move forward and be the strongest and best person you know how to be. Enjoy your family and friends. Learn. Laugh. Live.
Oh—one last thing: try to enjoy the weight loss while you can. You’ll probably get a few good years out of it, but it won’t last forever. When your stress level goes back down, your weight will creep back up. But at the end of the day, it's a pretty good trade.