Thank God for Bennifer, a much-needed respite from literally everything else

It’s OK everyone, you can all stop crying into your toast, anxiously waiting to see if I’m back. Because I am! That’s right, after a month away, I’ve returned, and what a month it’s been. “Say, Hadley, how did you spend your incredible four weeks off work? Did you go sailing through the Balearics? Hire a villa in Tuscany? Go rock diving in Portofino?” asks no one. And the answer, no one, is no, I did not. I spent the entire month sitting right here, at my desk, writing a book about mental illness. Do I know how to carpe the hell outta my diem or what?

Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, surprisingly, have different ideas about how best to spend the summer. By now you know, your mum knows, even Trappist monks know that Affleck and Lopez – better known as Bennifer, the original celebrity portmanteau – are back together. Over the past month, they have been offering the world glimpses into their passionate reunion on what is now routinely described as their “$130m super vessel.” (Factchecking has confirmed this is a yacht and not Lopez’s nickname for Affleck. Boom boom tish! Missed me much?) Not since Diana, Princess of Wales, lounged on the al-Fayed yacht has a mega-celebrity put on such a show for the world’s press while on deck. Highlights included Affleck stroking Lopez’s backside while sunbathing, which all scholars of early 2000s pop culture will instantly recognise as a reference to Affleck doing the same to Lopez in the Urtext of backside stroking, the music video for Lopez’s seminal single, Jenny From The Block. We’ve seen photos of them making out on the boat ; making out in a restaurant ; making out on Instagram . For a couple who allegedly broke off their engagement in 2004 due to “excessive media attention”, they have proven to be remarkably happy to court said attention again. Well, live and learn, or, in the case of Affleck and Lopez, live.

And thank God, because Bennifer (the sequel), has provided a much-needed respite in the press from literally everything else, from Covid to sad Gareth Southgate. I was especially struck by an article in this newspaper headlined “Bennifer is back, but don’t rush to contact your ex, say experts.” Wait, so I shouldn’t take life guidance from Ben Affleck? Could someone perhaps have mentioned that before I got this massive phoenix tattoo on my back?!

But this does touch on one reason why the story has caused such excitement: the reunion of exes. From Casablanca to The Parent Trap, this has long been seen as one of the ultimate romantic storylines, the fantasy of getting a second chance with your true soulmate who you were too immature to appreciate the first time around. Maybe I’m a terrible cynic, or just have terrible taste, but when it comes to sex with exes, I subscribe more to Julie Burchill’s take on the matter: only a dog returns to its vomit. (To any exes of mine who might be reading this: obviously I don’t mean you. You were way better than dog vomit!)

The reunion – reunification, even – of Bennifer doesn’t just have ex appeal (oh, the puns just keep on flowing). Because this isn’t just about Affleck and Lopez. In fact, it wasn’t supposed to be about them at all. The famously broken up couple that was supposed to get back together was in fact – whirls around, like Hercule Poirot exposing the truth – Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt! From the moment Pitt left Aniston for Angelina Jolie in 2005 (AKA world war three), the whole world has been on tenterhooks about their reunion, which seemed guaranteed when they were (gasp!) spotted talking to one another at an awards show last year. But in the end, it was this other 2000s couple, Bennifer, who obliged the public, and since then, there have been rumours that 90s couple Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie are (somewhat improbably) doing so, too.

Now this is the kind of nostalgia I can endorse. If you want to kid yourself that the past 20 years haven’t happened – with all their Covid-, Brexit-, Johnson- and Trump-shaped hellholes – then seeing Affleck snog Lopez hits the spot in a way that, say, watching the miserable Friends reunion never could. And if Jolie and Miller get back together, well, we’re back in the comparatively halcyon pre-9/11, pre-Iraq war, pre-George W Bush era. The couples might think they’re getting a do-over in their relationship, but for the rest of us it’s a do-over in time. So you stroke Lopez’s backside, Affleck. Do it for humankind.