With well-known personalities breaking up, the disaffection is all too publicly displayed. Protestations on the need for privacy (please don’t ask me about my love life) are taken in stride as public questions around the most private of moments. There is no third party involved. He left without a forwarding address, and he has a new SIM card.
While the degree of interest rises in inverse proportion to the age of the couple (though the years are not always symmetrical) there is still heightened curiosity even for an old couple when one of them is a political figure or very wealthy and sick.
The woman usually gets the sympathy votes as her partner manfully maintains a discreet silence. She wears sunglasses to hide puffy eyes, reads a prepared statement before reporters. In an almost monotonous voice bereft of emotion, she proceeds to detail the many tortures inflicted (He tried rub my back with a steel wool brush) and the general lack of character exhibited by the erstwhile partner.
So as not to appear the whiney avenger, she closes her prepared statement with a soft note — he is still the father of my children. For those still interested in following the story, more granular details are usually available in social media. This may even be accompanied by a music video.
While the phenomenon of split-ups covered (or uncovered) by media is often limited to women, can abandoned males be far behind?
Is there a gym instructor ready to spill the beans on a cruel partner who leaves him for an even younger and more accomplished tutor who incorporates dance numbers to weight lifting reps, with revival moves like the elephant walk? Will there be revelations of humiliations at the gym, where she refuses to take the weight from her erstwhile instructor? Just take it home with you.
Baring the wounded soul is such a ratings winner that media have offered themselves up as convenient channels of this form of entertainment. Air time and pages are devoted to the latest revelations of amorous disasters. Image consultants are recruited to provide the right spin for clients and give the latest linen-washing event a good arc to re-launch a stalled career. A new breed of PR lawyers is hatching fast, a few ending up with high-profile government jobs.
Old-fashioned folks consider such public displays of dissatisfaction with a partner tawdry, and best left in the confines of the bedroom where many a failure to perform marital obligations begin and end.
Is the objective of media disclosures to gain sympathy, and subsequently seduce a now indifferent partner, or simply to give the villain of the piece a public whipping? (Madam, is your goal to shred his image to bits so he is left in tatters? — Yes.)
Anyway, verbal attacks on a former partner (maybe once a loved one — we met in school) do not always result in his being turned into a conniving villain. When overdone, public displays of disaffection lead to the unintended conclusion — no wonder he left her. She can audition for Macbeth as one of the three ladies around the bubbling cauldron.
The parting of ways also applies to political allies. There are dropped hints of disaffection when certain appointees are designated as bad news bears or flirting with the critics and repeating their fake news. An exit is then announced for the ex-ally “to spend more time with his family”.
Political partings are less dramatic. The replaced office-holder is completely forgotten, as the new one basks in the limelight.
The washing of dirty linen in public is easy for the man in the street to identify with. It has happened all too often, though not always in this publicly noisy way. A pregnancy denied, the divergence of career paths, the abandonment of high-maintenance lifestyles, and the entry of a third party, no matter how hotly denied — these are the stuff of laundries, either for dirty linen or cash.
Still, one needs to be a celebrity, or have a celebrity partner, for the public to give a hoot on relationships that have turned messy. The lesson to be learned in all this is simple — Keep away from celebrities.
Of course, those who are already famous instinctively avoid those who are not… unless they happen to be filthy rich.
A. R. Samson is chair and CEO of Touch DDB.