real life

Shut up. Kylie is not 'unlucky in love'.

By MIA FREEDMAN

This is not a ‘leave Kylie alone’ post. It’s far too late for that. With the level of fame she has, the extreme public interest in her personal life is a trade off she made decades ago.

And she understands that.

She is the consummate professional, always smiling, accessible and uncomplaining during the countless media intrusions into her life. Sometimes they’re invited, often not but Kylie is unfailingly chipper, even when she’s accosted by paparazzi in the street. Even during her battle with breast cancer.

So please don’t cry for Kylie. Not unless she asks you to. With the news her six year relationship with Spanish model Andres Velencoso has ended, here’s how I’m hearing it described in the media:

“Kylie! Unlucky again!”

“Devastated Kylie!”

“Kylie back on the shelf!”

“Heartbroken Kylie!”

“Why is Kylie so unlucky in love?”

Now it may well be true that Kylie is devastated. But it also may not. The end of every relationship is not always a bad or dramatic thing. Of course it is a sad one but some relationships just run their course. People change and grow apart. Why is there this pervasive idea that unless a relationship ends in marriage and children, it’s somehow a failure? And why is there the expectation that those things are the preferred option of every woman over 25?

Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan

Kylie has been asked about marriage in pretty much every interview she’s done since she started dating Jason Donovan during Neighbours when she was a teenager. Interestingly, male celebrities are never asked about marriage. It’s not seen as the ultimate end-game for men.

I’ll never forget the beautiful way Kylie answered the obligatory question about marriage one time. She said that she’s never believed in the idea of The One. Rather, she saw her romantic life as a series of journeys. And that you walk alongside someone on a shared path until the point at which your paths diverge. And your journey continues.

This struck me at the time as being incredibly insightful and wise and I’ve thought of it often.

The idea that traveling along a road that doesn’t lead to marriage is a wasted journey is so very 1950s. It’s limited and myopic and frankly, pretty insulting.

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Check out Kylie Minogue’s relationship history and tell me if you’d use the word ‘unlucky’ to describe it:

Jason Donovan – 1984 to 1989
Michael Hutchence – 1989 to 1991
Lenny Kravitz – 6 months in 1991

Stephane Sednaoui – 1996-1998
James Gooding – 1998 to 2001
Michael Di Nuzzo – 1998 to 1999
Olivier Martinez -2003 to 2007
Andrés Velencoso – 2008 to 2013

And yet the accepted narrative for unmarried women like Kylie is that no matter how successful or happy they are, unless the marriage and kids box has been ticked, they must somehow be disappointed. Unfortunate. Unlucky in love.

With Kylie, the inevitable baby question (conjoined twin of the marriage one) has taken on a particular urgency in media interviews during the past decade. Tick tock. The inference of failure is viscerally close to the surface when you ask a woman “So, do you want to have kids?” even though George Clooney is never asked this question. Neither is Ian Thorpe or Russell Brand or Leonardo DiCaprio or Matthew Perry or Chris O’Dowd or Bradley Cooper or Andy Lee or Kyle Sandilands or Kevin Spacey or Jon Hamm or Prince Harry or Hamish Blake or Jay Leno or Charlie Pickering or Sam Worthington or Justin Timberlake or Keanu Reeves or Benji Madden or Mark Zuckerberg.

And yet there are entire industries dedicated to breathlessly speculating on the status of Jennifer Anniston’s womb. No Kylie interview since 1984 has neglected to mention motherhood – or her current lack of it.

I have no idea whether Kylie wants a baby or not. Her personal feelings of acceptance or anguish about being childless or child-free at 45 are not a matter for the public record – despite the increasingly grostesque and insensitive questions she continues to field from the media. Ever the pro, she’s bravely adept at batting away the invariable inquisition; sometimes she’s cheeky, sometimes she’s coy and she’s always, always polite.

But how polite is it to ask a cancer survivor about whether she wants to have kids? How polite is it to ask a woman who  – even despite the fact her cancer treatment may well have made her infertile – is almost certainly too old to conceive anyway?

When my friend and Mamamia columnist, Wendy Squires, interviewed Kylie a year or two ago, her editor was adamant she bring back a quote from Kylie about motherhood. As a woman of the same age, who hasn’t had children herself, Wendy felt uncomfortable about it for all the reasons outlined above. So she asked Kylie a different question: Is it hard to be a cancer survivor who has to answer breathtakingly insensitive questions about wanting babies?

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Kylie with French photographer Stephane Sednaoui, her partner 1996-1998

Wendy told me afterwards that Kylie nearly wept with appreciation for the insight. She composed herself quickly before replying: “People have been chirping away about this for years. It’s really hard, though, because it’s not a given that it’s a possibility for me. And even if that story [the cancer history] wasn’t part of my life, it’s still presumptuous of anyone to ask. I don’t know if I’ll have kids of my own – who knows? It’s in the hands of the gods. I love children, but if it doesn’t happen to me, my aunty duties will satisfy me. I have a big family, so I’m very lucky in that way.”

I’ve been hearing a lot of sympathy and disappointment today from women around me and on social media. Like Jennifer Anniston, women want Kylie to have kids. As one of my friends says: “I think the reason I feel sad for Kylie is because I keep wanting her to be able to have kids with someone she’s in love with. I know she can do it alone. But … it’s fair to say – given the choice – most people would love to have a partner in their lives. But there is definitely a bias that I never feel “sorry” for men. I mean, Steve Martin just became a first time dad at 67 and he’s always said he doesn’t care whether he has kids of not.”

True. I agree with all of that. Can you imagine a female celebrity blithely saying she didn’t care if she had kids or not? My point is this. There are many women who will never have children – either for medical reasons, reasons of circumstance or because they didn’t want to become mothers. Arriving at this point is, for some, heart-breaking, for some a relief and for most, a million shades of in-between.

But to define a woman’s success and her happiness by the exclusive measure of marriage and babies, we do a huge disservice to all the women who don’t (or don’t want to) check those boxes. Why define us by what we’re not instead of what we are?

If Kylie truly wants to become a mother, she can. She has the means and the support. Charlize Theron and Sandra Bullock and Angelina Jolie and Nicole Kidman have all done it. By constantly holding Kylie up to this antiquated standard of happily-ever-after, we devalue all that she’s done and all that she is.

I think Kylie Minogue is amazing and I wish her many more journeys with as many wonderful men as she wishes to walk beside.

Because by constantly projecting disappointment and failure onto her, we cast her unwittingly as a victim when she appears to be a woman very much in charge of her life.

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