Imagine you're...a certain relatively famous Hollywood actress. Gradually, and through no real fault of your own, you've seen the fame of your early days starring in one of the most popular sitcoms of all time fade and lead roles dwindle. Meanwhile a parade of your exes have either moved on to raise families with the (alleged) "other woman," marry their next girlfriend, or talk about how horrible they feel for breaking up with you. Every article that mentions your name talks about your past love life and the fact that your biological clock isn't so much ticking as it is thundering along to the last remaining seconds of your fertility. Welcome to the world of Jennifer Aniston.
Remember "the Rachel?" Yeah, I could never get my hair to do that either, but for a while there in the late `90s she was arguably the most marketable of any of the Friends cast (the other contenders, Matthew Perry and Courtney Cox, saw their popularity torpedoed by prescription drug abuse and marriage to David Arquette, respectively). She appeared in a number of movies, some high profile (Bruce Almighty), some less so (Office Space), and enjoyed what was by all appearances a healthy romantic life. I say "by all appearances" because I'm having a hard time characterizing a relationship with Adam Duritz as "healthy." Still, everything seemed to be going pretty well.
And then came Brad.
Aniston's five-year marriage to Brad Pitt was trumpeted as that rarest of phenomena, a successful celebrity union. And this continued all the way up until the announcement of their separation. Pitt took up with Angelina Jolie, leaving Aniston watching from the sidelines as Brad finally got his babies, and all of us watching Aniston to see how she'd deal with it.
Unfortunately for her, something else happened around this same time: namely, she entered her mid-30s. You and I can chuckle about 40 being the new 15 or whatever, but for an actress -- a Hollywood actress like Aniston, who's built an entire career playing spunky, girl-next-door roles -- the approach of the big 4-0 means you're about to start reading for a lot of parts as "The Aunt," since the romantic lead stuff will soon be going bye bye.
Few celebrities give up whatever notoriety they possess without a fight, however. Lately, for example, she seems to be going out of her way to get "accidentally" photographed in a bikini, which helps. And while I'm not going to say Aniston dated The Break-Up co-star Vaughn or Gerard Butler, her partner in the upcoming Bounty Hunter ("It's like Midnight Run, only with a hetero couple instead of two closeted gay guys!") solely for career gain, she does seem to do it a lot. Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if her and Butler's contracts stipulated they had to spend a certain number of minutes each day making out with each other, as they reportedly did after last Sunday's Golden Globes. Think of it as a bold new step in movie marketing.
What's next for Jen? Well, if every tabloid mag in the country is to be believed, it's a baby. Normally I'd counsel against getting yourself knocked up just for the attention, but Aniston's not a 16-year-old high school dropout with self-esteem issues. She's a successful grown woman...with self-esteem issues, true, but also plenty of money in the bank. Going fetus-to-fetus with Angelina isn't for the faint of heart or wallet.
The problem is, nobody really seems to eager to play daddy. I have to believe Butler, like Vaughn, Bradley Cooper, and Tate Donovan before him, will beat a hasty retreat once opening weekend is over. I'd volunteer for the task myself, except I'm not really into blondes. Oh, and I'm actually married (since 1996, which apparently translates to "Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy" in Hollywood years). Somebody needs to step up, however; the fate of the entire gossip industry depends on it.
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