This week, Jennifer Lopez confirmed that she and her recently reunited partner, Ben Affleck, are engaged. The announcement came via a perfectly placed video teaser on Instagram, directing her followers to join her "inner circle" and sign up to her official newsletter and website, On The JLo, for some exciting personal news.
"So I have a really exciting and special story to share," she says, laughing. "If you're not part of my inner circle, you have to go to OnTheJLo.com to hear this one."
On the website - which fans have to register for to access - she then shared a short video clip in which she can be seen crying and looking at her new engagement ring; a sparkling light green stone with cluster diamonds set on a platinum band. The news comes 18 years after the couple's first engagement, back in 2004, and nine months after they went public with their rekindled romance.
Back in July, Lopez confirmed months of speculation and revealed that she and ex-fiancé Ben Affleck were indeed back together. This announcement also came in the most perfectly staged way after she shared a series of Instagram pictures to mark her 52nd birthday. The first three showed her looking almost impossibly beautiful in a bikini, culminating in a picture of her kissing Affleck passionately on a superyacht. The superyacht of course references a scene from J Lo’s 2002 Jenny From The Block music video, in which Affleck adoringly strokes her derriere as they sail on a luxury vessel. To ram the reference home, in the days that followed, the paparazzi photographed the actor rubbing sun cream into her posterior while on their boat – a more blatant recreation.
There are many reasons so many of us are irrationally invested in the reunion of Lopez and Affleck. There is of course the nostalgia factor – we are living in an era where the Noughties is currently undergoing a renaissance. We’ve had the Friends reunion, the much-needed conversation surrounding Britney Spears and the return of low-rise jeans, crop tops and velour tracksuits. Now we have Bennifer 2.0, the '00s most headline-grabbing A-list couple, preparing to get married almost two decades after they called time just days before their first wedding.
Their reunion is a potent mix of familiarity and comfort combined with the singular joy found in dissecting a juicy piece of feel-good celebrity gossip, the likes of which we have been starved of for two years. Here are two people who, after going their own separate ways, getting involved with multiple new paramours and having children, at times struggling with addiction and career slights, have found each other again and fallen in love. Richard Curtis dreams of this stuff. After months of Covid-related misery, it feels blissful to revel in such a sweet and improbable love story.
But the thing that makes this relationship so compelling above all else is what a great look this is for middle age. It is a rebranding of the most alluring kind. Hollywood’s sexiest, most glamorous couple have a combined age of 100 (she’s 52, he’s 48), a true anomaly in Tinseltown. Since the dawn of time, we have been fed an image of middle age that is far from flattering, one associated with boredom, suburbia and potentially a mid-life crisis. It’s a demographic still ill-served by the fashion industry and largely misrepresented in mainstream TV and film. A 2020 study conducted by Geena Davis of Gender In Media reported that female characters over 50 are four times likelier than men to be depicted as senile or frumpy and twice as likely to be shown as physically unattractive or large-bodied. There’s also the common misconception that sex stops, or at least becomes so perfunctory you’d be better off without it. Well tell that to middled-aged Lopez and Affleck – who have arguably never looked happier or hotter - as they kiss like horny teenagers on a luxury boat in St Tropez. I’m no expert, but these pictures tell me that this pair fancy each other a lot.
Bennifer the sequel also challenges the idea that we must all have ticked off certain life milestones by very specific, but completely arbitrary and widely accepted, ages. Societal constructs dictate that we must find a decent job, meet a certain person by a certain point and procreate. Most of us know that life often doesn’t work that way, but we still feel inadequate when we fail to reach those milestones by the desired time. We imagine that we will find happiness once all those things are 'done'. Lopez and Affleck prove that things are often more complicated; they are two people, whose paths have been bumpy – he cheated on his wife and the mother of his children (Jennifer Garner), developed a drink problem and got divorced in 2018. He also spent far too long playing tedious ill-fated games of poker and became known for looking pained. Lopez married Marc Anthony, had children and divorced a decade later. She got engaged again, this time to retired baseball player Alex Rodriguez, but that ended last year amid rumours he had been unfaithful. Their professional lives have also been potholed – Affleck had success with Argo in 2012, but there’s not been much of note since. After many quiet years (at least outwardly), Lopez recently had a career rebirth with 2019 film Hustlers, which she produced and starred in, along with her age-defying performance at the 2020 Super Bowl, and her most recent movie, the much publicised (and now conveniently titled) Marry Me.
For all their good looks, fame and fortune, their lives have not been plain sailing. They are two middle-aged adults still figuring things out, and that is incredibly refreshing. They prove that life is messy, unpredictable and that, yes, your fiancé might (allegedly) cheat on you despite your impossibly perfect body and career renaissance, but hot, sexy love with your troubled ex - who may or may not have dealt with his demons - might be just around the corner. This can all happen in your early fifties despite what society might tell you. Doesn’t it feel great to drink up that hope?
It’s true that most people’s experiences of middle-age are not superyachts, enormous green diamonds and rock-hard abs, but a little aspirational dreaming never did anyone any harm. In fact, if 52 has the potential to be that sexy, messy and fun, I’m excited.