Can we stop feeling sorry for 'poor old' Jennifer Aniston?

  • Seema Goswami, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Aug 14, 2015 16:31 IST

Finally, we can all breathe easy. Jennifer Aniston is once again safe within the holy bonds of matrimony. A decade after her divorce from Brad Pitt, and after a series of failed relationships, Aniston married fiancé Justin Theroux in a private ceremony at their Bel Air home last week.

And in the process, she managed to cock a snook at all those nasty tabloids who made millions by speculating over her ‘single’ status and child-free womb for years by keeping her nuptials entirely private – or ‘secret’, as the disgruntled hacks harrumphed in their copy the next day when the news finally broke.

So, I guess we now have permission to stop feeling sorry for ‘poor old Jen’ who was dumped by her husband for the sultry temptress Angelina Jolie, and who could never really find ‘true love’ after that, despite searching for it in the arms of men as diverse as Vince Vaughn and John Mayer.

There is just one problem with this scenario. And that is: I never felt sorry for Jennifer Aniston to begin with. Not remotely sorry. Not mildly sympathetic. Or even slightly regretful about the way her life had turned out.

The ex files: We can stop feeling sorry for ‘poor old Jen’ who couldn’t find ‘true love’ in the arms of men as diverse as Vince Vaughn (top left) and John Mayer (bottom); Even when she announced her engagement to Justin Theroux (right), the ‘poor old Jen’ narrative continued.

I mean, seriously, how can anyone in their right mind feel sorry for someone like Aniston? She is bright, beautiful, famous, successful, rich, fit, and healthy. She won a place in our hearts as Rachel in Friends, and since then has resolutely refused to vacate it. She may have made some bad movies, but she was always good in them.

She dated some of the best-looking and talented men on the planet. She may have kissed a few frogs along the way, but hey, what makes you think she was looking for a Prince? She didn’t need to. She was a Princess in her own right, a prize catch, a trophy girlfriend/wife, whom any man would be lucky to get to call his own.

But no, that narrative was never going to sell any tabloids or trashy magazines. So Jen had to be cast as a sad, forlorn figure who was still pining away for ex-husband Brad Pitt, even as he moved on with Angeline Jolie and their ever-increasing brood of children.

No matter how many times Aniston insisted that that chapter of her life was over and people needed to turn the page, the media refused to listen. Instead, entirely fictitious stories about her obsession with Pitt (and Jolie) and her sadness about her childless state continued to make the headlines.

Even when she announced her engagement to Justin Theroux and emerged with a rock-like diamond on her finger, the ‘poor old Jen’ narrative continued. Now, it was about how Theroux was not exactly an A-grader like Pitt, but then Aniston didn’t have too many options on the wrong side of 40, did she? And even if this relationship didn’t stutter to an end like all those others, she was probably too old to have kids anyway, wasn’t she? Poor thing! Life hadn’t really worked out too well for her, had it?

Such was the intensity of the womb-watch that ensued that even Aniston, who usually laughs off the incessant baby speculation surrounding her uterus, was pushed to respond in an interview that even though she hadn’t had children, she did not feel unfulfilled because she had ‘birthed’ several other things, like movie projects, etc.

And that, I must confess, was the only time I felt truly sorry for Jen. Why should she – or any other woman, for that matter – have to justify her reproductive life to anybody else? It really is no one’s business but her own.

Of course, it never works out that way, because that is what being a woman is all about, isn’t it? Finding the right man. Getting him to marry her. Settling down to cosy domesticity. Pushing out a couple of sprogs before her eggs go completely off. And then, making a success of marriage and motherhood.

Seriously? How is this narrative even a thing in the second decade of the 21st century? Why do we still buy into this drivel and treat any woman whose life deviates from this Grand Plan as a failure, no matter how beautiful, rich, happy, famous or successful she may be? Why do we apply criteria that wouldn’t seem out of place in the 19th century to judge the woman of today?

I have thought long and hard about this. And I still don’t have an answer for you. All I know is that no matter what their other talents and attributes, at the end of the day, women are still judged on the basis of their personal lives. Just how great a guy did she manage to ‘ensnare’ into marrying her? How good is she as a baby machine? Is her marriage still intact? Do her kids do well at school? Does she run an efficient household? And so on and on and on.

Which is why I have a sneaking suspicion that we are not done with Aniston as yet. No sooner is she back from her honeymoon, then the baby babble will start. Is she pregnant? Can she get pregnant? Is she going the surrogate route? Or will she simply adopt, like Angelina Jolie? Because, you know, she never really got over losing Brad to her!

And the media circus will roll on with the ‘poor old Jen’ narrative, selling millions of newspapers and magazines. As the saying goes, plus ça change...

From HT Brunch, August 16
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