Are happily ever afters only for young, single women? I used to believe so. Why wouldn't I, given the rom-coms of my 2000s childhood? Love, according to Hollywood, was for the (mostly white) 35-and-under crowd. Even the few "unconventional" protagonists in those movies — plus-sized women, women of color, or LGBTQ+ singles, for example — were still young.
I was convinced from an early age that middle-aged women, especially single mothers like my mom, were too late for a fairy-tale ending of their own. Maybe my mom had kissed one too many toads, and fallen for the wrong prince too many times …
But then I learned about Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher's relationship.
The most iconic couple of the early 2000s, Demi and Ashton (also known as Ashmi) were it. They met in 2003 at a casual dinner with mutual friends when the newly divorced Moore was 40 and Kutcher was 25. Two years later, they were married.
To me, Moore was a hero. Like my mom, she had two ex-husbands and kids in the mix, and she had remade a new life with one of Hollywood's most-eligible bachelors. Remember, this was during an age when society constantly reminded women "of a certain age" that they were too old for sex and relationships. Her marriage to a man 15 years her junior was a middle finger to convention, a win for love.
They seemed to have it all. Kutcher had a great relationship both with Moore's daughters and with their father, Moore's ex-husband Bruce Willis. They were supportive of one another's careers in an industry that notoriously tears relationships apart. And they were hot.
Moore's unapologetic pursuit of love is why I consistently plotted my mother's love life. We're talking full-on Cupid. Between trying to convince my gym teacher that my mom was The One (in hindsight, definitely an inappropriate conversation for a pre-teen) or bragging to my neighbors about her phenomenal cooking skills, I was determined to find my mother her true love. They say the third time's a charm, right?
They lied. In 2011, Moore and Kutcher announced their separation.
Their breakup was very public and included allegations that Kutcher had cheated. Moore later confessed in her 2019 memoir, Inside Out, that she began drinking again during the marriage after 20 years of sobriety. And even though they claimed to sill love one another in the press, love wasn't enough to keep the papers unsigned. Two years later, in 2013, the divorce was finalized.
I'd like to think that Ashton and Demi's breakup didn't affect my thoughts on love, but I've never been a good liar, even to myself. Did I stop finding love for my mother after news broke of Ashton and Demi? Of course not. I was a stubborn 12-year-old who didn't take no for an answer. But I did become jaded.
How great is "love" if the person closest to me can't experience it? Though my mom never complained about her lack of romantic companionship, my younger self believed all women needed that special person to fulfill their lives. To check off their happily ever after before the credits rolled.
As I got older, I eventually discovered that everyone's happily ever after looks different. Though her marriage failed, Demi is not without happiness. She's back on the dating scene, spending time with her children, and living her life in luxury. Ashton has found his family with Mila Kunis, his That 70's Show co-star. And my mother, though single, has found that special person in her life: herself.
Breakups That Broke Us is a weekly column about the failed celebrity relationships that convinced us love is dead.
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