The First Wives Snub
Perpetual sadboi Ben Affleck has been publicly excoriated after dissing his ex-wife, Jennifer Garner, in a tell-all interview with Howard Stern. Regarding his former marriage, Affleck reportedly said:
“(If I’d stayed married to Jennifer) I’d probably still be drinking. It’s part of why I started drinking was that I was trapped. I was like, ‘I can’t leave because of my kids, but I’m not happy, what do I do?’ What I did was drink a bottle of Scotch and fall asleep on the couch, which turned out not to be the solution…We had a marriage that didn’t work. This happens. She’s somebody I love and respect but to whom I shouldn’t be married to any longer.”
Now, you may think – probably, if you’re a man, or if you’re that kind of woman who loves to see other women get torn down because you assume it will never happen to you (trust me honey, it will) that this is no big thing, he’s just “being honest” – honesty, of course, being the a-hole’s perpetual justification for their a-holery. But when measured against that lovely little aphorism “Before you speak, let your words pass through these three gates: ask yourself, ‘Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?’” Affleck really misses the mark. Marriage is hard, and sometimes it doesn’t work out for reasons that aren’t really anyone’s fault. But even if his words were absolutely true, they weren’t kind and they sure the heck weren’t necessary.
Further complicating matters, I doubt his words were even true. One of the smartest things I ever read was in that old magazine Ladies Home Journal, in a column called “Can This Marriage Be Saved”. (I read LHJ religiously as a teenager, because I read everything that came into my general vicinity religiously, and my mom had a subscription.) Often in CTMBS, the counselor would gently suggest that many men, at some point in their lives, look around and don’t like where they’re at for some reason entirely external to their wives and to their marriage. Instead of doing any soul-searching or working to break bad habits or taking responsibility for decisions they made along the way, they see the one person who has also been in those same places at the same time, their wives, and wrongfully conclude “Well, she’s the one constant here, must be her fault.”
That wisdom stuck with me all these years because I saw so many cases of it happening in real life – families that seemed really solid, totally normal, functional, and happy, then Daddy has a meltdown. (In my dad’s case he decided to take up mountain climbing, and when my mom wasn’t up for that, never once having expressed any interest in such a thing in her entire life prior, he found someone who was. Bully for them; for my mom and me, not so much.)
This phenomenon can be entirely whiplash-inducing for a wife who thought things were kind of ok, life was good, and that all everyone needed to do to succeed in marriage and as a family was simply stay the damn course.
Brief aside, as for those of you who would like to chime in in the comments to say “but it takes two to make a marriage break up” and “women are also to blame for marriages breaking up because they’re boring and they nag people and they didn’t enjoy my personal kink which I never mentioned for the first decade of our marriage yet then expected her to embrace enthusiastically,” look upon this article as an opportunity to hear the flip side of that ubiquitous argument. Conventional wisdom isn’t always true, especially when it’s rooted in the gross levels of misogyny that are constantly displayed in our culture without any real exploration. Blaming every bad thing that ever happens to a man in this world on wimmen when none of ya have ever HEARD the counterargument, let alone bothered to consider it, is not getting past me unchallenged.
It is inarguably true that people blow up their lives out of a combination of temporary ennui and overactive senses of entitlement all the time, and in every other arena than marriage we lay the blame squarely where it belongs – at the feet of the person who chucked it all in to pursue some highly silly course of action only to end up regretting it later on1. Only in marriage do people go out of their way to lay the cause on the shoulders of the victim. This style of “women are boring and naggy and marriage is a vagina-baited trap for men who are meant to be swingin’ free in the breeze” misogyny frequently manifests itself against traditionally-presenting, very feminine women like Jen Garner. I mean seriously, she’s not only totally adorable, appears to be a great mom, been referred to as the Queen of Nice, but she also cooks with Martha Stewart! Anyone who hates women, the class, surely loathes our official rep, Jennifer Garner.
But Ben’s diss goes far beyond just garden variety misogyny. As I’ve written about in the past, one of the go-to moves of any addict is to blame others for their substance abuse. Daddy, Mommy, peer pressure, those meaniepants drug dealers, coworkers, bosses, the Hollywood bigwigs who glorify the party lifestyle – we’ve all seen addicts seize upon any nearby person to justify their addiction. Again, wives and girlfriends, by virtue of their presence, ARE present, and thus they make a really super awesome scapegoat for an addict’s foibles.
