My mother and I were recently discussing the fascinating psychoanalysis A.O. Scott gives Natalie Portman in his recent New York Times article about Black Swan. When the subject turned to the actress herself, my mom rolled her eyes and scoffed as she said:
Now she’s marrying that guy and having his baby.
What’s wrong with him? I like that she’s marrying a ballet dancer.
Nothing I guess.
Mom, why are you making that face?
I don’t know. I thought she was better than that.
Better than what?
Nothing. (the subtitles were reading the girl gets knocked up by some dancer who she’s gotta marry now like she’s the Britney Spears of Harvard)
I don’t know.
Mom, he’s a dashing French and incredibly talented - probably one of the top five dancers in the world right now. And getting pregnant first is just what my generation does. My generation views marriage as something to consider when you’re having kids. Not the next step in the relationship.
But is this true? I don’t know why exactly but I felt myself getting very defensive about all of it. Maybe I thought she was better than this too and I was determined not to be disappointed? It got me thinking.
But my mom had a point. Why would even she, the Harvard educated Audrey Hepburn of our generation not wait to get pregnant till after marriage? Is that really so old fashioned? I know for some people, pregnancies arise unexpectedly and I certainly don’t believe that at that point a criterion for having a child would be marriage. But it just happens too often to too many celebrities to just be accidents. Penelope Cruz, Jessica Alba, Lily Allen, Halle Barry, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Richie, Jaimie Lynn Spears, Padma Lakshmi, Brooke Burke, Salma Hayek, Naomi Watts, Isla Fischer, Bridget Moynahan.
And this is just from one quick Google search. I have no problem with their decisions to be single and have a child. I can even imagine a scenario where I might chose to do the same. But my question is, why would you want to? Do so few people really care about getting married that it’s become obsolete. In Europe this is certainly true - almost no one my age gets married.
But doesn’t anyone want the romantic narrative of love, then marriage, then baby? I’m assuming that plenty of these women had the option for that and yet some chose a different path. Is part of this trend more a celebrity issue than a generational issue? Perhaps, if you’re that successful in your career, you figure that marriage would simply limit what you could do in life, and you prefer your freedom to romance.
I guess I’m still of the old fashioned ilk, that think giving up part of your freedom is what makes love so powerful. What greater gesture in life is there, than to give up a part of yourself to be in love? I’d like to think that no matter what, even on top of the world, I would happily give up part of my freedom for love. I’ll always believe that the love you get in return for the sacrifice is better than any reward the top of the world can give you. Plus, who says a few divorces has to be a bad thing?
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