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Oh God, Why Are Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray Telling Us This?

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On Wednesday morning, Americans logged onto their computers, still groggy from too much Fourth of July reverie, and were hit with a bombshell: a New York Times piece titled “Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray Are Separating.” The news itself wasn’t the issue; if New York City’s former mayor and First Lady had put out a simple statement announcing their separation and asking for privacy at this difficult time, the reaction likely would have been, “Huh, okay.”

Instead, de Blasio and McCray announced their split via a “nearly three-hour interview” with the paper of record that yielded one cringey detail after another. We learn that the couple aren’t planning to divorce “but will date other people.” De Blasio reveals that dealing with the COVID crisis during his final year in office “made me emotionally very needy.” A Tibetan Buddhist is quoted. The whole thing ends with the mayor playing a song that begins, “If you found some other dude / What do I do? / If he loves you truly / How could I not love him too?” McCray dances. De Blasio remarks, “Isn’t that beautiful?”

The piece is certainly a lot. What’s less clear is why, exactly, we’re getting all of this intimate information about de Blasio and McCray’s relationship. And while I’m still reeling from too much sun and sangria — plus hearing the former mayor explain that “Labels put people in boxes, and those boxes are shaped like coffins” — I have some theories.

Theory #1: De Blasio and McCray think we can all learn from their split.

In 2014, Gwyneth Paltrow used the term “conscious uncoupling” to describe her divorce from Chris Martin, and celebrity breakups have never been the same. If you’re famous and your split isn’t iconic and inspirational, what are you even doing?

In recent years, Paltrow herself admitted that “the term sounded a bit full of itself, painfully progressive and hard to swallow.” The same goes for this announcement from de Blasio and McCray. In his piece, Times reporter Matt Flegenheimer says the couple believes their story can enlighten both political power couples and aging plebs caught in stale marriages:

And as with much about their marriage, they see lessons for others even in its tumult, both for workaday couples negotiating the challenges of growing old together and for the small subset who expose themselves to the uncommon glare of public scrutiny.

“I can look back now and say, ‘Here were these inflection points where we should have been saying something to each other,’” Mr. de Blasio said. “And I think one of the things I should have said more is: ‘Are you happy? What will make you happy? What’s missing in your life?’”

Could de Blasio and McCray sharing their story help couples going through similar issues? I suppose so. But what they’ve discovered doesn’t actually sound that radical. Here’s how Flegenheimer sums up their relationship status:

They are not planning to divorce, they said, but will date other people. They will continue to share the Park Slope townhouse where they raised their two children, now in their 20s …

Later in the piece, de Blasio explains, “One of the things we’re saying to the world is we don’t need to possess each other.”

So they’re just in an open marriage. In this day and age, that’s only interesting if you broach the idea of non-monogamy to your normie partner just after marrying him, and it ultimately leads him to choose your billionaire father over you.

Theory #2: De Blasio is still overestimating our interest in him.

In the piece, Flegenheimer makes an admirable effort to explain why all this information about the de Blasio–McCray marriage is newsworthy, writing:

As with much about their marriage, its strain is imbued with civic resonance, a decade after the pair became what was then the most significant and dissected biracial couple in American politics.

While this description is true, no one was asking for this much information about the former mayor’s personal life.

Misjudging our level of interest is, of course, classic de Blasio. A year ago, the former mayor ended an ill-advised run for Congress, saying he’d finally realized “the people of #NY10 are looking for another option and I respect that.” And before that, he ran for president in 2020. It turns out even Chirlane wasn’t into seeing her husband in the White House, as she told the Times:

Yet they also clocked a shift in their relationship a year earlier, they said, coinciding roughly with a presidential run that Ms. McCray viewed with deep skepticism.

“I thought it was a distraction,” she said, publicly echoing a prevalent complaint from Mr. de Blasio’s constituents.

“Kind of true,” he said, laughing. “Point for Chirlane.”

Theory #3: This is a Tinder profile disguised as a Times article.

Can you imagine Bill de Blasio popping up on on a dating app? Neither can he. The couple joked to Flegenheimer about how the Times piece was a good way to advertise their newly liberated relationship status:

Ms. McCray asked dryly if their phone numbers could be included in the newspaper.

“Can I put a picture from the gym in there?” Mr. de Blasio asked. (He added that he was “not a believer” in online dating.)

Theory #4: De Blasio is auditioning for the Sex and the City reboot.

The de Blasio–McCray article opens with this anecdote:

About two months ago, after another stale Saturday night of binge-watching television at their Brooklyn home, Bill de Blasio and Chirlane McCray surprised themselves.

It began with an offhand remark: “Why aren’t you lovey-dovey anymore?” Mr. de Blasio, the former New York City mayor, asked, according to Ms. McCray, his wife.

It moved quickly, both said, into the sort of urgently searching dialogue that had been necessary for years but avoided until that moment: a full accounting of their relationship, what they wanted, what they were not getting.

Later, de Blasio says he occasionally had doubts about their marriage because McCray previously identified as a lesbian:

“For the guy who took the chance on a woman who was an out lesbian and wrote an article called ‘I Am a Lesbian,’” Mr. de Blasio said, “there was a part of me that would at times say, ‘Hmmm, is this like a time bomb ticking? Is this something that you’re going to regret later on?’ So I always lived with that stuff.”

If you’re wondering why this all seems weirdly familiar, it might be because you’ve seen it before on And Just Like That. While watching TV in their Brooklyn apartment, Miranda tells her husband Steve they need to have a talk and asks to hold his hand. “We never hold hands,” he protests. Miranda goes on to explain that she wants more from life than binging TV every night and asks for a divorce. Then she runs off to L.A. with Che Diaz, a nonbinary comedian and podcast host.

I know what you’re thinking: Bill de Blasio can’t be on the Sex and the City reboot because he’s not an actor. But Cynthia Nixon, who plays Miranda, wasn’t a politician, and yet somehow I wound up voting for her in a gubernatorial primary in 2018. Over the years, the line between Nixon and the character she plays have blurred; she recently told the Times of London that she once felt “I am like Miranda in every single way.” And while the details are very different, after the original series ended, Nixon separated from the father of her two children and she now identifies as queer.

So, is Bill de Blasio’s oversharing a sign that we should brace ourself for another crossover between Sex and the City and real-life New York politics? I couldn’t help but wonder …

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