Love is a many-splendored thing, especially when you’re gawking at it from the outside. In this column, we’ll be examining the celebrity couples that give us hope for our own romantic futures and trying to learn what we can from their well-documented bonds.
I think everyone (okay, not everyone, but everyone who grew up watching old Saturday Night Live reruns on cable instead of playing outside with other kids) remembers the moment they fell in love with Maya Rudolph. Mine is hard to pinpoint, but I’m pretty sure it was when I saw her play opposite Fred Armisen in the Art Dealers sketches; hearing her enunciate the nonsense name Nunni was enough to convince me that she was the funniest woman on earth.
Naturally, the funniest woman on earth can’t be expected to settle down with just anyone, and my parasocial standards for Rudolph are very high; if she were dating some no-name comedian or had married some A-list, sharp-jawed actor douchebag, it would probably bum me out. Luckily, she’s been in a relationship with director Paul Thomas Anderson since 2001, and I like his movies, so there you go.
One of my favorite aspects of Rudolph and Anderson’s nearly two-decade-long courtship is their evident gift at naming babies. The couple has four children, who—with the names Pearl, Lucille, Ida, and Jack—sound less like a group of kids than a mishpachah of Jewish elders getting together in the sauna at the JCC to complain about the state of the world today. (Let it be clear, this is a huge compliment, and I’m already putting Pearl on my future-baby name list.)
One of Anderson’s best-known films, 2017’s Phantom Thread, was even inspired by Rudolph’s reaction when Anderson had the flu. “I looked up, and my wife looked at me with tenderness that made me think, I wonder if she wants to keep me this way, maybe for a week or two,” Anderson told Collider in a rare public statement about his marriage in 2018. Honestly, who among us?
Another detail of the Rudolph-Anderson relationship that really makes my heart sing is the fact that they call each other husband and wife, even though they’re not officially married. Rudolph has said it felt “ooky” to use the term boyfriend to describe Anderson, particularly after the two had their first child, but personally I prefer to believe that she and Anderson are engaging in a silent protest against the cultural hegemony of marriage. (More likely they’re probably just sick of being asked: “When are you two crazy kids going to tie the knot already?!”)
Either way, I love Rudolph and Anderson’s love, and any couple that manages to make it work with four kids—even if they have nannies round the clock and all the other trappings of fame—has my admiration forever. Ultimately, no amount of childcare or wealth takes the sting out of having to change four diapers in a row.