Why Do We Care if Patti Smith and Ralph Fiennes are Dating or Not?
Good friends Patti Smith and Ralph Fiennes have never spoken of each other as lovers. But why does it even matter?
The world recently discovered that singer-songwriter-poet-visual artist extraordinaire Patti Smith and actor-producer-director extraordinaire Ralph Fiennes are dating.
All we know for certain is that they certainly are good friends for a long time, and have only been spoken of as good friends. But when Smith posted a loving tribute to Fiennes on Instagram for his birthday, a freelancer linking to it on Twitter presented it this way — “Patti Smith wishing her boyfriend Ralph Fiennes a happy birthday on Instagram is the best thing I’ve seen all day” — and Twitter went bonkers, mostly with people saying, wait, what? How did I not know that Smith, a few days away from turning 72, and Fiennes, a freshly minted 56, are partners and lovers?
And therein lies the ridiculousness of it all.
Smith and Fiennes, no matter how often they’ve been seen out in public together, maybe even affectionately holding onto each other, have never spoken of each other in those terms. No People magazine cover projecting a secret love child or wedding, no Architectural Digest spread of their million-dollar love pad, no Daily Mail photos of Smith “flaunting” her cheeky toned body in a teeny bikini as she and Fiennes share a romantic rendezvous weekend abroad.
Maybe they do share bodily fluids together and have all that, and maybe they don’t.
The bigger issue is, why do we care?
Which is what I asked of the writer who tweeted that her “proudest accomplishment of this year has been the dissemination of this knowledge. (And the birth of my son).”
“What does it matter that two likeable celebrities are dating each other??” she responded. “It’s fun to know! It brings a modicum of joy to an otherwise weary world! If you aren’t into it, that’s fine, but no need to make others feel bad!”
I’m not sure whom I was making feel bad. Maybe people who want to see everyone, especially celebrities they don’t even know and will never know and who have no interest in knowing them, be happily partnered?
Let’s absorb that for a moment.
That said, the celebration of romantic relationships above all others, including the alleged romantic relationship between Smith and Fiennes, actually often does make many people who aren’t coupled and those who have no interest in being coupled but still must live in an uber-coupled world feel bad.
If I’m going to have empathy for anyone, it’s going to be for them. They’re the “outliers,” by choice or chance.
Again, it gets back to this weird obsession we (and maybe it’s just Americans?) have with wanting everyone, whether we know them or not, to have a romantic partner because we can’t imagine any other way that they would feel happy, loved and complete. That’s what philosopher Elizabeth Brake calls amatonormativity — “the widespread assumption that everyone is better off in an exclusive, romantic, long-term coupled relationship, and that everyone is seeking such a relationship.”
What if we could though?
What if we could be the friend who could help those we care about feel happy, loved and complete whether they were romantically coupled or not?
I love Patti Smith and Ralph Fiennes for who they are, for their amazing talent and creativity as individuals, no matter if they’re romantic partners or just great friends.
If the biggest thing we celebrate about them is their romantic/sexual life, isn’t that selling them way, way short?
Interested in individualizing your marriage? (Of course you are!) Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). You can support your local indie bookstore or order it on Amazon.
Originally published at omgchronicles.vickilarson.com.