IMVVVVHO, Ben Affleck shredded what little credibility he had when he laid the blame for his drinking at his ex-wife’s feet. He has admitted publicly that he had a drinking problem starting before they ever met that he attributes to events from his childhood. The first time he went to rehab was in 2001, three years before he and Jen ever began dating – and he was driven there by Charlie Sheen (dude, if Charlie Sheen is telling you that you have a problem, best listen). During their marriage, Jennifer was known to be very supportive of Ben’s addiction struggles – he was also addicted to gambling – forgave him for cheating on her, and she gave him three beautiful children. Ben rewarded her faith by having sex with the children’s nanny. Jennifer even staged an intervention and personally drove him to rehab AFTER THEY WERE DIVORCED. Oh, and she stopped on the way to get him Jack in the Box before she dropped him off cause Benny’s tummy was rumbling!
The dude is a self-absorbed POS. He deserves every bit of scorn he has received, and that followup interview on Jimmy Kimmel where he whined about how much the public scrutiny of his words had hurt HIS FEELINGS and made him “look like an awful guy” because he wouldn’t want his children to think badly of him (not because he felt badly that he had hurt his ex-wife’s feelings, but because he was worried what his kids would think of him over it) was simply more of the same. Me first thinking in which everyone is to blame but Ben Affleck himself.
But let’s not let poor Ben linger in the hot seat alone, when there are so many others who deserve a moment under our collective microscopes!
The first time I noticed the phenomenon of public men saying callous, heinous things about their first wives apparently without forethought or consideration was Brad Pitt discussing Jennifer Aniston. He said this:
“It became very clear to me that I was intent on trying to find a movie about an interesting life, but I wasn’t living an interesting life myself. I think that my marriage had something to do with it, trying to pretend that the marriage was something it wasn’t.”
MY GOD, IT BURNS!!!! But ol’ Brad wasn’t finished yet. He went on to talk about his then-wife Angelina Jolie:
“I’m satisfied with making true choices and finding the woman I love, Angie, and building a family that I love so much.”
Given the public fascination with why Jennifer Aniston has never had children, the cruelty of this statement is just off the charts. Even if Jen didn’t want children or simply wasn’t ready at the point in time they were married, let alone if she was physically unable to have children, (she has hinted as much recently) this has to be on a short list of the meanest things I’ve ever read. It’s mindbogglingly nasty, and the “true choices” dig did not sneak past me unnoticed. Nor did “finding the WOMAN I love”, with the implication that there had been only one, read as terribly cool to me. Dick, dick move, Brad. But then again, this is the man who continued working with Harvey Weinstein after the creep harassed and molested not one, but two of Brad’s paramours (including his wife, the woman he so-called loved!), yet then allowed himself to be retroactively painted a hero for confronting Weinstein after one of these incidents.
But wait, there’s more! When it comes to thoughtless jerks insulting their first wives, Hollywood has no shortage of examples to choose from. Why, I don’t even have to look any farther back than 2021 to pad out the rest of this thinkpiece, that’s how ubiquitous this phenomenon is! And it’s a long thinkpiece, so.
Chris Pratt is actually a guy I really want to like, because I have this contrarian streak in me that invariably wants to defend people whom everyone else hates. But alas, I cannot indulge this proclivity when it comes to Hollywood’s least favorite Chris, and all because of what he recently said about his ex-wife.
A little backstory; Chris Pratt was formerly married to uberspunky actress Anna Faris, one of the few people who dares to approach Jennifer Garner levels of adorableness. They have an eight year old son together who was born prematurely, weighing only 3 lbs, 12 ounces. Their little guy has struggled with lifelong health issues due to his prematurity, to such extent he’s had to have several surgeries because of it. They split up eventually (despite Chris being like, so totally relidge or whatevs) and Mr. Pratt, free agent, then took up with one of the Schwarzenegger-Kennedy-Shriver abominations. He met her at CHURCH, y’all! He married the new and improved version, and as tends to happen, they welcomed a baby girl some time back.
Ok. That’s cool. Nothing wrong with any of that. Life goes on. Sometimes things don’t work out. But then check this out, and I’ll copy paste it here just because words alone could truly not capture the nauseating grossness of this Instagram post:
LOOK HOW SHE’S LOOKING AT HIM! That other beeyotch never looked at him that way, I bet, cause she didn’t know how to KEEP A MAN. And this girl, well, SHE’S GIVEN HIM AN AMAZING LIFE – like, beyond being a multimillionaire A-List Hollywood celebrity, that is! Anna Faris certainly did not give him an amazing life, that life Chris was suffering through so bravely was so totally NOT amazeballz before Stare-y McKennedyShriverenegger came along!! Before this lovely girl, so pure of heart, so dewy and fresh, her only flaw being her loud chewing, came along to CHANGE EVERYTHING, why, Chris Pratt was prolly so totally bored and trapped just like Ben Affleck and Brad Pitt, well, he may as well have tried to chaw his own arm off to get out of that horrible fate of…being married to a beautiful, successful, talented woman, the mother of his son. THEY MET IN CHURCH!!! CHURRRRRRCH!!!!
