In the days before I was a freelance blogger with a penchant for procrastination, I was a disenchanted undergrad with that same penchant for procrastination. One of the major differences: where now I have to depend on my own devices to distract myself from the work I should be doing, before I had a cadre of similarly unmotivated peers willing to share in my daily diversions. One of our favorite ruses involved staging mock fantasy drafts. Think fantasy football with a twist. Instead of compiling rosters of NFL players, we would draft teams of, say, animals. Or hip-hop emcees. Or dream girls. Or celebrity couples most likely to divorce.
Unfortunately — regarding that final topic — we lacked this formula for predicting the D-Day of a celebrity couple’s romance. Brilliant. The brainchild of a pair of New York Times pop-culture critics (Garth Sundem and John Tierney), the formula accounts for a variety of criteria believed to correlate with the likelihood of a celebrity couple’s relationship surviving. The first iteration of the equation appeared in 2006, but after compiling and analyzing data based on the predictions for the last five years, the duo released an updated — and presumably more effective — version this week.
While the original equation was right in predicting the failure of such tabloid romances as Demi Moore-Ashton Kutcher, Britney Spears-Kevin Federline, and Pamela Anderson-Kid Rock, it missed the mark on those of Jada Pinkett-Will Smith (though The Times reports that gossip columns are “rife with reports of a pending split”) and Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise. So what have Sundem and Tierney learned from those results to improve their metric? A few things:
1. The “Type” of Celebrity a Couple Tends to Attract Matters
“It’s tabloid fame that dooms you,” according to Sundem. Whereas before the predictor considered all press equally — deriving a measure for “celebrity” based on total Google hits — it now discriminates between high and low publications (number of mentions in The Times divided by mentions in The National Enquirer).
2. The Wife’s Profile Is More Telling than that of the Husband
John G. Holmes, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo, attributes this to the fact that “women initiate 70% of breakups,” thus deeming their image and personality traits more predictive for the purposes of Sundem and Tierney’s model.
3. Number of Previous Marriages and Age Gap Have Been Thrown Out
Holmes and Cruise serve as one example to the fallacy of these two metrics, which have proven less prophetic than once believed. Likewise, Moore and Kutcher’s relationship — while now expired — exceeded the expectations of the old equation.
4. Combined Age and Length of Courtship Have Come to the Fore
This one’s a no-brainer, and is in no way particular to so-called “celebrity” relationships. Young marriages and brief engagements are widely known to have greater rates of failure than their more well-aged counterparts.
5. Women Who Rate High on the “Sex-Symbol” Scale Are More Likely to Divorce
Even A-listers are prone to jealousy. This variable gathers data based upon “Google hits showing the wife ‘in clothing designed to elicit libidinous intent’” — whatever that means (it sounds highly subjective to me).
So, taking all this into account, who should you pick in the first round of your next Celebrity Divorce Pool? Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom, whose chances of making it to their Golden Anniversary apparently rates at 0%, even when extended “to 15 decimal places.” Couples to shy away from until later rounds include Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Kate Middleton and Prince William, and Chelsea Clinton and Mark Mezvinsky — according to the predictor, all have better-than-average-odds at surpassing 15 years together.