Well, it’s not totally brief, but briefer than I want it to be: In light of claims that J.Lo and Ben Affleck have rediscovered the joys of one another’s bodies souls, we should probably peek back at whatever photos from Bennifer 1.0 are available to us. (Technically this is Bennifer 3.0, because the 2.0 number went to Ben and Jennifer Garner. I hope Ben moves on to date Jennifer Grey, Jenifer Lewis, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Hudson, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Jennifer Morrison — in any order he chooses — before finding true and lasting love with Jennifer Coolidge, which would be Bennifer 10.)

Ben and Jen met in very late 2001 on the set of Gigli. She had married Cris Judd that September, and he was doing who knows what. (He and GOOP broke up in 2000.) Jennifer divorced Cris Judd after 9 months, in June of 2002, and started dating Ben, a turn of events she was frequently asked to defend and which she claims is not connected. In October of 2002, they filmed and released “Jenny From The Block,” a terrible but terribly catchy — it’s in my iTunes, always and forever — ode to a) J.Lo’s total regularness despite her fame, and b) her love affair with Ben and their immediate loss of privacy:

For someone worried about privacy, she does a LOT of dancing in front of large, curtainless windows in this video — which also, amusingly, includes a shot on a yacht where Ben plants a kiss on her bum. I hope they have curled up on the couch together in Montana and watched it many times in the last two weeks.

They moved on to film Jersey Girl together in late 2002, which is when Kevin Smith is now claiming he casually coined the Bennifer portmanteau, and were set to marry in September 2003. But four days beforehand, they postponed the wedding, citing the suffocating fixation of the media on their relationship. They broke up completely in January 2004, which J.Lo curiously later called her first major heartbreak despite having been married twice by that time, though both for less than a year. By the end of 2004, Jennifer Lopez was six months deep into her marriage to Mark Anthony, and Ben was dating Jennifer Garner and was spotted with a Cartier information card sticking out of his back pocket. (His ring for J.Lo was Harry Winston. For whatever reason I find it both amusing and appropriate that he went to a different jeweler.)

I am sure the media did not break that relationship on its own — knowing what we do about Ben Affleck now, I’m sure a lot of peccadillos were in play that ultimately meant they were not compatible — but it’s plausible that publicity played a pretty big part. It was one of the first, if not THE first, relationships to sweep the Internet; if you look at how media was developing at that time, it’s likely they completely underestimated how exponentially both fascination and photographer attention would grow every time they left the house. Bennifer 3.0 at least understands that better. They’ve lived it and they know what choices they’re making, and honestly, I think that’s at MININUM 75% of why they’re together. I mean, if this is true and lasting love, blessings to them both (though I personally would bet on stories in a minute about how it was “just fun,” and bless that too). But you have to hand it to J.Lo: Nobody is talking about A.Rod. She and A.Rod were ENGAGED, and suddenly that guy looks like a sad little afterthought, and all anyone can talk about is how quickly J.Lo’s ex pounced on her availability and she is this sultry queen of the gossip world. Somehow, in the reflection of her glow, even Ben seems cooler. So whether they are legitimately banging or just riding a gossip wave they hope drowns out both their pasts — or both, as they are not at all mutually exclusive — it is an A+ press flex, and it has brought us all so much late-pandemic joy. Thank you, lovers.

[Photos: Getty, Shutterstock]