A reporter called me recently and reeled off a list of celebrities. Oprah, Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, and Jessica Lange were just the first few. Others in the category included Brad Pitt, Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, David Letterman, John Malkovich, Tina Turner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. You can probably think of others. They are, of course, celebrities who are coupled but not married.
Here are the questions I was asked: Are these unmarried celebrity couples afraid of commitment? Are they afraid of the failure that would darken their reputations and their souls if they were to marry and then divorce?
So here was a bouquet of celebrities, all talented, many extraordinarily altruistic, and this reporter's first thought was to tie them all together with a ribbon of fear. Her second thought was to put them on the defensive. Like the nagging relative or the smug married friend, this inquiring mind was asking of each of these unmarried couples, "So why aren't you married?" The question is the equivalent of asking married couples when they last had sex.
When I see skilled, successful, and selfless people - whether coupled or uncoupled, famous or unknown - my first inclination is to think of them in terms of their strengths. So here, on behalf of unmarried couples (personally, I'm happily single), are some unapologetic, nondefensive answers to the clunky "why aren't you married" question that should never have been asked:
• We are secure in our relationship. Our love does not need to be propped up by a legal contract.
• We don't want Rudy or Mitt or McCain or any other government official hanging out in our bedroom. Maybe they like threesomes but we don't.
• We don't want Pat Dobson or Tony Perkins or the ghost of Jerry Falwell or any other religious representatives under our covers. We may be spiritual, we may even be religious, but we are not so sure that we are going to find divine revelations coming from the mouth of Jimmy Swaggert.
• We have our principles. If people of other sexual orientations cannot marry, then we won't either. We do not want to be part of any club that would have only us as members.
• Our principles extend beyond same-sex marriage. Even if any adult could marry any other adult, many millions of single people would still be excluded from the 1,138 federal benefits and protections awarded solely to married people.
• All those Bachelor reality shows, all the television dramas that build predictably to a wedding, all the cries for ever more tax breaks for married people - all this matrimania makes us skeptical. If marriage is so great, why does it need all these cultural and government subsidies?
• We just love it way too much when people ask us why we're not married.
So now that the cloddish question for the unmarried couples has been asked and answered, let's turn to the married celebrities. It's your turn, Larry King, Jay Leno, Ted Koppel, Chris Matthews, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and all the rest: Tell us, when did you last have sex?