December 05, 2006 at 12:00 PM EST

I can’t say I was exactly shocked when I saw the announcement from Lance Bass (pictured, left) and Reichen Lehmkuhl (right) confirming they have parted ways, but before we mourn their passing and click onto the next celeb couple of the week, let’s pause for a moment and reflect on what this break-up means. Because — and bear with me here — I do think it means something.

Take the statement the couple released yesterday to “We remain the best of friends. Please respect our privacy as we try to work things out during this difficult time.” Now, note that plea for privacy. It’s a standard trope of the celeb break-up, but I find it kind of ironic given how Web and gossip speculation about their relationship caused Lance to come out in the first place, to make something incredibly private — his sexuality — very much not. And after Lance came out, it took work not to notice his many public appearances with his boyfriend Reichen.

addCredit(“Lance Bass and Reichen Lehmkuhl: Jeffrey Mayer/”)

Live by the celeb magazines and gossip columns, then die by them too — Page Six already has Lance at an event with another man. Which can only mean good things for gay equality, I suppose — they’re getting the exact same treatment as Kid Rock and Pam, Reese and Ryan, and (remember?) Ellen and Anne. Still, given that it’s practically Hollywood law that a famous couple’s life expectancy is inversely proportionate to the number of times they’re photographed together, I also wonder whether, had Lance and Reichen chosen to keep their relationship private, they would have lasted — well, at least into 2007. And yet, had they kept their love to themselves, Lance will still be in the odious purgatory of the closet and Reichen would be a long-faded whisper on the pop-culture winds.

What do you think, PopWatchers? Once they went public, did Lance and Reichen ever have a chance? Are gay celeb couples any more interesting than the straight ones? Will anyone ever be able to correctly spell Reichen’s full name?

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