In 2005, Madonna had endured her greatest physical trauma yet: falling off a horse. Naturally, because she’s Madonna, she got back on it literally and metaphorically once her injuries healed with superhuman expediency. The incident occurred, rather unfortunately, on her forty-seventh birthday, twelve years ago now. At the time, she was in the thick of her British dame phase, in large part, due to her marriage to Guy Ritchie, whose karma for breaking her heart apparently culminated with the disaster that was King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. As only the sponge that is Madonna can do, she took her wifely duties in the milieu of the United Kingdom very seriously, absorbing all elements of the culture, or lack thereof, some might argue. The height of this, of course, was buying a country house (cue Blur’s song of the same name)–specifically, the mac daddy of all country houses: Ashcombe in Wiltshire, since occupied solely by Ritchie and his new brood in all his divorce settlement glory. At one point, however, its most notable owner was Cecil Beaton.
Her album that year, Confessions on a Dance Floor, was already announced for a November 15th release date (you know back when albums still came out on Tuesdays) when the accident occurred, which meant 1) greater motivation for healing to promote it and 2) that the eleventh track on the record, “Push,” had been written well in advance–in the thick of when the Madonna/Guy troubles truly started to begin. Though Madonna did her best to tell herself that Guy’s update on the Sean Penn bad boy, too cool for metaphysics persona was beneficial to her growth and questioning, it was the horseback riding accident that ultimately made her see that his “cold manner” toward her wasn’t, in fact, an act. And as she did everything she could to change herself in a way befitting an “English wife,” a man like Guy was always going to end up with a Katie girl like Jacqui Ainsley.
From their disagreements over adopting a child from Malawi, David, in 2006 to Guy’s less intense interest in Kabbalah, the relationship was always fraught with contention under the guise of the old “opposites attract” adage. Hence, the lyrics of “Push” consisting of such denials as “You push me/A better version of myself/You push me/Only you and no one else/You push me/To see the other point of view” and “Every race I win/Every mood I’m in/Everything I do/I owe it all to you.” In hindsight, Madonna realized that, as she stated in an interview in 2015, “I think when you get married you have to be willing to make a lot of compromises and that’s fair enough… I think that’s the way it goes in relationships. However, you know, I did find myself sometimes in a state of conflict. There were many times when I wanted to express myself as an artist in ways that I don’t think my ex-husband felt comfortable with. There were times when I felt incarcerated. I wasn’t really allowed to be myself.”
So yes, the way he “pushed” her to be a better version of herself, turned out, really, to be Madonna, like so many women, ignoring that she was suppressing her true self for the cause of so-called love. So often, we’re carried away by the feeling that someone can give us at the outset, that all we want to do is cling onto it in the face of overt deterioration and verbal abuse. As her fifty-ninth birthday approaches, it can safely be said that Madonna has learned from the mistakes she made in her union with Guy, nowadays dating men half her age and never deigning to be caught dead (or injured) for very long in England again.