Come on Arnold, put down that maid and beat the f*ck out of your son-in-law, on behalf of women everywhere!
But the thing that ticked people off the most about that Instagram post was how Chris Pratt seemed to go out of his way to mention that his now-wife had given him a HEALTHY daughter. His child with his first wife has endured chronic health issues, so it seemed like a deliberate diss to many people for him to mention, mention SO specifically mind you, that little factoid in such a public arena. Personally, I thought this was a minor quibble (I mean, saying “healthy daughter” is something people say, like “have a good one” and “are you working hard, or hardly working” and while it wasn’t terribly thoughtful, I don’t think it was THAT bad) compared to how absolutely icky the rest of the post was, but surely a little sensitivity might have gone a long way.
When this was pointed out to him by like literally every sane person on Planet Earth, Pratt, rather than apologizing, went on in true Affleckian style about how upset and depressed HE FELT about it. But luckily he snapped himself out of it by listening to some great tunes! WHAT A RELIEF that a guy who acted like an a-hole is no longer sad! And the tunes were, like, super religious, he made sure to point that out, because there’s nothing anyone loves more than when a person who has acted contrary to their religious values mentions how religious they are.
Oh and by the way, GREAT news, the new wife is pregnant once more!!! I’m sure that news goes down easy for Wife #1 coming just weeks after her ex-husband just dragged her and her child on social media. Again, the pregnancy is fine, part of life and all, but the insult, not so much.
Speaking of post-insult pregnancies, let’s talk about John Mulaney.
Before we do, let me first say in John’s defense, that unlike the rest of these clowns, at least the chick he took up with upon splitting so devastatingly from his first wife was roughly the same age as he is. Can’t say the same for any of the rest of the men mentioned here, all of whom dated or married women 10, 20, and in Brad Pitt’s case, 30 years younger than himself after their breakups.
Anyhoo, John Mulaney is a somewhat obscure figure compared with the rest of these fellows, so a brief introduction for those of you who aren’t familiar. John is a stand-up comedian with the wholesome-plus-irritatingly-quirky demeanor of Ferris Bueller, if Ferris had been born in Old Money New England instead of Chicago (despite, ironically, being from Chicago himself actually. John Mulaney is Old Money Chicago, I guess.) He’s also a successful comedy writer, writing for Saturday Night Live among other comedy shows, and as all stand up comedians seem to, had a failed sitcom floating around out there too.
One of the defining features of John Mulaney’s stand-up routines was his seemingly near-perfect marriage. He married artist Anna Marie Tendler back in 2014 and they had, to all outward appearances (appearances massively and deliberately cultivated by said stand-up routines), a great relationship. They were rich, gorgeous, successful, and childless by choice, showering their affection on a very spoiled French bulldog named Petunia. Beyond the trappings, they truly seemed to love each other, something that feels very rare in a world where we’re all connecting with our fellow humans by staring at screens all day. Their relationship was the kind many Millennials aspire to, and even though you, gentle older readers, maybe never heard of them before, they were the Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward of the avocado toast generation.
So beloved was the coupling of John and Anna Marie that people got all kind of emotional about their breakup, to wit:
And believe it or not, there are dozens if not hundreds of posts like this, about two people you probably never heard of before. Weird as it may be to those of you in the audience who still think Julia Roberts is the next big thing, this 21st century love story mattered to a whole lot of folks.
Just watch the dude’s comedy specials! Talking about his marriage was one of his go-to schticks, certainly as much as Jerry Seinfeld and airline food, or Jim Gaffigan’s Hot Pockets. John Mulaney made his name on discussing his relationship, on presenting this beautiful apparent illusion that so many folks wanted to believe in – the possibility of soul mates and forever, even when both of you are amusingly flawed human beings. But then it all came a-tumbling down.
As comedians often do, John struggled with substance abuse, despite having the demeanor of an uptight, middle-aged college professor dwelling in Connecticut circa 1908 – droll chap, very droll, and all that, eh Cholmondley, eh-herm. While Mulaney had been sober since 2005 and was sober at the time of his marriage, at some point he relapsed, by all accounts quite badly, reportedly weighing only 105 pounds at the time of his intervention. He went into rehab in late 2020. Tendler sought help at the same time, ostensibly for an eating disorder, but rumor has it that she was experiencing some emotional difficulties stemming from John’s drug abuse (watching someone you love drop to 105 pounds and being powerless to help them would cause even the strongest soul to have emotional difficulties) coupled with the disappointment learning of John’s alleged multiple infidelities.
