Federal Politics


He may be rusty, but Crowe's still the family man

Observations from the week that was.

I know nothing about the separation, nor indeed the marriage, of Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer. From what I've garnered from trashy magazines they've always seemed pretty normal. Their normal, not our normal, a down-to-earth family that in the madness of it all still found time to occasionally kick a soccer ball around a park, albeit in front of the paparazzi.

I was surprised to hear of their split, surprised to hear they had been living apart for a long time. Although not so unusual in his profession, when movies are being made in far-flung places of the world. Then there were rumours Spencer may have shared a ''comfortable embrace'', as was reported, with her Dancing with the Stars partner Damian Whitewood earlier in the year. DWTS seems to be the kiss of death for rocky marriages, worldwide, not just in Australia, if you could be bothered Googling it. Perhaps the preacher in Footloose was right and dancing really is the work of the devil. Then there was Crowe's reported reluctance to live the suburban life in Sydney, an unwillingness, it was suggested, to give up his jetset lifestyle and settle down.

No one ever knows what goes on inside a marriage, even one played out in the glossy magazines and tabloid newspapers, and who are we to judge?

But then this week Crowe decided to sell his share in the South Sydney rugby league club. In an email to Fairfax columnist and Channel Nine reporter Danny Weidler (and, boy, doesn't he have a good contact book) Crowe admitted to something that made me get all sad and yet happy and hopeful at the same time. ''My family situation has changed,'' Crowe said in the email. ''I have to address personally how busy I have made my life outside of my actual job.

''If I have any chance of keeping my family together, I have to simplify my life where I can.''


Some cynics said the decision to sell was a quick way of raising some cash, with reports the divorce may cost him $25 million, but I was hopeful Crowe may have realised what was at stake and made a ballsy decision to man up and save his marriage.

I'm probably totally wrong, but I thought wouldn't it be nice if he were to say no to the next blockbuster action film to come his way so he could spend some time taking Charlie, 8, and Tennyson, 6, to the park. I like to think people will be remembered for being a good father, or a loving husband, not for things they do. (Although in Crowe's case he'll probably be remembered by the majority for his film roles.) But does the majority matter? I'd like to be remembered for my relationships with people, not how I earned money or what I did. To buoy me even further, there was one report that said Crowe was ''blindsided'' by Spencer's ''determination to separate'' and he was ''reluctant to accept it''.

''Don't be surprised when he mounts a campaign to win her back. He knows he will never replace her,'' a friend - and don't you love these anonymous friends - said.

Perhaps selling the Rabbits was part of that. If selling a football club can save a family, then I hope it works.

Aping humans

Perhaps Crowe and Spencer, 48 and 43 respectively, are in the midst of a midlife crisis, something again in the news this week, and not thanks to the antics of some sports-car-driving executive, but a study of chimpanzees and orang-utans.

Zookeepers from participating zoos in Japan, Australia, America and Singapore observed their apes and results were collated by a team from the Scottish Primate Research Group and University of Edinburgh. They found chimpanzees reached their ''wellbeing low point'' between 27.2 and 28.3 years and the orang-utans held out until about 35.4 years of age. The researchers said this was comparable - in monkey years I guess - to the low in the human curve which happens from about 45 to 50 years of age.

I liked what Melbourne Zoo curator of exotics Jan Steele had to say about the findings. While a little concerned with the methodology, she said the results struck a chord.

She said, from her observations, young chimpanzees and orang-utans were ''enthralled with their world'' and by the time old age came around they had status, respect and less involvement in the politics of the group.

But in middle age, ''they are constantly jockeying for status in the group. They are having to decide who to mate with and dealing with infant care, juveniles and teenagers all at once.'' Life does feel like that sometimes, monkey or not. All this jockeying and juggling and jostling that crowds our middle years. Who doesn't lament the feeling of being enthralled, living a life where everything felt new, whether it was experiences or relationships, or whatever was happening in your young monkey life before responsibilities came along.

Who doesn't look forward too, to being a respected elder, perhaps greying at the temples, done with the workings of it all, happy just to sit back and let someone pick the fleas out of our backs, or throw us a banana if we growl at them.

Canadian psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques invented the phrase ''midlife crisis'' in the 1960s, connecting it with ''having to accept the reality of one's death''. Is it the same for monkeys? Do monkeys undergo a period of introspection, thinking is this all there is or does the grass look greener in that other zoo enclosure over there with the zebras?

Who knows. It's all monkey business this midlife thing.