My first thought upon hearing that Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck tied the knot over the weekend in Las Vegas was, “Why can’t I stop reading about this when I have company coming for dinner in 10 minutes and I haven’t even changed the dirty tablecloth?” My next thought was, “What is it about Jennifer Lopez that makes me care about her romantic relationships even when I know the odds of her making it past the 10-year mark are worse than beating the dealer in blackjack?”
Though J.Lo is the embodiment of the besotted bride who’s finally gotten her man, Affleck looks like he just rolled out of bed and doesn’t know what’s going on.
I’ve lost track of how many times “The Wedding Planner” star has been married. Given how often she’s in the news for her love life, I figured she must be approaching Elizabeth Taylor numbers by now (that would be eight), so I looked it up. Before Saturday, she’d had three husbands: singer Marc Anthony (for not quite 10 years before they separated), dancer Cris Judd (about 10 months to their separation), actor Ojani Noa (one year, or maybe even less — I still had to change the tablecloth and didn’t have time for that much research).
I also figured she’d had about a million broken engagements, but it turns out that as of today, she’s had only one. Affleck took almost two decades to make it to home plate. Ironically, the only fiancé who didn’t is retired Yankee third baseman Alex Rodriguez, whom Lopez dated from early 2017 until April 2021. Within weeks of their betrothal going belly-up, she was seen back with Affleck.
Here’s something I find really, really frustrating: I can’t remember where I put the knob of ginger I bought at the grocery store last week or the phone I put down two minutes ago, but I remember key details about J.Lo’s relationship with A-Rod — much as I don’t want to. Is that a function of my age-addled brain? Or evidence of how effectively J.Lo satisfies her seemingly unquenchable need for attention?
Maybe both. But even though I know she’s a publicity machine, I find her so likable that I keep falling for her real-life romances. The engagement between J.Lo and A-Rod lasted longer than either of her first two marriages, supposedly because the pandemic kept forcing them to postpone it. Through it all, I kept rooting for them against my better judgment because they looked so happy together, not to mention impressively fit.
Never mind that Lopez, who will turn 53 on July 24, had already had three husbands by the time she was in her early 40s. Some people would say she should come with a warning label. But she’s so delightful and relatable that begrudging her one more shot at happiness felt uncharitable.
Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that she exudes relatability in roles such as “Maid in Manhattan” and in the text of magazine profiles. From her many appearances in the latter, I learned that she has a song called “Booty,” which I presumed was about one of the few things we had in common: a big tush. I discovered she called herself “Jenny from the Block,” which I gathered was because she wanted people to know where she came from, and that she embraced her working-class roots. I found that endearing. Once again, her genuine likability (or her standout talent in performing likability) made it easy for me to believe that a person who regularly dressed in couture that cost more than I make in a year was, at heart, still a humble kid from the Bronx.
This persona was confirmed in the recent Netflix documentary “Halftime,” about the effort Lopez put into her 2020 Super Bowl halftime show. She is passionate, focused, hard-working and — here’s what I think is her real charm — undeniably vulnerable. She doesn’t hide her frustration that she’s not getting the respect she feels she deserves, either from the NFL (which forced her and Shakira to share the spotlight but didn’t give them additional time for their sets) or from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which didn’t bother nominating her for an Oscar for her terrific performance in 2019’s “Hustlers.” Nor does she hide her disappointment at losing the Golden Globe that year to Laura Dern.
But — and here’s something else I admire about her — instead of wallowing in a pool of self-pity, she shakes it off and gets back to work, because what’s the point of moping when there’s work to be done? J.Lo is nothing if not dedicated — to her work, her image, her fans. And, most consistently since she burst into the public consciousness, to the idea of love.
If her romantic track record isn’t evidence enough, consider her most recent movie, “Marry Me,” a frothy confection if ever there was one, a fairytale about a super-famous singer with a massive following who fails miserably at a lasting relationship until, in a thoroughly implausible turn of events, she winds up with a divorced schoolteacher whom she plucks out of the audience at the concert where she was supposed to have married her cheating ex-fiance.
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I thought the plot was mildly autobiographical until I learned the movie was based on a graphic novel. But no matter, as frothy and ridiculous as it was, I was rooting for J.Lo’s character as much as I am for the real J.Lo now.
“Love is beautiful,” she wrote in her On the J.Lo newsletter after her weekend wedding. “Love is kind. And love is patient. Twenty years patient.” Talk about a storybook ending. At least, I hope it will be. The romantic in me wants J.Lo to have the kind of lasting union with Affleck that seems to have eluded her thus far. The cynic in me knows better.
For starters, in their nearly two decades apart, the two of them have accumulated more baggage than Air Canada lost in the month of June. Also, the picture after they took their vows is concerning. Though J.Lo is the embodiment of the besotted bride who’s finally gotten her man, Affleck looks like he just rolled out of bed and doesn’t know what’s going on. Or maybe that’s his besotted expression. Either way, I don’t think it bodes well for the storybook ending that the J.Lo of my imagination deserves.
Though I confess I live vicariously through folks like her, it’s not J.Lo’s fame and fortune that I want; it’s her dogged, unflagging optimism in the face of repeated failure. When it comes to love, the woman refuses to give up. If I’d struck out that many times, I would not have the confidence or faith or hope or whatever it is that impels her to put herself out there and try again. Here’s hoping that in marriage, for her, the fourth time’s the charm.