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Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez romance rumors have more to do with our own hopes than them

We all want to think that one special ex isn't gone forever, especially after our own midlife break-ups or divorces. "Bennifer" gives us a reason to dream.
\"Gigli\" California Premiere
Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck at a "Gigli" premiere in Westwood, Calif., on July 27, 2003.Chris Weeks / FilmMagic - Getty Images file

Americans are obsessed with celebrities, it's true, but the fascination with Ben Affleck, 48, and Jennifer Lopez, 51, and whether they might have rekindled their almost-20-year-old romance is more than just another celebrity gossip story. It’s a good romantic story and a deeply relatable one, frankly, in the days of Google, Instagram and Facebook — and people love a romance to which they can relate.

After all, wouldn’t it be sweet if Jenny From the Block ended up back in the arms of, well, the actor credited as her boyfriend in the "Jenny From the Block" video, after so much time? It almost gives the rest of us hope — especially those of a certain age, or those who might be surfing the waves of a midlife break-up or divorce, or even just those who might find themselves scrolling through the Instagram account of an ex-lover and idly daydreaming about a second chance.

But don’t go hitting up your ex with a “How are you doing?” DM just yet. After all, "The Bridges of Madison County" was a love story not above love but about the idea of love.

People love the idea of happy endings, even in Hollywood — and sometimes we just need to believe that you can go back again, older and wiser, and have it work out. But that doesn't mean it will.

They gave hope to people everywhere thinking about the ones who got away.

Lopez and Affleck — "Bennifer" if you must, but you shouldn't — ended with a cliffhanger: a suddenly postponed wedding in September 2003 and a broken engagement in January 2004. Fast-forward 17 years later and — after marrying other people, having children with those people, getting divorced from their post-breakup spouses, having serious relationships with still other people (most recently, former Yankees shortstop Alex Rodriguez and actor Ana de Armas, respectively) and breaking up with those people (in Lopez’s case, allegedly because she didn’t trust him anymore) — Affleck and Lopez reportedly spent several days together first at her house and then out of town. They even, it is said, held hands.

Lopez has said in the past that she and Affleck broke up in 2004 in part because of the pressure of the tabloids but that it had been real. “I think different time, different thing, who knows what could’ve happened, but there was a genuine love there,” she said in 2016. She's even referred to the end of their relationship as her "first real heartbreak."

Love them, hate them or couldn’t care less, you have to admit they reeled us all back in — and gave hope to people everywhere thinking about the ones who got away.

Neither Affleck nor Lopez has directly addressed the rumors, of course; sources close to the couple state they are “just friends” and have been for a long time. But, belying those statements, a source told In Touch that Affleck’s ex-wife, Jennifer Garner, gave her blessing, saying the couple was “a great match.” And Affleck's childhood friend Matt Damon has openly hoped that it’s true. “It's a fascinating story,” Damon said on the "TODAY" show Tuesday. “I hope it's true. I love them both. I hope it's true. That would be awesome."

Maybe we're all collectively nostalgic for a better time, and it makes us a little desperate to believe in a Bennifer redux.

There is, in fact, something awesome about the details that have leaked out so far.

For instance, Affleck recently talked about the tabloids' treatment of Lopez during the “Bennifer” era. "People were so f------ mean about her — sexist, racist," he said in a January podcast interview (long before their romance was supposedly rekindled). "Ugly, vicious s--- was written about her in ways that, if you wrote it now, you would literally be fired for saying those things you said."

"Now it's like, she's lionized and respected for the work she did, where she came from, what she accomplished — as well she f------ should be!" he added.

Who wouldn't want an ex to go to bat for them against their former haters?

More recently, while Lopez was filming the movie "Shotgun Wedding" — nothing like a little irony — in the Dominican Republic, TMZ reported that Affleck sent her emails full of “loving and longing,” telling her “how beautiful she looked” with Lopez allegedly responding that Affleck could “own her heart” with his pen.

Sometimes we just need to believe that you can go back again, older and wiser, and have it work out.

It has all the old-school Hollywood feel of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, one of the 20th century's most iconic couples who married, divorced and married again. Maybe we're all collectively nostalgic for a better time, and it makes us a little desperate to believe in a Bennifer redux. On the other hand, a cynic (and there are many) might see the whole affair as another Hollywood relic — a self-promotional "showmance," designed to net everyone involved a little bit of good publicity.

Or it could be, as the saying in Spanish goes, a case of “un clavo saca otro clavo” (to get over a man, get another one) — in which case, Affleck might have scored one for Boston against the biggest star of his most-hated baseball team, the New York Yankees.

It's been a long pandemic, after all; we all had a lot of time to bicker with our spouses in quarantine and wonder about might-have-been, to daydream and Google and remember the good old days when everything seemed a little less complicated. Who wouldn't rather gorge on the details of a rekindled celebrity romance than an insider-y infrastructure bill or the latest row between politicians in Washington right now?

We all await the next episode; it seems like a new bit of the storyline drops nearly every day. Whatever happens in the end, we should all thank Lopez and Affleck for giving us a story — if not yet a kiss — to build a dream on.