Apparently feeling that multiple infidelity was a positive development in his life, John came out of rehab just long enough to split up with Tendler, which reportedly came as a huge shock to her (and maybe it’s just me, but there is definitely an air of “I been doing a lot of work on myself, babe, and I’ve realized that you’re actually the reason I abuse drugs, because it sure couldn’t have been MY fault, so smell ya later” in that act.) Then he quickly relapsed, went back into rehab, came out again, and we all would wish him well in his struggles except…
…for that he then promptly went onto the Seth Meyers show and announced TO THE WORLD that he had gone to Los Angeles in the spring and “met and started to date a wonderful woman named Olivia.”
Great story, bro, but actually a pretty massive and shameless lie. John Mulaney had actually met Olivia Munn, the tv “personality” (using the term loosely to mean “extremely good looking woman who has gotten a lot of opportunities that by all rights should have gone to legit journalists and actresses, but they were uggos”) he’s referring to, at Seth Meyers’ own wedding years before. After meeting John, Olivia told the Huffington Post in 2015 that she became fangirl obsessed with him and wanted to hang out with him. So while nothing may have happened between them, they certainly didn’t “meet” in the spring of 2021 and his emphatic insistence of such on public TV comes off very very weird.
Look, she was sending him SO MUCH LOVE upon hearing he was going into rehab, further confirming that they definitely knew each other prior, and not just in a “we met once at a wedding” kinda way:
This lil note was dropped after John had moved out of his house he shared with Anna Marie, but while they were allegedly still trying to work things out. And you know what they say, there’s nothing like your husband knowing that there’s a smokin’ hot bimbo who is super into him waiting in the wings to help your marriage survive a rough patch. Oh wait, they actually don’t say that because it’s such obvious bullshit.
Taking a page from Chris Pratt’s book, according to People magazine, which is where celebrities put things they want the world to know but don’t want to be caught actually saying them aloud, they not-met at CHURCH!!! CHURRRCCCHHHHHHH! To put the grossness of this into perspective, Anna Marie Tendler is Jewish, and John is Catholic. He had repeatedly (and profitably) joked about their different religious heritages in the past. Not that I’m saying the man can’t go to church, or that he should never date anyone from his own faith ever again, nothing of the sort. It is the clueless cruelty of the public reveal against the backdrop of profiting off of the relationship that is at issue and not simply a guy moving on with his life. He went on to say, and may I just remind you that he said this on national television while the corpse of his previous marriage was not only still warm but twitching involuntarily, this:
“I got into this relationship that’s been really beautiful with someone incredible…” Implication being, of course, that his previous relationship was not beautiful and his previous partner was not incredible, “(Olivia Munn) kind of held my hand (through everything),” ok, bro, glad she was so very helpful, but isn’t your WIFE supposed to be the one holding your hand? Might not this hand holding, depending on when and how it occurred, have been a wee bit inappropriate, and perhaps crossed some boundaries?
Then John dropped the Big Bomb: “…and we’re having a baby.”
Hold on a minute, the top of my head just burst into flames, I must extinguish it before I proceed.
Remember the whole “childless by choice” thing? Well, it turns out that was childless by JOHN’S choice, as Anna Marie has subsequently revealed plans to freeze her own eggs until she finds a love interest who isn’t a hapless manchild. She recently said, regarding having children of her own, “There were things that I never even thought about because that was just a closed door. So now that it feels like not as much of a closed door, it’s something that I ruminate on a lot.” She went on to explain that she had always held partnership above having kids, and claimed “I feel lucky that I get to be standing on the precipice of all these new things that I get to possibly experience, and who knows how they will go?” (God, please, send some good guy or gal along to snap this poor darling woman up.)
So basically, as is so, so very often the case, “childless by choice” meant “childless with YOU, but if someone better or more careless with birth control comes along, then hey, call me daddy! My shiny new fuckbuddy who is as yet unaware of what a piece of useless detritus I am and thus has the luxury of being totally not judgemental about any of my shenanigans, gets a BABY, and you dusty old first wife you, enjoy that dog! I think it has about three more years left in its lifespan and it is becoming incontenent, but hey, that’s pretty much exactly like having a baby, which I am having with this person who isn’t you. Wait, did you hear that? Oh, I see, it was merely the sound of the few eggs remaining in your desiccated ovaries exploding into dust.”
