We lost another goldfish.
Whenever I hear particularly distressing or exciting news about celebrities, this is the first phrase that comes to mind.
Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes finalized their divorce?
There’s another one floating upside down in the tank.
You get attached to celebrities the same way you get attached to those inevitable fish in waiting rooms. They are colorful. They help you pass the time while waiting for the results to come back from the lab.
They are not people, exactly. They have all the traits of people, but they move around entrancingly behind glass, saying no word, and they never remember us. They do all the things that people do. They marry and are given in marriage, and they have children and they get flattering or unflattering haircuts and they are sometimes spotted outdoors with small dogs attached to them. And to some of us what they have looks exactly perfect. Mostly it is the refraction of light through the glass.
Now it’s over. The dust has settled. The divorce papers are signed. The couches of the world have sighed and gone silent.
What was it? Scientology? The Higgs Boson? The fact that Science magazine had to admit that bacteria probably cannot live by arsenic alone?
Whatever it was, our wild vicarious ride is at an end.
Whenever something happens to celebrities, their first move is to beg you to respect their privacy. This, after months of being forced to read all about their favorite color of nail polish (aubergine!), favorite shape of pasta (bow-tie!) and favorite non-Paul surviving member of the Beatles (Ringo!), seems like a bit much.
“Oho,” we say, “now you have decided that you want privacy? You should have thought about that when you were telling me your favorite constellation and forcing pictures on me of how rapidly you had lost the baby weight. Don’t try to slip by us! You made your choice!”
So people seem almost disappointed that this is resolving itself so quickly. Where’s the dirt course? We saved room for this. We’re sitting here waiting to digest whatever you have to tell us about Scientology. Who do the former TomKat think they are? Celebrity and privacy? Surely the two are mutually exclusive. They shake hands and both disappear.
Would you like to live in the fishbowl? Then do not be surprised when people start pounding on the glass and you are no longer able to throw stones. It’s the unalterable rule: you simply can’t have it all.
What is this all, anyway, that everyone wants to have? I thought it was something Adele had misplaced in the deep. It features in numerous songs, generally as something we used to have or could have had or which I gave you. It varies from place to place, person to person. Some of us want to jump into the goldfish bowl. Some of us just want to be left alone. All is, by definition, unattainable.
The way it’s been discussed of late, it sounds almost as though the idea that you can have what you want, but not all the time, and not now, is a disappointment peculiar to women. This is of course absurd. It is hardly the exclusive prerogative of the Fairer Sex (or whatever we are termed, these days) to struggle to balance our careers and our families and our reading lists. And if literature has any general lesson for those who Want It All, it is that anyone who has something you want has given up something you have. Privacy or fame? You pays your money, and you takes your choice.
Unless you’re the entity formerly known as TomKat. Then, it seems, you might get away with both. No wonder we’re grinding our teeth.