Being the Ricardo's - A Brokenhearted Love Story or a Fissure in a Patriarchal World...

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Courtesy GetArchive

Tragic love stories of memorable people who should have never parted are probably the tales which make me stop in my tracks, exude that shell shocked soldier 1000-yard stare, and have those staring eyes fill with tears for what could have been.

Of course, the Ricardo’s in I Love Lucy were a fictional couple, but in real life, in the 20th century, there were many such power couples that did their share of imploding.

  • Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner
  • Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton
  • Rosemary Clooney and Mel Ferrer
  • And, of course, and possibly the most heartbreaking of them all, the real Ricardo’s, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

Yes, I know. This is the 21st century. And all four couples have long since passed. But the ripples of disappointment of those great loves for those of us who grew up in the 20th still resound with questions unanswered, and a plea — was there anything that could have been done to avoid these heartbreaks or were they collateral damage in a changing culture between men and women?

The common denominator in all these celebrated unions, it seems to me, is the matching of strong women to old-fashioned men at a time when women’s rights were on the soap box, finding their collective voice against society’s patriarchal rule.

Sure, the suffragettes began the movement towards women’s equality, but it wasn’t until the 60s that the fight truly came to roost in Mr.  & Mrs. America’s homes.

Women’s demands were ruffling male feathers…

  • They wanted careers beyond the home.
  • They wanted more career options than secretary, teacher or nurse.
  • They wanted a say in their financial futures, obtaining a home mortgage or a car loan without a male signature.
  • They wanted equal pay for equal work.

And all of these demands weren’t sitting well with all men.

To reinforce their manhood, some men resorted to having love affairs with women that would adore them, would like them to be the dominant one, would let them make all the decisions. 

And that left celebs like Ava, Elizabeth, Rosemary and Lucille out in the marriage cold.

Were there other circumstances which added to the domestic rupture? I’m sure there were. But Frank and Richard and Mel and Desi wanted their women subservient, pliable, yes-women, and even from where I’m sitting none of these four were anything like that. Ava, Elizabeth, Rosemary and Lucille were talented, able, and visionaries in how to formulate their own futures without a male thumb pressing down on them.

Did these four women love their men? Yes, they surely did. They tried more than once to keep their marriages intact, but the fissures — cultural, career, personal — became too great. And what these couples were left with were separations and hurts that, in my opinion, never truly healed.

On YouTube, there’s a video showing Desi and Lucille in a pool with their grandchild. This is years after their divorce, and each had other partners, but in that video, you still see the caring and the love, and as a voyeur, I feel the hurt of what could have, should have been, if only the male/female evolution could have been quicker to resolve.

Growing pain in the human experience. They are not figurative. As we humans evolve, hurt is left behind to linger. Sure, this is the 21st century and many sexual equality strides have been made, and issues that would have ruptured marriages in the 20th would not in the 21st. And that is good. That is great.

But once in a while my mind will wander back to the past, feel the lingering hurt and wonder why?

If Frank, Richard, Mel and Desi were here today, would they act differently to the loves of their lives? Maybe today that’s a moot question. Maybe all four couples, in the next ethereal world, are already back together again, love trumping all.

This is what I'd like to believe.