For those of you who need a fictional example of why this is a BFD, it’s kinda like this:
During that same Seth Meyers interview, John went on to add, if he’d suddenly realized he had not yet fully confirmed everyone’s suspicion that he blamed his ex-wife for failing to prevent his drug abuse, he added, “Olivia and this baby have helped save me from myself in this early journey out of recovery.” Because hey, whatever Anna Marie did in that department, clearly it wasn’t enough! If only she had done more to save John from the consequences of his own choices, none of this ever would have happened!!
Maybe you think I’m being unfair here. Maybe you think, “well how else was he supposed to announce it” or “he’s moved on with his life, tough titties, guess Anna should have been…an entirely different person who wasn’t present during the timeframe when John did a lot of effed up stuff, so she couldn’t be blamed for it, or judged on her entirely human reactions to a very messed up situation not at all of her making.” Maybe you can’t envision what else John might have done or said differently. How about this: “My marriage broke up because I was a terrible husband and a flawed person, and sometimes things just go so far that it feels like you can’t come back from that. I felt I had damaged our relationship so much and so irrevocably that I did not know how to salvage it, and splitting up felt like the right thing to do for both our sakes. I hope and pray that Anna can come to understand that in time because I know I hurt her badly.” Or, “I have been so very fortunate because I have had two wonderful, amazing women in my life. I didn’t deserve either one of them, and I will be forever grateful to Anna Marie for our life together, which I will always cherish, and without which I would not be who I am today. I deeply regret the many ways my behavior caused our marriage to fall apart. I wish her every joy in and I hope she can someday forgive me.”
Or how about this – say nothing. Nothing needed to be said. Tabloids gonna tabloid, but my GOD, dudes, don’t hand them the fodder personally. What John Mulaney did was mean. It was mean, and it was in front of the world, and doing something mean publicly makes it an act of deliberate cruelty.
One guy who IMO has not been held up for nearly enough public scorn is Ewan McGregor, probably because his wife wasn’t famous so no one cared when he screwed her over.
Ewan McGregor was married for 22 years – which is, in celebrity years, nearly all of eternity – to a French production designer named Eve Mavrakis. Together they have four daughters and all reports were that they had a very happy and solid marriage…Ewan even sported a flamin’ heart tattoo with Eve’s name on it. Well, that is, until Ewan joined the cast of the tv show Fargo and encountered the much younger Mary Elizabeth Winstead, one of those actresses whom Hollywood decided some years back was gonna be An Official Thing, and so they’ve spent the past 20ish years trying to make her into a star even tho she never really gets there.
Ewan began cheating on his wife with his co-star, eventually left his marriage to pursue the new relationship, and the breakup was one of those terrible ones where the wife really and truly did not see it coming, like, at all – even welcoming Winstead into their family home for dinner. Eve was utterly blindsided and by all accounts completely devastated when pictures of Ewan and Mary Elizabeth making out in public surfaced. Helpful hint: if you are famous and a cheater, maybe don’t play smoochy face with ur bae where someone can take your picture. The world is full of cameraphones, and also vindictive types who hate cheaters. But of course this assumes that Ewan didn’t kinda sorta want to be caught in the act, and I’m not sure we can make that assumption. And I’m fairly sure that Mary Elizabeth Winstead did indeed want to be caught in flagrante delicto, probably breaking into an elaborate dance number in which she sang “I Got the Golden Ticket” after it happened.
Even after finding out about the affair, Eve still wanted to work on the relationship (this seems to be a recurring theme, doesn’t it?) but after wasting a couple months going through the motions, with Ewan reportedly having no real intention of ever trying to save things and agreeing to the attempt merely to placate everyone like a giant cowardly milksop, enough was enough, and the couple parted ways.
As tends to happen, Ewan’s daughters were not terribly enamored of their dad’s new squeeze – with eldest daughter Clara famously calling Winstead a piece of trash on Instagram, an analysis I find myself hard pressed to refute (she went to the woman’s house in friendship, met her children, and ate her food whilst banging the husband. ATE HER FOOD!) Clara McGregor spared Ewan himself no vitriol either, not-so-cryptically referring to a-hole men who leave my goddess of a mother.
May every woman have such a faithful child at her back. Even Anna Marie Tendler someday.
