My frenemies would tell you that I’m insufferably smug at the best of times.
My response? Cool story, bro.
That’s awfully smug of me, isn’t it? You see, ‘smugness’ comes quite naturally to me because 60 percent of the time, I think I’m doing great because I’m so happy to not be f*cking things up on a colossal scale. Because 40 percent of the time, I am, most definitely, f*cking things up on a colossal scale. So badly, in fact, that it almost obliterates the 60 percent of the time that I haven’t.
I don’t think being smug is about thinking you’re better than others; that’s how insecure people interpret it. I think being smug is about feeling very pleased with yourself. So when things are going decently, and I reflect on having my life together for a few blessed moments, I’m undoubtedly pretty pleased with myself.
Because I deserve a goddamn medal on the days I don’t turn life into a total sh*tshow. Because I have made many mistakes in my life, and so when the good times come rollin’ in, I’m the first (and fine, I’ll admit it, often only) person to tell myself “you did good, Namminksy”. (Yeah, Smug Nama has a nickname.)
LISTEN: What to say to a friend going through a divorce. Post continues after audio.
So you can imagine how much I high-five myself for having the courage to leave an unsalvageable marriage, re-start my life, and finally become the person I always wanted to be. See why my frenemies think I’m insufferable? Well, I just might be, but I’m also proud of myself. Pleased with myself. Self-sat-is-fied.
And that, it seems, is yet another of the many things I have in common with Gwyneth Paltrow.
I recently saw an article calling Paltrow a “Smug Divorcee” for posting the below Instagram picture of her ex-husband Chris Martin and current partner Brad Falchuk. I had to laugh.
That’s what the writer got from seeing these smiling faces?
Just FYI, here were my initial thoughts upon seeing the photo:
- Please let that be a chalkboard in the background that she’s wiped clean for privacy reasons, and not a piece of art that she spent $75,000 on.
- Pretty impressive ‘belt notches’, Gwyn.
- Why does Chris Martin always wear shirts that seem too small for him? (Not a complaint.)
Ok, now back to the writer.
She says that the men look too pleased with themselves, and Paltrow’s use of #modernfamily is intended to make everyone else feel unmodern, and whatever the opposite of “family” means. (Alone, maybe? Who knows.)
So, I’d argue that the writer isn’t really looking at the photo at all.
Because here’s the thing that happily divorced people get – especially the ones who have managed to be friends with their ex, and even more especially the ones who are friends with their ex’s new partner: a lot of work went into that.
A lot of setting-aside of ego. A lot of patience and tolerance. A lot of respect. An unconscionable, exhausting amount of 'adulting'.
So everyone involved with that photo, including Paltrow who probably took it, has a right to feel as smug as they want. They should feel pretty pleased with themselves, because I know that a lot of emotional work went into getting to brunch. I know this because I was the Brad Falchuk for a decade, and it's not easy.
I also know that no matter how hard you try, sometimes it just can't happen. So the rare miracle when it does needs to be acknowledged. As does the most crucial fact of all: that it's all for the kids. The writer mentions that briefly in her piece, and dismisses it quicker than you can ask, "is Chris Martin still single?"
But that motivation can't be underestimated. Can you imagine how this photo made Paltrow's children, Apple and Moses, feel? They don't hate each other. Look at what they're doing because of how much they love us.
But the writer questions why "their gold-star performance as divorcees becomes a cause for celebration in itself - more 21st-century and, dare we say it, sexier than a regular stuck-together-for better-or-worse marriage"?
Because it is a cause for celebration in itself; perhaps not for people on the outside, but definitely for the family.
I agree, as the writer says, this photo is "a picture of Smug Divorce in action". But please, let me ask, what exactly is wrong with that? Is it preferable for co-parents to do handovers at Maccas and write passive-aggressive notes to each other in a 'communication book'? Of course not.
The writer thinks Smug Divorcees are looking for "bonus points" for being great parents after making a mess of things and poor choices in the first place.
We're trying to make the best of things. But the only people we need bonus points from are our kids. Because it's all for them.