2007 was rough all around.

By Lauren Pinnington
Nov 10, 2020 @ 9:00 am
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BUTBU: Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling, and I All Broke Up At the Same Time
Credit: Getty Images/InStyle.com

There came a point back in 2007 when Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, and I decided we were done. Ryan and Rachel parted ways with each other, and I parted ways with college — a relationship that impacted me as substantially as any romantic one. These partings will always be intrinsically linked, not just because both caused my 20-year-old self a very specific kind of trauma, but because they occurred simultaneously, and embodied corresponding life lesson: Just because something appears to be a great fit does not necessarily mean it is.

Ryan and Rachel were the Brad and Jen of their time; the Bogey and Bacall of the millennial generation. Despite being official for just two short years from 2005 to 2007, we were deeply invested in the actors' relationship, casting them as #goals before such parlance existed. He had the indie boy cred and she was our favorite Mean Girl. In interviews they seemed charming and down to earth, gamely shrugging off personal questions; devoid of actor-on-the-rise pretention. During an interview in 2014 with VH1 to mark The Notebook's tenth anniversary, loose-lipped director Nick Cassavetes revealed that their on set dynamic began as creatively contentious. "[Ryan said of Rachel] 'I can't do it with her. I'm just not getting anything from this'. Later we went into a room with a producer; they started screaming and yelling at each other and it got better after that," Cassavetes remarked. An amusing footnote in their story that I like to imagine played out like the plot of an old screwball comedy, in which hate invariably turns to love for the lead characters.

R&R gifted us so many iconic memories: the 2005 MTV Movie Awards straddle-kiss that lives on in 'shipper infamy (remember Ryan saying "it was my pleasure," following their on-stage smooch? I think about that inflection all the time.) The months where Rachel experimented with punky pink highlights rendered them the epitome of cool couple aesthetics. Also, their signature red carpet stance was everything.

Nevertheless, wheels were coming off below the surface. In the spring of '07 at the Fracture premiere, Ryan was asked by People if he was still with Rach. "No idea. No comment," he remarked mirthfully. Isn't that just like a Scorpio?, I thought upon reading this soundbite. Gosling, McAdams, and I are all Scorpios — a trio of November babies alleged to be passionate and loyal with disarmingly quiet venom. Stingers poised for when we deem ourselves wronged, as Ryan seemed to believe. I wondered if our sign's tendency to fixate on worst case scenarios had created a self-fulfilling prophecy for McGosling, resulting in a split that surprised fans and casual celebrity observers alike. I could seriously relate to this scenario.

I had never believed I was "good enough" for college, and perhaps this mindset was partly to blame for it not working out. But the college thing was just What You Did. If there was an opportunity to expand your mind and cultivate the set of life-long friends purportedly built-in to the experience, wouldn't you take it? In reality, I went through the rigmarole of freshman year as a lonely, small-town transplant in the midst of a grief-haze following the death of my father 18 months earlier. This was peppered with feelings of intellectual and social inadequacy. An eventual bright spot was coincidently bonding with a classmate over some post-war play. She then introduced me to the cinematic swoon of The Notebook and its beguiling stars. But, as my sophomore year galumphed on, I realized I couldn't continue my education on the basis of finding one similarly pop-culture inclined friend alone.

Meanwhile, Rachel remained silent about the reported breakup with Ryan. He, on the other hand, blamed showbiz. My comparably generic PR pacifier for why I decided to drop out was that my program — American & English Lit — wasn't anything like the university catalogue advertised it to be. It was a narrative I perpetuated for years after, as a way of distracting folk from perceiving me as a failure.

When Ryan and Rachel briefly rekindled their romance in 2008, I too flirted with the idea of returning to an old partnership. One with higher education. However, as much as I believed myself to be in a different place just one year on from such a huge transition, sometimes you're right the first time. Sometimes the fantasy of it is better. I suspected my Canadian counterparts arrived at the same conclusion. Ryan once told GQ that he and Rachel had "gone down swinging, calling it a draw." This leads me to believe there had been a battle — but isn't that always how it feels when substantial chapters in life end in ways we weren't expecting? Sure, it would be nice to have a degree, but honestly, I'm content with where I'm at without one. I can be grateful for the time college and I spent together and realize deciding to call it quits always beats staying part of something that wasn't right. I'm certain our beloved erstwhile couple would agree.

Breakups That Broke Us is a weekly column about the failed celebrity relationships that convinced us love is dead.