When I was ten, I attended an all-girls camp in Maine and a bunkmate of mine knew Gwyneth Paltrow from school back in N.Y.C. Back then, she obviously wasn’t famous, but her parents were. I remember my friend talking about “Gwynnie” and her celebrity-status mom and dad. Years later, I sat with my eyes glued to the TV. admiring Gwyneth’s classic American look in a lovely cotton-candy pink gown at the Oscars, as Brad Pitt professed his love from the podium. I’ve always thought her to be a beautiful woman at face value, and given that I have never met her, I cannot pass true judgment beyond my aforementioned cabin mate and what I’ve read about her in highly intellectual publications such as US and People.
Despite some nasty buzz circulating about the internet, I was genuinely sad to hear about her split from Chris Martin. Call it what you want: untangling, un-having-sex-with-just-one-person-till-you-die, or uncoupling. The terminology doesn’t really matter. In the end, the legal word starts with D, ends in E, and can often put precious children in between no matter how hard you both try. For the sake of their children, I do hope they can work out an amicable arrangement.
My sadness led me into self-reflection, which is something we women in our forties seem to do a lot of. As I’ve thought about this whole Chris and Gwyn breakup, it dawned on me that she will never have the good fortune to be like me. While my life is far from perfect, I relish living on a quiet tree-lined street in suburban Boston where nobody really cares about what I am up to most of the time. I often go out without makeup, nobody chases me down the street with a camera, and I don’t find myself on the cover of a tabloid every time I screw up at my life.
I also can’t imagine being as out of touch with the real world that Gwyneth Paltrow seems to be, and for this I feel genuinely sorry for her. In one recent interview, she talked about grueling life on movie sets. Long hours and living in trailers brings unpredictability to her life that can be so hard to deal with. I’ve never lived in a trailer, but I practically live in my car. It’s a minivan, with seats that all fold down, so I could technically live in it if I ever needed to.
Gwyneth is also not left alone on the set very often to dress and primp herself like I am. Sometimes, in the pick-up line at school, I vow to shower early the next morning so another day doesn’t get away with sporting my standard black yoga pants. Gwyneth might be surprised to know that nobody from hair and makeup has ever tapped on my car window offering to give me a quick pick-me-up to address the dark circles under my eyes. Furthermore, nobody has ever checked in to see if I’d like a Perrier or Evian while I wait for the scene of running children with backpacks flying behind them to unfold as they race to my car demanding a snack. While Gwyneth is working hard on movie sets, I’m busy every day acting out the drama that is my ordinary life which I’ve grown to love, fluctuating frequently between comedy and horror.
In love and marriage, Gwyneth will never be me either. I’m not married to a Brit, and my husband can’t sing to save his life. He’s not a trendy dresser, and if he tried to be, I would probably grow concerned that he was experiencing some sort of identity crisis. While I once teased him about his vanilla uniform consisting almost exclusively of Brooks Brothers and Polo, I’ve grown to love him for who he is. It is highly unlikely that Gwyneth will ever have a husband as darling as mine (although I hope she does someday), who mows the lawn, spends time on ladders, and bails us out with the snow blower on wintry mornings. Never mind that he is a kind and loving soul dedicated to hard work while seeking little to no recognition for it. Don’t get me wrong: Chris Martin can croon like no other, and most ladies wouldn’t kick him out of bed for eating crackers, but who needs that sort of popularity to deal with? While fame was once was every girl’s dream as a child, it seems like a nightmare at my age. Here’s to a loving and stable marriage, where romance continues to privately sizzle somewhere in a quiet Boston suburb.
When it comes to food, apparently Gwyneth adheres to strict “no treat” policies with her children, which totally stinks for them. I thought I might share what goes on in my own kitchen because it’s way more fun. I was thinking about this the other day while I was breaking down an enormous Cheese-It box from Costco. If I tried to be health-nut-mother-of-the-year and sent my kids to school with raisins and carrot sticks, their snacks would go straight into the trash and they would arrive home feigning starvation. Somewhere between their whining and complaining, I would debate whether I should pour a glass of wine or bust open a bag of chips as my survival mechanism while awaiting my husband’s arrival home for dinner.
The more I think about it, Gwyneth just sounds like a total party pooper in this department. A life without Oreos and Ben & Jerry’s is simply unimaginable. What really gets me is when people like her pretend they are actually making a real dessert by concocting some Paleo recipe consisting of dates, applesauce, and Lord knows what else. Save yourselves the hassle, people! When it comes to dessert, you’re either on the sugar train or you’re not. Try practicing moderation of course, except for that 4th week of the month when you have such bad PMS that all you want to do is eat. I say down the nachos, the half dozen cookies, and the pie. Enjoy every bite, even if you pay later. You see, Gwyn, at my house when it comes to snacks and dessert, we live by the words of Billy Joel: “The sinners are much more fun.”
So while I am sorry to hear about another Hollywood marriage gone sour, I relish the opportunity to cherish everything I’ve got going on here in my quiet little corner of the world. Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow will get to play a suburban mother like me someday on the big screen, but I’m afraid that’s as close to my life that she will ever get. In the meantime, here’s to suburban moms everywhere who do what we do every single day, working to preserve our stable marriages and to nurture our children as best we can. Here’s to homes filled with loving men who can’t sing (maybe yours can!), drive station wagons, spend weekends doing yard work, and love us even though we’ll never look like Elle McPherson. Here’s to Cheese-its, cookies, and buttery popcorn for family movie nights where we savor every morsel. Here’s to ponytails with yoga pants over perfect hair and a cotton-candy pink gown any day. We are the true stars of the show.