While eventually Clara walked both these statements back, even going so far as to take some blame onto herself, calling the trash remark “not her finest moment” (yes Clara, yes it was, unless you plan to cure cancer soon) I don’t think you gotta be a rocket scientist to comprehend that the people most closely involved in the situation believed Eve Mavrakis to be the wronged party and Ewan McGregor to, indeed, be the a-hole in question.
But again, things happen. People make mistakes. Marriages do come to an end, painfully, brutally, as a result of those mistakes. This piece is not about that; men are gonna men, and there’s no stopping em – women been trying to stop the mennening process since time began and we ain’t never cracked the code yet. A man being an a-hole over a younger woman is the world’s third oldest profession.
Nah, my issue is men in the public eye doing and saying things that hurt their first wives, not necessarily deliberately but out of an utter lack of empathy. Statements that if a rational person took a split-second to consider in anything less than a completely self-centered frame of mind, they would realize, “hmm ok maybe that’s not super fair, or wise, or kind of me to say to this person who at one point, I claimed to love.” And as we can glean from the cautionary case of one Mr Ewan McGregor, you don’t even have to discuss your relationship with Howard Stern to rub your wife’s face in your sexual ca-ca.
Ewan and Mary Elizabeth are still together and recently welcomed a bouncing baby boy, after Ewan’s four daughters with his first wife. This in itself feels just generally lousy to me but at least no sane rational person would ever be so cruel as to take public delight in the fact that his new hunny gave him a son after his former wife had only produced girls. This isn’t Henry the Eighth any more, right?
Recently Ewan won an Emmy for playing the fashion designer Halston, and his acceptance speech went a little something like this:
“Mary, I love you so much, I love you so much! I’m going to take this home and show it to OUR beautiful little boy, Laurie!” Then because Dude must have realized oof maybe that was a bit too much he added, “And to my beautiful girls who are watching (who BTW are totally NOT ours, but that other chick’s, that old hag I left in the dust for you, Mary-whom-I-love-so-much, you know, that one who never produced a SON for me!) Clara, Jamyan, Esther, and Anouk, I said I would say hello to you as well!” And this is in no way an afterthought! I promise! Even tho they’re just about to cut my mike and the music is starting!!
For crying out loud, it was basically a bit from a sitcom; mentally I could replace Ewan with Chandler Bing frantically tacking on some sentiment that he realized he was supposed to say but had originally forgotten after the fact. Adding insult to injury, later that night McGregor had the sheer unmitigated gall to invoke his daughters in one of those cringeworthy woke-for-the-sake-of-street-cred statements celebs often make. He said, “…you know I have four daughters and the importance of women and women’s rights and equality for women and equal pay…” But hey, did I mention my BEAUTIFUL BABY BOY, light of my life, fruit of my loins2?
And is it so wrong of me to think that maybe the guy should have perhaps tossed out a word there to his ex wife? 22 years!!! Twenty-two YEARS!! That’s a long damn time during which Ewan definitely worked on his career with his ex-wife’s support- even working WITH his wife on some of his projects. Would it have been so terrible to thank her in that moment as well?
Ewan had indeed thanked Eve once in the past – for his Emmy win on Fargo (you may recall it was during his work on Fargo that he began his affair with Mary Elizabeth Winstead.) But that was such a SAD thing and was itself awful and cruel and thoughtless! Ewan offered up that thank you with all the enthusiasm of a man donning a hair shirt prior to having a prostate exam. It was an undeniable kiss off, not the joyful thank you McGregor just gave to Wife #2. That Fargo thank you to Eve Mavrakis was like the thank you equivalent of a funeral dirge, as if he was giving their relationship one final 21 gun salute and a subdued sounding of Taps, in a bloody awards speech. Awful, perfectly awful.
I swear, it’s almost as if these guys sit around calculating how best to hurt their ex’s feelings and then doing so with just enough cluelessness to retain plausible deniability. Lest you think I make too much of this, put yourself in Eve’s position. How would you – a non-famous person who had never deliberately sought the public eye – like to have to endure public scrutiny even more so by your husband mentioning both you and his new lover whilst winning an award for the show which had in effect taken him from your family and your marriage of 22 years?
As it turns out, the former-Mrs-McGregor didn’t much care for it either, telling tabloid The Sun, who apparently hunted her down while she was in the hospital recovering from knee surgery, the moment every woman would just love to be pestered by strangers to discuss her husband’s infidelity, “No, I did not like his speech…Yes, I saw it. It’s not a great situation. It’s upsetting and private. It is what it is, I’m trying to make the best of it.”
Let me point out once again that saying nothing is an option.
