I might be, I think, one of the very few people in the Western Hemisphere who is not, this very minute, watching Jon & Kate Plus Eight to hear Jon and Kate announce the dissolution of their marriage. Which is funny, I suppose, seeing as I have found them, and the media furor surrounding them, kind of fascinating – as a story in itself, and also as a reflection of North American attitudes about parenting and family and, especially, motherhood. But although marriage (or whatever partnering arrangement) is pretty central to the experience of parenting and family and motherhood for many – and so the dissolution of this marriage relevant to this narrative – I find that I cannot watch.
I can’t watch because it is so tragic. The implosion of any family is tragic. I have spent many an hour crying with my mother and my father – together, separately – about the implosion of their marriage. I have spent many more hours still crying with my sister about the implosion of her marriage. I spent hours this weekend crying with a dear, dear friend as her heart broke over the implosion of her marriage. Love, marriage, family: when these fall apart, it is a terrible thing. It is no less terrible for Jon and Kate, whatever we might think of them.
It is, perhaps, more terrible for Jon and Kate. Or, that is, it is more terrible that I, that we all, witness this falling-apart. Because, it seems to me, their marriage has faltered, has fallen to pieces, in part, at least, because they lived their lives on the screen, because they exposed themselves so fully to us, because they laid themselves so bare and then found that they didn’t have the resources – as partners, as a family – to cope with such a baring. And so although this terrible thing is as much a part of their story as any mundane detail of their lives-on-the-screen, I find that I cannot watch, because watching the tragedy, it seems, has everything to do with why that tragedy occurred in the first place.
It seems the least I can do, then, to look away just this once. To pretend, at least, that they will handle this worst chapter in their story with some dignity, some reserve. To pretend that it doesn’t matter whether or not they do.