Nine years. That’s the average length of an Australian marriage these days.

http://img2.timeinc.net/people/i/2007/startracks/071217/madonna.jpg

Not quite ‘til death do us part, is it? More like “until you
start to seriously piss me off and I no longer want to sleep with you
or hold your hand.” Now put those words in your wedding pipe and smoke
them….

Actually, the nine years thing is a real shame because you know, if you
hold on a little longer and make it to ten, the traditional anniversary
gift is pottery! Pottery. Gee, there’s an incentive to stick around.

Materially speaking, the good gear doesn’t kick in until 25 years
(silver), 30 years (ruby), 50 years (gold) or 60 years (diamond).
Given the way modern marriages are expiring on par with bananas,
jewellery merchants and pottery makers must be seriously displeased. In
2001, the average marriage lasted 11 years. Now, we’ve slipped under a
decade, despite the irresistible lure of clay.

Madonna can probably afford to buy her own pottery. Heck, she could buy a pottery factory just from the spare change lurking in her yoga pants.
So it’s certainly not sentimentality or the prospect of a romantic pot that will make or break her marriage to Guy Ritchie.

The 50 year-old pop cultural icon married the 40-year-old indie director seven years ago and despite half-hearted PR denials, divorce appears imminent. His mother calls the intensifying speculation “TT – total tosh”. Her lawyers are being cagey. Either way, it does seem there’s trouble. Smoke, fire etc.

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As with everything Madonna does, the alleged end of her marriage has taken on greater significance than just two people calling it quits. Especially for the generation of women who grew up wearing black plastic bangles up their arm.

I first noticed this last week when a friend emailed me to say: “You should write about Madonna’s divorce. For some reason it upsets me. I can’t help it. I want her to prove that women can have, do, be it all. I want her to be happy. Is that too much to ask? Sigh.”

Until then, it hadn’t occurred to me to be upset. Perhaps because I don’t have quite the same fondness for Madonna as I once did. Somehow, she’s become less human this past decade. Less aspirational. One friend puts it more succinctly: “Her image is as hard as her body. She seems to have become a humourless control freak. Or maybe she’s always been like that, it’s just getting tired after twenty years in our faces. Guy seems to be a normal bloke. I think he should run not walk.”

Whether it’s Guy or Madonna who may be walking is still unclear (if it’s her, she’ll definitely jog, with hand weights). Regardless, I’m fairly unmoved by the whole idea of their split. It was nice they found each other, they raised her daughter, had a son together, adopted another son, made a spectacularly awful film and now it’s over.

By Hollywood standards, I’d have thought seven years was a respectable innings. In an industry where many marriages are measured in months or ‘number of awards ceremonies attended together’, anything over five years is gold standard, hall-of-marital-fame, stuff. Surely.

The press may already be using the sobriquet “failed’ about her marriage and I guess technically, any marriage that ends in divorce instead of death is a failure. But is it really as simple as that?

The great philosopher and poet, Kylie Minogue once said that she doesn’t necessarily believe in the idea of one soul mate, one perfect match. Instead, she believes you walk a path with different people during your life, for different periods of time.

By that measure, is seven years and two children together a failure? Or have we become so addicted to instant gratification and so allergic to anything unpleasant that at the first sign of difficulty we prefer to cut and run in the pursuit of Good Times?

When it comes to marriage, are we becoming Generation Why Stick Around? My 25-year-old friend thinks we are. “About Madonna, I tend to think, Ohhh, that’s sad. But then I do think, oh well, they gave it a good shot. I know so many divorced people in their late twenties, it’s kind of the norm now. Expected, even. Even though my parents have been together for over 30 years. So, was it a failure? No, I don’t believe so. I think in Tinsel Town that’s a friggin’ miracle. Even in the Real World, 10 years seems to be a miracle.”

So. Miracle or failure? Or just life? I went back to my 35-year-old friend who was upset about Madge and asked her to elaborate. “Part of me wants to say hell, there’s no failure in being single or divorced,” she said. “Maybe I shouldn’t project my own expectations onto Madonna. Maybe seven years is fine and I’m just applying an impossible happily-ever-after standard.  But another part of me wants this iconic woman who symbolized female freedom, autonomy and provocation, to be able to have an enduring love as well. Because so many of my historical heroines either lived alone, neglected their kids or topped themselves.”

In that context, seven years is sounding worthy of a high-five and heck, maybe even a clay bowl.

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