Poking fun at Gwyneth Paltrow has never been hard. She is a little out of touch, a lot uptight, and completely lovely all at the same time. And thanks to the announcement that she and husband Chris Martin are "consciously uncoupling," mocking her has never been easier. But there are right reasons and wrong reasons to laugh at this.
True, calling her divorce a "conscious uncoupling" may simply be a rebranding effort designed to avoid the stigma and trauma typically associated with the entire divorce process. Although the term may be silly, the goal itself is not. Much like telling yourself you're eating healthy rather than going on a diet, calling divorce something else might serve to remind Gwyneth and Chris that they want to do this differently, and that built-in reminder might prevent them from losing sight of their goal. If it works for them, no one will benefit more than their kids. I can't make fun of that.
But rather than shying away from the term "divorce," my preference is to destigmatize not only the term itself, but the process and the status, as well. Just as public perception of the word "gay" as well as the orientation to which the term refers have evolved over the years to a point of greater understanding and acceptance and less fear and judgment, my hope is that divorce can undergo a similar transformation.
Society would do well to dispense with the automatic assumptions that marriage is by definition "good" and divorce is by definition "bad." It's how people act when they are engaged in either of these endeavors that gives them their character. A marriage can be harmful and toxic, and a divorce can be mature and supportive -- and vice versa. The couple's conduct is what makes the difference.
Trying to keep things positive is one thing, but attempting to escape judgment while still casting it on others is quite another. If Gwyneth and Chris's desire to "consciously uncouple" rather than simply getting a divorce like the rest of us is an attempt to look and feel superior about how they end of their marriage, I can't hang with that. And if their rebranding of divorce involves making other people feel like failures when their own divorces aren't as zen or blissful, then they've lost me completely.
For now, though, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But while I won't mock their commitment to keep things positive, I'm not above rolling my eyes at the term they're using. On the crystalicious index, "conscious uncoupling" is up there with words like "journey," "path," "harmony" and "goddess." It's way too new-agey for my sensibilities.
But whether the term is conscious uncoupling, divorce or splitting the sheets, when it comes to ending their marriage, Gwyneth and Chris get to choose for themselves what to call it. I used to live next door to someone with a bumper sticker that read, "If you don't like abortions, don't have one." The same thing goes here. If you don't like conscious uncouplings, don't have one. I don't, and I didn't. I got a divorce.