Sometimes I Miss J-Rod
2017 was the year my fandoms collided.
I'm a baseball lover and a New York Yankees devotee, and Alex Rodriguez was my GOAT — a poor but extraordinarily gifted boy born to Dominican immigrants who persevered through hardships to earn the most lucrative contract in baseball history. He was a player so exceptional that he made a seamless transition from his natural shortstop position to third base in pursuit of that elusive championship. But Rodriquez had also been slapped with baseball's longest-ever suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, due in part to irrefutable evidence and his dogged determination to derail the league's investigation into his transgressions. He had fallen victim to his own hubris and the once inevitable Hall of Fame nod edged further away from his grasp. An ugly divorce from wife Cynthia amid accusations of infidelity and emotional abandonment certainly didn't help his tarnished reputation.
We've come to know Jennifer Lopez by the moniker J. Lo, but I call her Slay-Lo. The ageless wonder is the epitome of that girl and has attained a level of wellness that no amount of kale or kombucha can reproduce. She's woman who rose from modest roots as a dancer in the Bronx to a multi-hyphenate megastar. For her breakout role as the titular character in the 1997 biopic Selena, Lopez became the first Latina actress to earn $1 million. When her debut album On The 6 topped the Billboard 200 during the same week The Wedding Planner came in at number one in the weekend box office, she became the first woman to accomplish that feat, too. But her success was sometimes overshadowed by a trio of failed marriages and the highly publicized collapse of the relationship that spawned the most infamous portmanteau in celebrity relationship history, Bennifer.
These were my people and I was riding hard for both for well over 20 years. And in 2017 the gift that I never saw coming fell into my lap: news that my faves had somehow found each other and were dating. Lopez told Ellen DeGeneres that she "was having lunch somewhere and I saw him as he passed by. Afterwards, I went outside, and for some reason I felt like tapping him on the shoulder." That chance encounter led to a semi-awkward date, well documented in a Vanity Fair cover story that also highlighted how well-matched they were.
"We are very much twins," shared Rodriguez. "We're both Leos; we're both from New York; we're both Latino and about 20 other things," he joked.
It wasn't long before the two started feeding the growing J-Rod standom with glossy IG pics from their Paris "baecation," their first official red carpet debut as a couple at the uber glitzy Met Gala, and their well-blended family snuggled up in bed. They were both experiencing prosperous second acts well into their forties and now enjoying a second chance at love.
And I was reveling in it all, primarily as a hardcore shipper, but also as a woman in her late thirties driven to succeed seemingly in lieu of worthwhile romantic relationships. My pursuit of a career in sports had taken me from my native St. Lucia to stints in multiple countries, amassing three degrees, dream employment opportunities, and an ever-growing resume that I proudly updated with every milestone. But I was also a woman with three hypothetical weddings planned and no groom in sight. And the Carrie Bradshaw in me couldn't help but wonder, was it really possible to realize your full potential and be part of a healthy relationship? And though our situations are not remotely comparable — only one of us is a global icon — I found myself naively hopeful with every interaction between "macho" and "macha" that I would have my own chance at love, Slay-Lo style.
Together J-Rod was thriving. For her role in Hustlers Lopez earned her second Golden Globe nod and a SAG Award nomination as well. 2019's It's My Party: The Live Celebration was her first tour since 2012. She co-headlined the halftime show at the 2020 Super Bowl with her man hyping her up on the field. When Lopez performed at the VMAs as the recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award, social media exploded with memes of Rodriguez in full fanboy mode. His devotion to letting the queen flourish didn't go unnoticed.
"He's one of these people, he's like, 'Shine, be the best.' Some people try to dull you down, try to squish you down, and he's so not like that," she told Jimmy Fallon during a Tonight Show appearance.
OG fans remember the days Lopez discussed entering therapy and not loving herself during her marriage to Marc Anthony. Or having a relationship she cherished and desperately clung to being reduced to the destruction of a career and a source of regret. Now, she had been blessed with a supportive king who enjoyed pumping iron as much as she did.
Their engagement against the backdrop of a Bahamian beach at sunset was almost too perfect. As was the revelation that Rodriquez had named Lopez as his dream date in 1998 and had saved her autograph from 1999. Was fate real?
The couple appeared to survive the pandemic within the pandemic of broken relationships but we soon learned that their impending nuptials were twice postponed. Allegations of a dalliance between Rodriguez and Southern Charm star Madison LeCroy, who may or may not have ever met, cropped up.
I can't say I didn't see the end coming. I took my cues from the relationship map that was their respective Instagram pages. And when weeks went by without a post, I called it. And so did Page Six. A supposed last-ditch attempt to salvage the relationship followed but the exclusion of Rodriguez in an InStyle cover story on Lopez featuring commentary from Anthony and a resurrected-from-the-ashes-of-a-de-Armas-interlude Affleck confirmed what I had suspected. My perfectly coiffed, impeccably dressed pair was no more. My sunken ship left me somewhat disillusioned once again.
Alas, Jenny has reconnected with the Dunkin Donut swilling man with the back tattoo. Here's hoping that J. Lo has finally found her fairytale ending.
Breakups That Broke Us is a biweekly column about the failed celebrity relationships that convinced us love is dead.