An Alternate Universe?Okay, I confess. I abhor People magazine. Mrs. Crosby is the one who actually subscribes to it, but I can’t resist the allure of finding out about Brad and Angelina’s Big Night Out, Kim’s Delivery Room Drama or Jen’s Private Pain and I’ll bet that more than a few of you do too—after all, what you do in the privacy of your own home (or doctor’s office) is your own business. While I do find these semi-voyeuristic insights into the lives of many of these “stars”—if you’re like me, you don’t even know who half these people are—interesting it’s not for the reasons that you would probably think. It’s not that I’m curious to learn about how that kale and rhubarb juice cleanse that reignited their career, but I find myself engrossed in trying to determine what alternative universe these people live in, and how they arrived there.

Based on my weekly research, the vast majority of these people seem to start out in a similar fashion to you and me. What I mean by this is that there doesn’t seem to be some celebrity equivalent to Area 51 where these folks are spawned or created. “Brad”, for example, grew up in Missouri, but at some point he lost his last name, hooked up with Angelina and her one-woman version of the UN, and became a weekly visitor to my mailbox. Now, of course, he regularly opines about the challenges that he and Angie find in attempting to parent their brood while commuting between their homes in New Orleans, France and California with a few trips to exotic locales tossed in between. I’m sure this is all very exciting for the entire family, but it does make me wonder what’s the over/under on the number of their kids who have a Mommy/Daddy Dearest tell-all book in their future? I’m going with three.

In an environment where most people change spouses—“but will always remain close friends and appreciative of each other’s work”–more often than most of us actually go to a movie, you would think that we would’ve become inured to celebrity break ups, but these people always have the capacity to amaze us. Take Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, that Coldplay guy. They’re not getting a divorce, they’re “consciously uncoupling”, which I suppose is better than unconsciously uncoupling since that would seem to have a higher margin of error. I’m not sure what effect this will have on the kids, but I do think it’s a pretty creative answer to that age old question, “Why is daddy’s new mailing address room 32 at the Days Inn?” If you’re an actor can you list “creative differences” as the reason your husband/wife of three weeks now gets 50% of everything you own? To paraphrase Fitzgerald, “these people are different from you and I”.

I can’t help but think that the stresses of their work environments helps explain some of the more commonly documented idiosyncrasies of the rich and famous. Even though People has a whole section entitled “Stars, they’re just like us”, as any celebrity will candidly tell you, they’re really not. For example, the aforementioned Ms. Paltrow recently enlightened working mothers around the globe that their 9-5 jobs (sandwiched between meal preparation, errand running, and homework assistance) were so much easier than her life as an actress. After all, when she is doing a 30-day movie shoot in some exotic locale she may have to be on set for as long as 14 hours while her nanny is watching the kids, the chef is preparing their meals and their tutor helps with their homework. Actually, this is the same schedule as when she’s not making a movie, but gosh darn it, she really misses that quality time with them. How these people hold up under the strain is beyond me.

Although I regretfully read each weekly issue of People from cover to cover—it only takes about 15 minutes and that includes the “25 things you didn’t know about famous person X” section—I still have not determined the source of the disjoint between the lives of these folks and the rest of us. Fundamentally, we all do the same things like working, eating, and shopping, but no one is taking pictures of us doing them. Perhaps if someone was zealously publishing our comings and goings, our lives might become the same grotesque facsimiles of real existence as those of many of our favorite stars. Maybe People doesn’t just provide us with a glimpse behind the curtain of the lives of those in the spotlight, but a warning as well.

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