It is with sadness that we announce the end of our marriage/relationship*.
This was a very difficult decision but was reached mutually and amicably. No other parties were involved.
Our priority is, as always, our child/children*.
We ask that you respect our privacy at this painful time.
*delete as applicable
It may sound hideously jaded but, following years of work within the entertainment industry, you get a feel for the celebrity split announcement template.
It's almost as if publicists have a special version of Word where Clippy pops up and says "It looks like you're trying to write a celebrity split statement - would you like some help with that?"
It's a bland and tightly controlled piece of writing intended as both a shield from the prying eye of the media and an acknowledgement that there has been a big change (expected or not) in the lives of those involved. What I find particularly fascinating is the way it reveals such an important and personal event while betraying next to nothing about the individual circumstances. Couples who have lived the positive aspects of their relationship in the limelight, even selling pictures of their children or their wedding, suddenly retreat behind a beige announcement given out to a glossy magazine or fed to the public via an official website.
This thought has been brewing for a while but I only decided to write about it when I read the statement that marked the end of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's seven year marriage.
The text is as follows:
We have decided to end our marriage.
This was a very difficult decision.
We have come to an amicable conclusion on all matters.
It is a painful time for all involved and we appreciate the respect of our privacy at this time.
The announcement feels vaguely poetic with its line breaks but in its brevity it covers familiar ground.
"We have decided to end our marriage."
To be honest, that's all the information anyone who isn't close to the couple should need but that's not how showbiz news works and they know it. and so the missive continues.
"This was a very difficult decision."
For the cynical, it's a well used adjective, 'difficult', implying a respectable level of heartache and soul searching. Important, especially when the separation is either not the couple's first, or when either party has been previously married.
"We have come to an amicable conclusion on all matters."
'Amicable' should pre-empt a certain amount of media speculation regarding cheating, abuse, and other tabloid fodder (although obviously its effect is limited, particularly if it then transpires that any of the other stuff actually happened - legal disclaimer: I'm talking generally and not about the Lopez-Muñiz household). 'All matters' is delightfully vague.
"It is a painful time for all involved"
This is pretty much a reiteration of the fact that it was a difficult decision. 'All involved' covers pretty much every base you can think of.
"We appreciate the respect of our privacy at this time." This is a bit of a futile gesture but it's another pre-emptive strike - a call for the media to keep their distance. "At this time" is a bit of an oddity because it seems to contain a tacit acceptance of the intrusive nature of celebrity journalism but then celebrity privacy is an elastic quantity. We are often actively invited to take a look at weddings, children, and other positive milestones - People magazine reportedly paid $6million for the first pictures of Jennifer and Marc Anthony's twins - but with a difficult or upsetting event, the A-list shutters come down.
In fact Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony's statement covers nearly all the traditional bases bar one, and - having read a lot of celebrity split announcements in my time - it's a surprisng omission. Their children.
The couple are parents to the aforementioned three year-old twins Max and Emme and the tradition of celebrity split statements dictates they get a mention - usually something in the vein of "our children remain our priority" or "for the sake of our children", but here we find not a peep. Of course, I'm not saying that not mentioning them is in any way meaningful, it's just that it represents a tiny but unexpected departure from the norm.
The point I am trying to make is that the announcements reveal the struggle between high profile stars and the media regarding personal information. The first line is the actual announcement and the rest is a power play placeholder. An attempt to tell the world that the celebrity will decide if and when future details will be discussed as well as the price tag. For some celebs their personal life is always off limits, attempts to pry will be met with a slap on the wrist from a watchful publicist or the star may just walk out of the interview. But others who were happy to invite the public to share in all the happy aspects of their life suddenly find themselves exposed and vulnerable.
The template letter is a sop to the entertainment news industry - "Here's your scoop, now leave us alone." How the couple then conduct themselves tends to be far more revealing.
"We are not together anymore. It's very difficult and very personal, and we hope everyone can respect our privacy."
George Clooney and Elisabetta Canalis
"It was a joint and amicable decision. They both have respect and care for one another and ask for you to please respect their privacy."
Paris Hilton and Cy Waits
"Gillian Anderson and her husband Julian Ozanne are saddened to announce that their marriage is at an end and they are in the process of separating.
"At this difficult time they request that their privacy is respected. There will be no further comment."
Gillian Anderson and Julian Ozanne
"We have, in fact, ended our romantic relationship and have done so mutually and as friends, with continued love and respect for one another."
Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz
"It is with sadness that Matt and Kevin announce that their relationship has come to an end. Their separation is amicable.
"They ask the press to respect their privacy at this time and to exercise restraint in any reporting of this matter."
Matt Lucas and Kevin McGee
"For those who follow these sorts of things, we would like to explain that our separation is not the result of any speculation reported by the tabloid media - this decision is the result of much thoughtful consideration.
"We happily remain committed and caring friends with great love and admiration for one another.
"We ask in advance for your kindness and sensitivity in the coming months."
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston
"We are saddened to announce that Reese and Ryan have decided to formally separate.
'They remain committed to their family, and we ask that you please respect their privacy and the safety of their children at this time."
Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe