I was on holidays when I heard the news. It reached me despite a self-imposed Christmas media blackout when, climbing walls after eight consecutive rainy days, I accidentally connected my laptop to the Internet.
Next thing you know, whoops, my fingers slipped and I found myself on smh.com.au.
After a brief diversion to look at pictures of Britney being hauled off to a psych ward (this made me feel so dirty I had to take a shower and drink some wheat grass juice), I read that two of my favourite Australian artists are calling time on their four-year marriage.
“Daniel and Natalie have split up,” I gravely informed my husband who was engrossed in the cricket. A few seconds passed as his mental search engine desperately tried to identify any couple we knew called Daniel and Natalie. Nothing. “Daniel Johns and Natalie Imbruglia” I prompted impatiently. A flicker of recognition but I could see he was unmoved, both emotionally and from the couch.
‘Oh. Yeah, that’s a shame,” he replied, delving deep into his shallow pool of celebrity knowledge for something more to add. Aware of how desperate I was for some analysis, he threw me a bone. “Um, they always seemed like a couple who’d stay, you know….together.”
I would totally agree with that except for the fact they never lived in the same country. This had always puzzled me because if I were married to either of them? You wouldn’t find me straying further than Westfield. I’d just bask in his genius, her beautiful voice, and their respective hotness.
Over the years I’ve often wondered why one of them didn’t just relocate. After much thought, I decided it should be Natalie since her voice is portable whereas Daniel’s career with Silverchair and the Dissasociatives is more firmly entrenched in Australia. "I’d never let the distance or work get in the way of my marriage," Imbruglia agreed in a 2005 interview. (Aren’t you glad no-one ever wrote down anything you said about a relationship that’s now kaput?)
But she stayed in London, he stayed in Newcastle and in the statement announcing their divorce, they admitted the two-hemisphere thing was ultimately a deal-breaker. “…our career demands and our lives in different parts of the world have brought us to the point where unfortunately this difficult decision was necessary for both of us. We have simply grown apart through not being able to spend enough time together." What a shame they never came to me for marriage counselling. Clearly, I had all the answers: call Qantas.
I’ve always had a special connection with Natalie and Daniel because an ex-boyfriend of mine once pashed her just after she made that break-through Twisties ad. Also, I once met Silverchair’s manager, a lovely guy called John Watson, and we had a conversation about our kids for five very meaningful minutes. So you see, the next step was naturally a couples’ vacation with Nat and Dan, somewhere a bit rock and roll like Byron Bay or Thailand.
A few days after reading the news, we met friends – actual friends, not imaginary celebrity ones – for dinner at the pub. When someone (OK, me) brought up news of the split, a collective “oh nooooo!” rose up from all the women at the table. There was genuine sadness and disappointment that it hadn’t worked out. None of the usual celebrity shaedenfreude here.
We all agreed that Natalie and Daniel were one of those rare celebrity couples we’d quite like to be.
And there aren’t many couples you can say that about anymore. Who’d want to be Nicole and Keith? Tom and Katie? J-Lo and that creepy dude? Even Brad and Angelina’s lives look like far too much hard work these days. All those kids. All those airports. All that social activism. Do they ever have time to just sit nude in front of a mirror and pat each other on the back? I fear they do not.
Natalie and Daniel have always held a special place in my heart and my itunes library. I always loved how private they were about their relationship. I loved their integrity, their talent and their extreme good looks. I loved that she was a bit older than him and I loved the way they’d triumphed over his chronic illness. I loved how smitten they appeared to be with each other. It seemed like the real deal.
And perhaps for a few years there it was. Until it wasn’t. One thing you always know for sure about someone else’s relationship is that you know nothing.
Famous or not, appearances are redundant. It’s good to be reminded of this when you are female because – as I mentioned here last week – many women are prone to compare themselves to other people. And other people’s relationships to our own.
Some of us have been known to leave dinner parties and other social gatherings silently – or sometimes loudly – contrasting our relationships with that other couple who somehow seem more affectionate, more in love, more happy, more intimate, more connected, more romantic, just….MORE. It’s invariably this shiny happy couple who will split within weeks of such public displays of affection. But like goldfish, we always forget this.
Daniel and Natalie’s relationship may not have been conventional but in the end, their joint statement was. Mutual decision. Amicable. Remain friends. In this case I hope it’s all true.