The sadness of the Gore split

Why is news of their breakup after 40 years of marriage such a bummer? Let me list the reasons ...

Topics: Coupling, Broadsheet, Al Gore, Love and Sex,

The sadness of the Gore splitFILE - In this July 26, 2004 file photo, former Vice President Al Gore kisses his wife Tipper after addressing the delegates during the Democratic National Convention at the FleetCenter in Boston. Gore and his wife, Tipper, are separating after 40 years of marriage. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)(Credit: AP)

My attempt to sort out why I am unexpectedly gutted by the news of Al and Tipper Gore’s separation:

  1. Of course we only see publicly performed versions of political couple-hood, but the Gores’ public performance was pretty damn heart-warming, even if it did tilt a touch too far on the ew-gross-mom-and-dad-are-making-out spectrum. But that’s the point! Mom and dad made out and they still couldn’t make it?
  2. Forty years. You get through forty years — of ill-behaved children and ill-behaved bosses and stolen elections — and then you split? This is precisely the kind of mysterious and inexplicable narrative of marriage thing that scares the bejesus out of people who are newly or not yet married. Forty years?
  3. Relatedly: so soon after Robbins and Sarandon? Really? Couldn’t divorce have taken the Bushes, or maybe the Broderick-Parkers, first, and given us some respite from confounding and embarrassingly inappropriate sadness over the personal decisions of celebrity couples whose marriages we didn’t even realize we had any emotional investment in until they dropped this bomb all over our post-Memorial Day Tuesday and now we can’t work because we’re really, stupidly sad?
  4. Good god, does this mean that Al Gore is going to date? And plus, oh please please please tell me he has not already been dating. Do not want to know. Nyah, nyah, nyah. I cannot hear you. I cannot heeeeaaaar you.
  5. Relatedly: they were supposed to be the functional couple. The ones who personally disapproved of the cigars and the thongs and the rest of the ridiculousness so mightily that they eschewed the Big Dog’s help in 2000 and look what happened! All because they were the functional couple!
  6. It had never occurred to me that it would bother me in the slightest if Al and Tipper Gore got a divorce mostly because it had never occurred to me that Al and Tipper Gore would ever get a divorce.

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There is oil gushing into the ocean and people are killing humanitarian aid workers and the earth is still warming. Those things are on a different plane of sad and have already left us all terribly afraid and depressed and angry this early summer. I didn’t know I had any room at all to care about the Gores’ relationship, but maybe because it’s something so much smaller, so much more personal, a headline so much easier to absorb than the other larger tragedies playing out around the globe that this small piece of political gossip turns out to be such an unbelievable freaking bummer.

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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