11/02/2011 03:14 pm ET Updated Jan 02, 2012

Why We Love Fairy Tales -- Even Failed Ones

How many of us have ever attended a wedding or bought a gift and thought," This couple ain't gonna last?!" Yet somehow, that doesn't stop us from crying during the vows. Our tendency is to believe the bride and groom's public avowals of love even when our private thoughts about the couples' happy prospects might be more, ahem, cynical. (Many a Maid of Honor can back me up on this, as I found while researching my etiquette and advice book for bridesmaids.)

Watching the media frenzy around the news of Kim Kardashian's divorce after a mere 72 days of wedded life reminds me of this contradiction. It's a high-profile split that illustrates our deep suspension of disbelief around weddings, celebrity or otherwise; we want to imagine that romance trumps everything else. We buy the idea of a love so strong that a bride and groom must get married even though they hardly know each other -- even though we realize that lasting unions are usually based on the opposite. In this case, the promotional and money-making machinery around the couples' relationship was so calculated that it's impossible to believe phrases like "in love" were even involved. Yet judging from the online backlash, plenty of people believed in the couples' devotion enough to feel duped and, yes, upset at the divorce news. Even I have this low-level sense that I was made a fool of and I barely followed the wedding and never watch the Kardashians (oh E!, how I've tried!).

The quick manner in which the practical etiquette questions have come into the spotlight -- should they return the gifts? -- seems revealing. We all want a little closure and this question has an actual answer. (Yes, they should return the gifts, making certain that any store credit issued is returned to the original purchaser.) Then there are the financial issues: Who gets to keep all the income generated by this huge celebrity wedding? As with real-life couples who split, lawyers are probably the only ones who will ever know the straight talk about the money.

The question that's hardest to answer is the most interesting -- why we want to believe in whirlwind fairytale romance to begin with and how come we feel so tricked when we find out (again) that it doesn't exist. It's a question worth asking, especially because many of us at some point will see a friend or family member divorce. How do we overcome our feelings of disappointment that true love couldn't triumph? After all, finding out a celebrity marriage boils down to nothing but a bunch of shiny magazine covers pales in comparison to watching a real-time split among people we care about. But you know what? This is all making me think about an old friend of mine in Seattle who split up with her husband three days after their wedding, which was kind of a bummer. So, let's get back to this: Do you think Kim should keep the ring?