The picture is a happy one—deliriously, flamboyantly happy. Her eyes are squinting, and her mouth’s in the shape of a big, goofy grin, as if she were on Space Mountain at Disney World. “Brangelina: 2004–2016” was printed on the top left corner in small font, and Aniston’s face explained the rest. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s marriage was dead, the Post said, and Jennifer Aniston was dancing on its grave.
This, in a nutshell, perfectly encapsulates the public’s relationship with Aniston for the past 14 years. Her happiness, in their eyes, has been determined solely on her love life—specifically in comparison to Pitt’s. By now their love triangle is ancient history: Aniston and Pitt were married from 2000 to 2005, and they divorced shortly after he met Jolie on the set of Mr. & Mrs. Smith. There were allegations of infidelity on Pitt’s end that were never confirmed, but the media had already painted its narrative: Pitt and Jolie are happy, and Aniston’s sad.
Sad and single. That last word is key, because apparently Aniston can’t be fulfilled if she’s single—even though she has millions of dollars, a great career, and good health. But the tides turned, interestingly, in February 2018 when news broke Aniston and her husband, Justin Theroux, were divorcing after two years of marriage. The only reason people were cool with Aniston being single then (and now) is because Pitt is also unattached. Tweets about them possibly getting back together are, unsurprisingly, all over the Internet:
These feelings intensified even more over the weekend, when Pitt was spotted outside Aniston’s 50th birthday party in West Hollywood. To be clear, we don’t even know how much they interacted. Aniston had a ton of friends there—Katy Perry, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Reese Witherspoon, to name a few—so it’s very possible they just exchanged pleasantries and moved on. They’re adults, people. It’s entirely possible to be friends with your ex.
Of course, fans are metaphorically ringing the wedding bells over this news:
Which is bullshit, of course. Twitter’s shipping of Aniston and Pitt right now is beyond problematic because it suggests, yet again, that Aniston is incapable of being happy on her own—that Brad Effing Pitt has been the key this entire time, and now she can finally have him. It’s insulting.
Aniston is one of the most accomplished and in-demand actresses in Hollywood, with a reported net worth of $220 million, a slew of friends, and endorsement deals galore. Are people saying none of this matters if Aniston isn’t with Pitt—or married in general? It’s beyond frustrating our culture at large still has trouble seeing single women as content—that professional accomplishments play second-fiddle to the white-picket fence ideal, even in 2019. Aniston’s said, on multiple occasions, that she’s fulfilled with her life, and yet here she is: fighting the spinster persona tabloids gave her at 36 years old. She’s now 50. It’s been nearly 15 years.
Brad Pitt isn’t “the one who got away.” He’s someone Aniston was married to for five years and divorced. People split. It happens. Life moves on—and so has Aniston. It’s time we do too.