Mating mousecapades 

"Britney back with Justin — Their hot sexy night!" creams the cover of Star magazine.

"Burp," I burp, running my shaky fingers over my bile-wracked constitution.

I'm not above this national fascination with nubile nobility, but I am growing a few spikes of resentment. I liked it better when Barbie and Ken couldn't talk and were all smooth down there. With Brit and Just, we get this:

"'They walked into Britney's building hand-in-hand,'" a source revealed. 'And once they were inside the lobby they started making out and sucked face all the way to the elevators.'"

Then, inevitably, this:

"Justin left alone three hours later looking rumpled and happy."

Gooey dirt follows regarding speculation into Britney's falling apart, and I'm practically forgetting to pay for my Advil and orange juice at the grocery store, so heady is my delight. Did somebody say "cocaine"?

What we've witnessed in this celebrity relationship is more a game of strip poker than any kind of enviable courtship. But we remain fascinated just the same.

To get to the heart of the pain, I hop up a demographic point to the tabloid with a soul, Us Weekly magazine, one rack over with the "ladies" magazines. In a recent cover feature, "Justin and Britney: Why they can't let go," Us digs deep into the psychology of the Britney and Justin zeitgeist. Well, not too deep. Accessing the immense wisdom of Dr. Jane Greer, a very important sounding New York psychotherapist, Us reveals an undercurrent of anger and redemption. Or something.

"In the wake of betrayal the first reaction is revenge. And that's what went on with Justin," Greers Greer. "The flipside is the loving feelings that remain. That love doesn't disappear in one final explosive moment."

Unsatisfied, I pull rank and call up Shirl, an editor at Us. We met at an 'N Sync concert two years ago, both looking disinterested and cute. She's like me, only with talent and tits.

"What's the scoop, lady?"

"Well, I don't know if they're the first teen power couple, but they're definitely a power couple," she power puffs. " I mean, they're two beautiful, successful, rich, nubile people."

By now, I'm pulling the bubble gum out of my mouth and tying in around my finger, so heady is my delight.

"I talked to Bryn Brydenthal, she's been a publicist for George Michael, GNR, the Nirvana death," she drops names. "And she told me that lots of celebrities play out their relationships in the press. That's the way they communicate. They've been doing it forever. In the absence of talking to each other, they talk through the magazines."

"But isn't that the job of the teen magazines? I mean, not everybody who's 30 is as stupid and obsessive as me, are they? Unless they're fat."

"They're a power couple," Shirl snaps. "That's the kind of stuff that we love."

"That and nervous, potentially unqualified psychological advice."

"We get experts to talk about relationships all of the time. That's like half of our work here," she makes me jealous. "Brad and Jen, we take that relationship very seriously."

"Do Britney and Justin stand a chance after all of this?" I really, really care.

"I think so. I think they've probably gotten a lot of therapy from the media, with all of our comments, the psychologists, the people chiming in saying this is what's right, this is what's wrong. They've had some pretty solid advice, I must say," she must says. "And I'm sure they read it."

Surely reading it is Fred Durst, balding aggro-trash so three years ago. His limp bizkit, he purports on the band's website, is currently riding Britney's hobby horse.

"I don't know what to make of that," says Shirl. "It's a very strange development. It's sort of out of character for someone like him to be with someone like her. I don't know. I don't get it. Just a few weeks ago he was all gushing about Avril Lavigne."

"Avril Lavigne! She's absolutely breast free! Speaking of breasts, what's the dish on Justin opportunist, Alyssa Milano?"

"They're not dating. I think they're probably still friends," she thinks. "Whenever I've seen them together, they really didn't act like a 'couple.' I mean, she's around a lot, but there's no fawning or handholding."

"But what about that awful video? Justin's current 'Cry Me a River' sports a Britney-alike and acts out a videotaped sex scene with some other woman, on Brit's bed! Don't you think that's just really, really mean and stuff?"

"I do," Shirl does. "Apparently he doesn't. He's still in denial, all 'That's not supposed to look like Britney!' Whatever."

Confused, and slightly concerned with my concern, I decide to wrap up the conversation and put my mixer to good use. "So what's it all about?"

"I think it all has to do with transitioning into adulthood. I think all of their actions the last year or so are like, they've grown up already. Enough of this Mickey Mouse bullshit!"

Cry me a river. Oh, and pass the bathroom tissue.

Billy Manes writes for Orlando Weekly, where the full-length version of this feature appears. E-mail comments to letters@metrotimes.com

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