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The Media Keeps Asking Why Cameron Diaz “Waited” to Get Married Until Her 40’s

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There’s been a recent flood of stories that breathlessly cover actress Cameron Diaz’s decision to get married when she was (shock! awe! gasp!) all of 41 years of age. Get ready to clutch your pearls.

Diaz was speaking on a panel at Goop’s Wellness Summit in California, an event organized around Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle site/wellness cult that is best experienced via writer Lindy West’s extraordinary eye-witness visit, “Gwyneth Paltrow glows like a radioactive swan.”

Onstage, Diaz explained her “late” marital choices, even though they are precisely no one’s business: “I think it’s a matter of I just hadn’t met my husband, you know? I had boyfriends before. And there’s a really, really distinct difference between husbands and boyfriends. And I have a husband who is just my partner in life and in everything.”

Diaz married Good Charlotte guitarist Benji Madden in 2015. Mazel tov! The only reason that we’re talking about her marriage at all is because mass media sites like Entertainment Tonight insist on presenting the above quote with the qualifier, “As for waiting until she was in her forties to tie the knot …”

A few other prime selections? Today: “Cameron Diaz reveals why she waited until she was 41 to get married.” Refinery29: Headline: “The Heartwarming Reason Cameron Diaz Says She Waited To Get Married.” Article body: “At 42 years old, some consider this a long time to wait before tying the knot.” News.co.au: “Why Cameron Diaz disappeared from Hollywood and waited so long to get married.” Fox News: “Cameron Diaz explains break from Hollywood, why she waited until 41 to get married.” ELLE UK: “Cameron Diaz Admits The Real Reason She Left Hollywood And Why She Didn’t Get Married Until Her Forties.” USA Today: “Cameron Diaz reveals why she waited to marry,” like that’s something worthy of a headline in 2017, as though her choice had been a scandalously kept secret. And on and on and on.

To be fair, one of the reasons this “revelation” became the topic of media fascination is that Diaz was directly asked about it on the Goop panel by Paltrow (ironic, maybe, since Paltrow mainstreamed the idea of “conscious uncoupling” from her own marriage to Coldplay’s Chris Martin, but whatever). From ELLE UK:

‘Cameron, you got married later,’ Gwyneth said. ‘What was it that kept you from getting married until you were 40?’

‘Forty-one,’ Cameron politely corrected her friend.

So there are several things going on here. One, women—and women who are our friends—can feed into the outdated societal expectation that there is a “right time” for a woman to get married, or even married at all. And that time, though it goes unspoken here, is apparently the prime of fertile youth. What “kept” her from getting married, Gwyneth? Nothing but her own damned decision-making process, thank you very much. Two, no one seems to know how old Cameron Diaz was when she got married, as we’ve seen it floated as 40, 42, and “politely corrected” by Diaz to 41. All the media appears to agree on is that Diaz’s was an unusual age for a lady to wed, because we are all apparently living in Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

For all intents and purposes, Diaz is wonderfully happy in her marriage: “I have a husband who is just my partner in life and in everything. Talk about two very different people! We are so different from one another, but we share the same values—we’re totally two peas in a pod. We are both just weird enough for each other.”

And maybe this small factor contributed to why she, a huge international millionaire movie star for decades, chose not to bequeath her hand upon someone when she was younger? “We women are objectified so much. Somehow my husband has just been able to kind of show me what it’s like not to have that be a part of a relationship, and being an equal.”

Kudos to Benji Madden for treating his wife, a sex symbol since her famous turn in 1998’s There’s Something About Mary, where she literally slicks male ejaculate through her hair, as an equal, and not objectifying her in the way Hollywood has for years. This should be the default and the norm. I’m glad Diaz and Madden found each other.

The problem here is not with Diaz’s marrying age but the dizzying double standard: when was the last time you saw a dozen+ media outlets leading their stories with the tantalizing question of why a male star or public figure was not yet married “at their age”? The answer is almost never, unless the dude comes into sudden, glaring limelight or prominence. Even then, it’s presented as a coy and rakish move on their behalf. And there’s the rub.

Marriage is a deeply personal decision that should not be decided or judged by anyone outside of the couple in question. Of course, this deviates widely due to cultural expectations in varying countries, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an issue that shouldn’t be perpetually questioned and pushed back upon. Despite media-borne insistence, we are no longer living in a world as dictated by the likes of Austen’s Persuasion, where heroine Anne Elliott was widely considered to be an unmarriageable old maid at the ripe age of 27. Thank God. But despite my research, I haven’t been able to find her suitor Captain Frederick Wentworth’s age. He’s the guy who’s in love with Anne, but his age doesn’t matter to the novel. Only hers does. Only Cameron Diaz’s does here.

Since I was a child, I’ve never wanted to be married. Find me at a bar, and I’ll probably tell you that I believe it’s an outdated institution based upon what were, historically, inherently sexist financial contracts and systems of patriarchy. For most of history, marriage had little to do with love and everything to do with ownership and legitimacy of offspring. But my current-day emotions are just me, one person, my opinion. I was not raised in a particularly traditional household and it was never made a big expectation for me, and I fully recognize that this is not how many people feel. More than half of your Mary Sue staff are happily wed, and I couldn’t be happier for them.

My own expectations for myself have not stopped me from all-out rejoicing for my friends at their weddings and proudly serving as a bridesmaid at several. I believe deeply in marriage equality, because as society stands, at least in America, marriage affords couples legal rights as partners and parents, and social boons that are otherwise lacking. I danced in the streets outside of Stonewall when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was the law of the land.

Marriage is A-OK with me if that’s what your heart desires, and everyone should have the right to marry their heart’s desire. The point is not to judge the qualifications around this hugely personal choice. It’s the 21st century, and we must, by now, move on from the idea that there is a small window of time when it is correct or appropriate or expected to get married, especially if you identify as a woman. If you decide to get married at all.

Cameron Diaz, on a stage with her peers and an adoring audience, should perhaps be asked what makes her relationship with Benji Madden work, but nothing about the age at which she decided to put it in writing. There is no “right” age at which to marry. There is no “right” gender identity for you or your partner get married under. If marriage is even your thing. Marriage does not have to be your thing. But it can be and should be, regardless of what anyone else says.

And if I change my mind, because everyone can change their minds, and I choose to get married when I’m 42 or 102, I hope that you will dance at my wedding.

(via ELLE UK, image: Shutterstock)

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