Is Marriage “in” or what?!? I did a rare thing for me. I watched the entire Golden Globes ceremony last night and there was something very striking about this particular show– marital love was definitely in the air. I say this because a huge number of awardees not just thanked but gushed about their spouses. They actually spent a lot of time talking about the role their spouses play in their lives and their successes. I was thrilled to see it, albeit a bit surprised.
It’s true that I might be a little sensitive to all of those glowing dedications. Relationships are a particular interest of mine. I spent the better half of this past Saturday presenting my relationship workshop to a group of fifty middle-school and high-school-aged African-American kids for Jack and Jill of America. I volunteer with Childbuilders as a presenter of their Love U 2 Program . It is an absolutely fabulous curriculum for teaching kids self-realization and goal-setting in the context of healthy relationships. Very little time is spent teaching children how to form and cultivate healthy relationships. They learn how to relate to others primarily from watching their parents (somewhat scary) and watching TV (utterly frightening). So little is taught about choosing friends and lovers, and yet a person’s relationships are arguably the most important aspects of his or her life. We expect our children to choose wisely and act responsibly but few of us are deliberate and intentional about providing our children with the necessary tools. We may give them little lessons about sex and friendship loyalty and how to recover from heartbreak. But are we diligent about teaching effective communication skills and conflict resolution and how to recognize signs of danger and abuse?
All too often our kids pick up their ideas about relationships from television. This is so not good. If we all learned our lessons best from bad examples, then TV might be an excellent source of instruction. But we don’t. We learn best from modeling and positive reinforcement. Thus, the kind of television programming that makes for exciting and provocative viewing produces some of the worst examples of relationships possible. Kids increasingly look at the real lives of celebrities, too. This has always been true. But now the focus on celebrities’ lives is at a fever pitch. This is highly unfortunate because celebrities, when it comes to romantic relationships and marriage, are a sorrowful bunch! Where the divorce rate for all America hovers around 50%, the percentage for celebrity marital break ups has to be in the 80 to 90th percentile.(Note: this is a Gina Carroll-just-how-it-feels-to-me statistic).
I don’t know if anything can be done to reduce our kid’s focus on celebrities and their lives. I have not been very successful, even though I am a constant voice in my children’s ears urging them to look beyond the headlines and the hype; to reject the notion of “reality” shows and see all of it for what it is— product endorsement of one form or another. Still, my youngest child hangs on every action of his favorite pro athletes of the moment. And my teenagers eat up all of the celebrity happenings of their favorite musicians and actors. I know my kids are not alone in this. The fixation with celebrities is pervasive among the young and old. Just look at the online time spent on celebrity relationships and marriages–
and on and on…
The list of sites and blogs that watch and report on celebrity doings seems endless. Even the sites that are not relationship-specific, spend much, if not most, of their content on celebrity couplings and break-ups. And it seems celebrities hook-up just to break-up, doesn’t it? There is so much to talk about them precisely because so many celebrity relationships are so very brief!
So when a little phenomenon happens like it did last night on the Golden Globes, I am encouraged. We learned from an acceptance speech that was so sincere and eloquent that other award winners referred to it, that Mo’ Nique is married to her childhood friend and confidant:
When I tell you all I am in the midst of my dream and when I look into the eyes of the man I stood next to at 14 years old and I said to him,’One day we’re going to be stars’, and he said, ‘You first.’…And we walked this red carpet together. Sidney, I love you more than you will ever know, baby.
Sandra Bullock said her husband was the reason her work got better because she never had anyone who “had her back before.” James Cameron, the big winner of the night, also credited his long-time wife with fueling his success. Robert Downey, Jr., in his awesome speech, where he amusingly refused to thank anyone, first blamed his wife, Susan, as the reason he was not prepared with a speech. She told him, according to Downey, not to bother preparing a speech because Matt Damon was going to win. But then he said:
I mean I really don’t want to thank my wife because I could be busing tables at the Daily Grill if not for her.
The spousal tributes went on and on. In addition, as nominees were introduced and the camera scanned the crowd, there was so much kissing between couples going on, I almost thought perhaps there was some kind of celebrity inside joke happening. More poignant than that, it seemed that the nominees were truly turning to their loved one at their most nervous, stressful moment– right before their names were either called or not called. I was touched. These were subtle and seemingly sincere moments, which in itself was shocking. How many times can we say “subtle” and “sincere” in the same sentence with “celebrity”?
I hope we see more real moments of marital bliss and appreciation among those we hold so high and keep under our microscopes. Our kids need it. And so do we.
****PHOTO CREDIT****: Matt Sayles/ Associated Press appearing on the New York Times blog– The Carpetbagger’s Embracing Mo’Nique
On Another Note: See, Helping Your Teen Help Haiti: Ten Ways