Why men can't bear playing second fiddle to their wives
Pity poor Russell Brand. Please. It’s the very least he expects of you in this, his hour of misery. There he was, doing everything right: putting a ring on the finger of the woman he loved, marrying her — and asking no more of her than any man would, like settling down with a brood of little Brands.
But she was having none of it. Katy Perry — the selfish creature! — dared to put her career first. Reports at the weekend say it was her refusal to settle down and raise a family that finally drove Brand to file for divorce.
Well, you may believe this version of events if you wish; maybe Brand even believes it himself.
Outshone: Russell Brand
has been eclipsed by
his wife Katy Perry
Personally, I’m guessing it’s cobblers. It sounds to me like just one more example of the self-serving, self-interested, self-obsessed childishness that has propelled Brand through boastful bed-hopping, abusive broadcasting and hogging of headlines that he has never yet done anything worthwhile to deserve.
Of course Katy wanted to wait a while for babies. She’s 27, for heaven’s sake; the average British woman these days is neither marrying nor having babies until 30 — and Katy is hardly average.
During the 14 months of their ill-fated marriage, she is estimated to have earned more than 20 million; far better to stick at it a bit longer than to down tools now or — worse still — drag infants around on a tour bus.
Her decision, in other words, was based on such basic common sense that, surely, even her petulant husband could see it.
So if we really want to know what ruffled Brand’s matted chest hair, I suggest we look no further than the fact of the 20 million itself. For while his wife has had the career break for which she has worked so hard, all he has ‘achieved’ of late is appalling reviews for a dire remake of the Dudley Moore film Arthur.
Nothing surprising there, given the mediocrity of his talent.
Measure of success: Katy Perry has received awards for her singing, but her husband is yet to get plaudits for his acting roles
Nevertheless, if we cannot all be gifted, we can all — if we try — be generous. And a generous husband, you might think, would have quietly licked his own wounds while loudly acclaiming his wife’s greater success.
Instead, Brand made a show of unease in walking her down red carpets, chipped away at the scale of her achievements and pointedly avoided her celebratory after-show parties. In short, he was a brat.
Tragically, from where I sit, at least, he is far from alone. Within the same 24 hours as the Brand-Perry split, classical singing star Katherine Jenkins and her fianc Gethin Jones parted ways, too. Why
I can’t be sure, obviously; I wasn’t a fly on the wall. But if their friends are to be believed, it was because Miss Jenkins also ‘put off the wedding and plans to have children to concentrate on her career’. How intolerable!
Then there was Marc Anthony, who ended his seven-year marriage to Jennifer Lopez because she ducked domesticity in favour of another series of American Idol.
Meanwhile, Pippa Middleton found herself without her long-time companion, Alex Loudon, just when she and her derriere hit the big time.
Then Keira Knightley’s relationship with Rupert Friend skidded to a halt amid claims that he hated the limelight (or, given he is also an actor, should it be ‘her’ limelight) And Charlotte Church’s marriage to Gavin Henson did not survive a revival of her career — just as his own rugby career started the long wind downwards. And, and, and . . .
Similar story: Gethin Jones and Katherine Jenkins have split as her career continues to soar while his is on the wane
In fact, you’ll need very few fingers to count on your hand the number of men who demonstrate genuine pride and joy for partners who eclipse their own professional status — and who go on together to use her achievements and his pride as cement for a strong marriage.
Dame Judi Dench and the late Michael Williams come to mind, but only as exceptions to prove the rule.
The more enduring message is that of the legendary film, A Star Is Born.
Its story is that of the big male star who inadvertently helps the little female wannabe overtake him, then is destroyed by his inability to cope with her success.
And it has wagged its cautionary finger at four generations across most of a century: in 1937, 1954, 1976 and, coming soon, yet another remake starring popstar Beyonc.
I don’t even need to see it to know it will repeat the mantra: ask a man to play second-fiddle, invite him as the ‘Plus One’, slip up and call him Mr Perry or Mr Church and, frankly, you might as well have slipped bromide in his cocoa.
No doubt there is a queue of assorted experts ready to explain this in terms of men being hard-wired to hunter-gathering and women to lying low. But does that really cut much ice in 2012
Suddenly single: Pippa Middleton's relationship with Alex Loudon ended after she rose to fame following the Royal Wedding
Many of us have devoted the better part of half a century to creating a world in which our daughters can develop their potential as we and our mothers, perhaps, were forbidden to do.
You need not be a diehard feminist to be proud that if they have a talent, it can now be nurtured; by the same token, you need not be any kind of feminist at all to feel infuriated by what has not changed.
It is shocking to realise that, even now, should a young woman dare to climb to the top of the mountain, there’ll be a bigger one behind it, a man saying: ‘It’s your career or me. You pick.
‘Oh — and by the way, if you pick wrong, I’ll tell the world that you’re a total failure as a woman, just because you weren’t quite ready to give it all up in favour of having my children, the moment I clicked my fingers and said so.’
Maybe, in our rush to tell our daughters the good news, we forgot to tell our sons: it takes a determined, clever, brave and big woman to be a star in whatever career she chooses. But a bigger man still to let her.