The Flashy Movie Star Ain’t Necessarily All That, And She Just Proved It

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Scarlett Johansson appears in movie scenes and heads turn, speeding up many a male heartbeat.

My dream woman?

Not so much.

There is such a woman, my one and only. I knew her after spending countless evenings in coffee shop booths, facing each other, and talking. It was a courtship, fueled by conversation and caffeine.

When the subject came around to marriage, I said I don’t believe in divorce. I expected a shrug. Instead, I got an incredulous look as if I could have saved my breath. “Of course not,” she said.

Maybe it was not the dialogue of Harlequin, but I was in love.

Now, back to Ms. Johansson, who was recently interviewed by Playboy Magazine (and thank you Google for directing me straight to the interview, while bypassing the, um, rest). Ms. Johansson speaks of her work ethic (laudable) and her deepening love as a mother (well played).

But then came the topic of relationships and she face-plants:


I don’t think it’s natural to be a monogamous person. I might be skewered for that, but I think it’s work. It’s a lot of work. And the fact that it is such work for so many people – for everyone – the fact of that proves that it is not a natural thing.


Staying in love with one person – a person you promise to stay in love with all your life – is unnatural? And why? Because it requires work?

Ms. Johansson goes on to say that marriage “is a legally binding contract and that has a weight to it … It’s a beautiful responsibility, but it’s a responsibility.”

Why the BUT? What is the issue with responsibility? Is that too much work?

Maybe it’s how we perceive the word love. The late psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm, in his insightful little book The Art of Loving, wrote:

Love is an activity, not a passive affect, not a “falling for” … To love somebody is not just a strong feeling – it is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever.


Not bad for someone who reportedly was an agnostic. It must be pointed out that, decades before he wrote the book, Fromm’s first marriage ended in divorce. He married a woman who was once his psychoanalyst (apparently not a good idea). But that brings up an obvious point. Divorce happens, often. Statistics point to a divorce rate of nearly 40 percent.

With so many break-ups, how can we vocalize any judgments without sounding like the self-righteous ready to pick up the first stone?

When I talk about marriage and divorce to my high school students, I deliver the lecture with all kinds of disclaimers. Close to half of these students are coming from broken homes. I establish a clear boundary between the act and the actors.  Divorce is not good – does anyone make it a goal? – but I cannot (will not) judge their parents (that job is way above my pay scale).

Divorce may be a necessity for those caught in horrific cases of abuse, crippling addictions, infidelity, and abandonment.

Even if the reasons for the break-up are as weak as the marriage, I invoke the “who am I to judge?” clause. Divorced people are usually hurting people. Wanting to add condemnation to their pain says a lot more about the state of my soul than theirs.

But are we allowed to make a judgment about divorce itself; that it is not a desirable option, that it really should be no option at all, barring frightening circumstances?

When we hear that a divorce “just happened” or the couple simply “grew apart,” can we speak up for the necessity of real commitment – emphasizing the vital role of faithful marriages and stable families? When a television show like Entertainment Tonight gleefully makes a list of celebrity marriages in trouble, can we scream in protest that marriage is a sacred union, not a blood sport to amuse others?

After Ms. Johansson made her anti-monogamy remarks, the interviewer’s next question was more of a statement:  “And of course many marriages don’t work out.”

Why is that?

St. John Paul the Great writes: “love between man and woman cannot be built without sacrifices and self-denial.”

Sounds like work.

The idea here – another disclaimer – is not to point a righteous finger at Ms. Johansson, but to point out a simple, ever-present truth. Marriage is all about committed love – the love that never fails. It is not supposed to be the fodder of Entertainment Tonight talking heads, nor is it based on the shallowness of relativistic feelings.

Marriage is responsibility. It is effort. Marriage brings more meaning, bliss, and joy imaginable to life, because it is natural.

That brings me to my wife, a Massachusetts girl who lured this Florida boy to New England.  I am eight years her senior – we married when she was only 20. I kidded that I would eventually search for a new, trophy wife. It was a joke. She knew it. I’ve never looked elsewhere, and neither did she. I am blessed to understand the greatest promise I’ve ever made. Thank God, I married a soulmate with the same commitment to love. We celebrate 30 years this month.

She had me at I do.


Kevin Thomas is a writer and teacher, living with his wife and children in Standish, Maine.