Wow, rereading that I seem difficult to please, thank you/no thank you, but context is everything. How different a vibe it is to remember to thank your former partner of 22 years, five years after your breakup, in recognition of your time together and the positive force she was in your life, versus when winning an award for a program during which you were cheating on her the entire time and eventually left her for one of your co-stars. In the first speech, Ewan was trying (in vain) to look like a good guy in the face of morally sketchy behavior, and in the second speech, it was obvious his first family was nothing more than an afterthought to him.
What Ewan McGregor should have done instead was give barely any speech for the Fargo win out of sheer unadulterated shame – just a terse “thank you” and dash off the stage – but of course he just couldn’t bear to rob himself of the glorious experience of giving that long-desired awards speech, that was on his BUCKET LIST! And then without that overfull sack of cruelty dangling over the entire thing to poison it, five years on he could have graciously and believably thanked Eve now that she’s had time to heal. That’s what a person with a modicum of consideration for anyone other then themselves might have done. And don’t effing DARE to invoke women’s rights and equality and all the rest of it in the name of your daughters, whose stable family you done blowed up for the sake of your penis, my Jedi friend.
While I could go on with this, listing example after example of men who seemingly bend over backwards to blame, embarrass, and even humiliate their ex-wives, it’s time to move on, not unlike a 45 year old man who gets slightly tired of being married.
So the question I’m sure many people might have is why? Not why do these men do this, because it’s clearly a combo of utter self-absorption – they just always, perpetually, see things their way, and have no room for imagining how their navel-gazing words might reflect upon others – and a perhaps understandable desire not to blame oneself for the things oneself totally did. I understand. Honest reflection is hard.
The real question is why does any of this matter? Why do I care? Why should you? Why do we collectively cringe inside when we read that stuff Ben Affleck said, which to him was prolly nothing more meaningful than him talking through some really super duperly important thoughts he was thinking with Howard Stern and several million of his nearest and dearest friends?
I think it’s because on some level we recognize it not only as profoundly unjust, but actively contagious, this attitude where it’s ok for men to invite the world to blame their ex-wives for their leaving the marriage for selfish reasons. And a contagious idea that never gets pushed back on spreads faster than Omicron.
As someone who has been through what the McGregor girls have been through, knowing your dad left your family for better quality cooch while blaming your mom for a totally bizarre and unfair expectation (mountain climbing?? Really? Papasan, you married a woman who wore pantyhose even with jeans and smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, but you expected her to take up mountain climbing?) never leaves you. Even when you’re an adult, even when you’ve been married relatively happily for quite a long time, there’s that lingering fear that if you aren’t perfectly obliging all the time in every arena that you’re gonna get dumped. Not only dumped, but dumped in such a way that everyone in the whole wide world will side with Hubby, immediately assuming that Wifey drove him to it by failing to enthusiastically appreciate a sudden interest in some ridiculous and bizarre thing. Let me tell ya, I know more about obscure British sportscars, tractors, and my convo of last night, the benefit of plaster and lath construction vs. drywall (you can make it ROUND, people!) than I ever wanted to.
And hey, it’s a reasonable fear, since men do this every day of the week, even on Sunday, which is the Lord’s Day as Chris Pratt would likely chime in here to say, and society continues to whisper about how “she let herself go” and “she never appreciated him”, by which they mean catered to his every whim on every subject all the time.
If you have never heard people cruelly say these things about a marriage that has broken up, then you have never witnessed a marriage break up, because it happens constantly. I know a woman whose marriage broke up because her husband became involved with radical Islam, and people STILL blamed it on her! I know a woman whose longtime partner cheated on her constantly and gave her herpes and the dude continued to claim it was because she drove him to it with her constant and “inexplicable” jealousy. He literally could not come up with a single solitary reason for his girlfriend’s concern over his whereabouts, I mean wasn’t she busy enough taking Valtrex? Yet the majority of their friends still sided with him. Even when the man is an outright criminal, people blame the woman for getting involved with him in the first place. We’ve all seen it. Sympathy is in short supply for those of us with two X chromosomes.
The toxic creme de la creme is that sentiment I mentioned back at the start of all this: “it takes two to make a marriage fall apart.” Oh really? Does it REALLY take two? Because I’ve seen plenty of marriages where it only took one person, and it ain’t just men are guilty of this either. You know it and I know it. The person who is just absolutely fine, good enough, a very decent person, solid and reliable, doing their level best (in many cases, like my herpes friend or Jennifer Garner, expending Herculean efforts in the face of some pretty extreme behavior on the part of their partner) who has put in years upon years of time and energy into building a very adequate marriage, sturdy, stable, and then their spouse gets bored. Wants something more. Wants something better, because they deserve something better, damn it! And by better, I simply mean new.
