Lea DeLaria and fiancée Chelsea Fairless announced their split this week with probably the funniest public missive we’ve ever read — that announced a breakup, that is. “We were happy together for four years and will remain in each other’s lives,” DeLaria’s Instagram post, shared days after their scheduled wedding date, read. “In fact, we look forward to finding new ways to torture each other.”
As it turns out, breakup announcements as a thing aren’t really that old. “It would have been like announcing an out-of-wedlock pregnancy,” Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins told the New York Times in 2007. “The fact that people aren’t embarrassed to send out a divorce announcement tells you how routinized divorce has become.”
Jill Conner Browne, author of The Sweet Potato Queens’ Wedding Planner/Divorce Guide, told Salon in the same year that, “Sending out divorce announcements is tacky, but it’s funny tacky, so it’s a good thing. The parts in life that aren’t funny are the parts we need to laugh at most.”
In 2007, Robert Olen Butler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and Florida State University professor, sent out an email announcement in July that outlined his divorce from author Elizabeth Dewberry — who left Butler for Ted Turner — in no uncertain terms. Initially meant for a few faculty members and graduate students, the email leaked and wound up on Gawker.
A corollary to that might be the divorce party, a famous route that Travis Barker’s ex-wife Shanna Moakler took in 2008, throwing a Vegas bash to commemorate her split from her ex. Andrea Eppolito, director of special events and catering for Suhi Roku and Boa, two restaurants in Vegas’ Caesars Palace, told Salon that demand for divorce parties started trickling in the early 2000s, rising dramatically in 2006, to the point where she was planning one a month as of October 2007.
Outside of parties, celebrities have foregone the traditional publicist route when announcing their divorce. Jewel’s 2014 split from Ty Murray was announced with a poetic blog post on her personal site: “We did not want anger to burn the ties that bound us. Instead we have chosen the much more difficult task of undoing ourselves stich by stich [sic], and releasing each other with love so that we may take on our new form: dear friends and devoted co-parents of our beloved son Kase.”
And then of course, there’s probably the most famous divorce announcement of them all: Gwyneth Paltrow’s proclamation that she and Coldplay singer Chris Martin were “consciously uncoupling.” For as much heat as she may have received for the odd turn of phrase, it became a crafty way of managing the message — people were more interesting in endlessly parsing and discussing exactly what a conscious uncoupling was, rather than digging around in Paltrow and Martin’s lives.
As celebrities take the handling of their personal lives more and more into their own hands via the ever-expanding arms of social media — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat — how will the split announcement evolve? We’ll just have to keep hitting “refresh” to see.