The XX Factor

Serena Williams Is Not Here for Your Celebrity Engagement Narrative

Serena Williams practices ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne on Sunday.

Paul Crock/AFP/Getty Images

Celebrity media outlets have a way of drawing out the news of a star’s engagement into multiple discrete stories. First there’s the appearance of a mysterious new ring on “that finger.” Then the official confirmation by the star’s representative. At some point later, there’s the post-engagement interview, in which the newly affianced gushes to a reporter about her partner’s handsomeness, brilliance, and so on.

Some celebrities are happy to play along with this. Jennifer Aniston surely knew what she was doing when she choked up during her first official post-engagement interview with Chelsea Handler. But it’s infinitely cooler when a star ignores the machinery prodding her to swoon on cue.

And so we arrive at the engagement of the serene Serena Williams, arguably the greatest athlete of all time. As of December, she is also the fiancée of Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Williams announced her surprise engagement on Reddit, where Ohanian commented that she had “made me the happiest man on the planet.” Since then, they’ve kept pretty quiet about the news.

Now, many agonizing weeks later, Williams has finally commented in more depth on her transformation from sad single lady to blissful future bride. It happened at a press conference after her first-round victory in the Australian Open on Monday. The brief post-match Q-and-A opened with several boring questions about tennis. Then, finally, one brave American interviewer got to the topic that everyone had been waiting for: “Obviously getting engaged is a huge thing, especially for an athlete who travels the world constantly,” he said. “How does that feel to you having that incredible milestone? Do you feel changed in any way? Does it touch you? How does it feel?”

Williams paused for one perfect beat. “Um, I guess it feels good,” she finally said. “I really haven’t thought about it too much, because I wasn’t even really going to think about it until after the tournament. … Right now I’m just so focused that this is kind of all I can think about.”

Follow-up question! “Your fiancé has an incredible story, incredible achievements. What’s the one thing that you love the most about him?”

“He’s a really nice person,” she replied. “He definitely treats everyone the same, which is really cool to see.”

From this thin roux, gossip outlets did their best to cook up a hearty stew of relationship news. “Serena Williams has finally opened up about her engagement,” People announced, as if the magazine had been holding its collective breath since December. Williams “has broken her silence,” another site reported.

Perhaps all this public terseness makes the romance of Williams and Ohanian sound cold or even doomed. Au contraire! The scraps of online evidence of their relationship proves conclusively that they are adorable. They wore coordinating Halloween costumes last year! And just this week, Ohanian supportively Instagrammed “Back in the office” with a shot of Williams on the court. If anything, their lack of interest in involving the rest of us in their romance is a good sign. It’s the couples who perform their adoration most outlandishly in public who are the ones we should question. Williams is too busy living a full and spectacular life to swoon for her public. Or maybe she’ll do it later! Presumably she really hasn’t thought about it too much.