That’s all it is. A whole lot of people expect constant novelty when really even the best day to day life – even for celebrities, let alone the rest of us – tends more towards mundanity interspersed with fantastic, lovely moments that really by all rights should make it all worthwhile.
Women do this too3!!! Absolutely women do this too! (Paging Olivia Wilde!) Yet I can’t recall, like, in ever, anyone daring to publicly blame a man for succumbing to the siren song of a newer, hotter model without contextualizing it by mentioning the many ways it’s probably his wife’s fault because “it takes two”. Meanwhile we all whisper in horrified shock when a woman does it, and most people conclude the husband is the wronged party who carries absolutely no blame at all. We even have an official word for a man who gets cheated on – cuckold – and no such equivalent even exists for women, at least not in this millennium.
But here’s the catch – no one is guaranteed a life of nothing but fantastic, lovely, and shining new moments. No one is guaranteed a life of constant and incessant excitement, not even the very rich, not even the very handsome. Things that endure invariably rest upon the hard work and unglamorous sacrifice of SOMEbody. Our modern day culture is so pathologically obsessed with adventure and wow and amazing experiences and self-indulgence that we collectively seem to forget that it’s the people who just show up every day to do the hard work who are the foundation upon which every endeavor rests.
Whether it’s work or marriage or family, nothing in this world can function without the people who do the heavy lifting. Some of us have to set aside our proclivities to wrap our bodies in Saran Wrap and meet our man at the door with a double martini (or pole dancing or sex clubs or vajazzling or whatever insane thing desperate women in 2022 are currently doing in an attempt to temporarily titillate nature’s most easily bored creature, the human male) in order to take the kids to soccer and get dinner on the table and get the laundry folded and finish the project that’s due for work on Thursday, and oh, what’s this – maybe to even find a little time to do something for yourself now and then.
Pretty funny how men like Ben Affleck are allowed to create complete familial disasters while garnering (see what I did there) shockingly little blame, so little blame that the guy cannot even appear to comprehend the reasons for it, let alone foresee it. Meanwhile, a woman can’t even take a goddamn bath now and then without someone muttering that she should probably be scrubbing something – like her husband’s junk – instead.
Don’t pity the Ben Afflecks of the world. A little time in the hot seat may be good for their character. Maybe it will clue them in on what it feels like to have the world talking about their foibles for a change. Because no woman, famous or otherwise, should have to go through public scrutiny when it was their ex who couldn’t get his shit together:
- On the cartoon F is for Family recently, one of the characters quit his job and used an unexpected windfall to start a restaurant that served deep fried chicken skin.
- Look, Ewan, I have sympathy, having had four boys over the span of 20+ years and finally getting a girl. I was pretty darn pleased by that event myself. Being delighted by the appearance of an opposite sex child after having the other sex child is in human nature, particularly when the opposite sex child is the same sex as you are yourself and especially particularly when you think that door of life experience was closed to you. It doesn’t mean you don’t adore ALL your children with the passion of 1000 fiery suns, to find that a joyful development. But man, that speech was brutal. Not only for the sake of your ex-wife who surely felt all kinds of ways about it, but for your daughters too.
- Though this is not very female-sisterhood-ly of me to gossip, I know a woman who pushed her husband, largely against his will, to have seven children and let her stay home with them, even though they really couldn’t afford the endeavor with the lifestyle said woman demanded. She forced him to move across the country, seven kids in tow, because she couldn’t get along with her mother-in-law. After all that, she decided maybe she just wasn’t so into the whole “motherhood” scene any more, left her husband with custody of the seven kids, took a job as a waitress, got a boyfriend (I suspect the boyfriend came first) and proceeded to cover her entire body with piercings and tattoos for self-fulfillment. She managed this trick by somehow continuing to get spousal support from her ex-husband while he also singlehandedly raised the seven children that she had demanded that he agree to, in a state in which he knows no one and has no support network, 3000 miles away from his friends and family. It’s a dumpster fire. (BTW, this is publicly posted on social media, with no small amount of pride on the part of the offender, and is not me betraying any confidence of friendship.)
But you know what else, I know 123,456,789 men who did some form of this exact same thing while practically everyone in their social circles blamed it on the 25 pounds the wife had gained. So while there are certainly absolutely awful and toxic women in the world, boy howdy, why is it considered culturally ok to blame women when it happens to them, while the man to whom this terrible thing happens is seen as the innocent victim (even when he is not, in the case of women leaving abusers, controllers, and serial cheaters)?