Right about now, you're probably thinking (cynically, if you don't mind my saying so) that the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes Chinese finger trap split makes a lot of sense because a) they're a celebrity couple and celebrity unions have roughly the lifespans of fruit flies, and b) they're American and every American citizen is required to, as proof that he or she is instilled with the Revolutionary spirit, divorce seven times. You might be goaded into cynical-thinking because, as Time points out, in the wake of the TomKat rupture, a specious statistic that 70% of marriages end in divorce has been floating through the interweb, poisoning our collective sense of cinematic romance and prompting people to make glib assertions about the love entanglements of famous strangers.
In fact, writes Time's Belinda Luscombe, divorce rates are falling, and falling fast among those well-educated and wealthy Americans who marry immediately after their 26th birthdays. Moreover, though Cruise and Holmes only slogged through five years of marriage, most marriages between people like them, i.e. wealthy, educated, AND photogenic people, last at least a decade. This is all to point out that, far from being the foregone conclusion everyone seems to think it was, the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes split is a paradigm-shattering, reality-bending, space-time-continuum warping anomaly.
According to 2009 Census figures, only 30 percent of men in Tom Cruise's demographic — white 40-somethings with quickly fading dreams of becoming bona-fide fighter jet pilots — have ever been divorced. Half of these dudes remarried, and 12 percent of those newly remarried dudes divorced again because relationships are tough to sustain when one partner nurses dreams of landing a F-14 Tomcat on a boat in the middle of the ocean and then enjoying a celebratory shower with a semi-nude Val Kilmer. Tom Cruise, whose marriage to Kate Holmes was his third, represents a matrimonial aberration — the Census tells us that only about 3.4 percent of those white, male 40-something fighter pilot dreamers have been married three or more times, and only about 0.9 percent of these guys were divorced. Once they clear that rare three-marriage hurdle, though, men like Cruise just keep on getting divorced, wandering from marriage to marriage like Odysseuses without Ithacas.
Katie Holmes, however, can more easily afford to chalk this marriage up to a Scientology fever-dream and move on with her life. Though only about 17 percent of women in Holmes' demographic have been divorced and only about 9 percent of those women have been twice-married, almost eight percent of those second marriages remain intact. Katie Holmes, therefore, according to the Census, scourge of weekday pot smokers across America, has a fulfilling love life just on the horizon. Tom Cruise, meanwhile, may be flirting with a lifetime of awkward Thanksgiving dinners during which he regales Suri's future college boyfriend and his tenth wife with the story of how he almost won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar way back in 90s before asking if anyone might be up for a few post-feast barrel rolls in the P-51 Mustang.