Jennifer Garner had a strict childhood, which sort of explains her marriage to Ben Affleck

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck attend Sunday service together with their three children in 2018
Jennifer Garner is promoting her new movie, Netflix’s Yes Day, and recently spoke to a British podcast called Happy Mum, Happy Baby. I saw quotes from it where she said she didn’t “snap back” after her three babies. That was interesting and I’m including that part below. After listening to it I came away with so much more, particularly an understanding of how she ended up with Ben Affleck. I’ve seen so many interviews with her, but in this one she really opened up about her childhood. While she put a positive spin on it, it sounds repressive to me. Garner is the middle of three girls and her dad didn’t let them wear makeup, pierce their ears or even polish their nails. In fact when she wanted to pierce her ears over lockdown she called her dad and told him first! She’s said this before but somehow it all came together for me this time. Here are some excerpts from that and you can listen to it here.

On her upbringing
My dad is very strict and very conservative. Garner girls did not have their ears pierced. I just got mine pierced during the pandemic for the first time. It was because I couldn’t look at myself over Zoom without something new. That’s why I cut a fringe as well. I couldn’t even stand to look at myself anymore.

I’m 48. I called my parents and said ‘Dad I’m going to pierce my ears.’ He said ‘ok Jennifer.’ We didn’t wear makeup we didn’t have our nails painted. We were very good girls.

On if she always wanted a family
For sure. I was one of those little girls who always had baby dolls tucked under the arm. My first job I was a babysitter, I had a babysitting company with a friend. It never occurred to me that I was not going to be a mom. I always knew I would.

On if becoming a mom affected her career
I always knew that it was a priority and more of a priority than a career. The goal was to be… an actor at night on stage [who] gave it her all and then home with her kids during the day and a regular mom.

It was a mess when I first got pregnant. I was in the middle of a TV show, I had a movie coming up, I had to call everyone and tell them. I was terrified and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, there is no right time. After that I really did try to plan [my pregnancies].

My body has always just been good to go [to get pregnant]. That hasn’t been a problem so I lucked out there. Then trying to juggle the kids with the career that I have, it’s confusing but I think it is for everyone.

On constant speculation over whether she’s pregnant
I have so many girlfriends who have that [bounce back] physique and I’m so happy for them. I am not one of them. That’s not my gig. I can work really hard and I can be really fit and I can still look like a woman who has had three babies and I always will. Every week ‘is she pregnant?’ It’s still happening and I’m 48 and single.

It’s like when beautiful Kate walked out of the hospital and she didn’t hide the fact that she looked like a woman postpartum. Somebody [visited me] the day that I had my first. He looked at me and said ‘is there another one in there?’

[From The Happy Mum Happy Baby Podcast]

I would throw shade at her for praising Duchess Kate, but she surely recorded this before the Oprah interview. She’s also been supportive of Duchess Meghan, particularly after Meghan posted a video in support of Garner’s charity Save the Children. Plus Kate does deserve some credit for her postpartum baby photo ops where she didn’t hide her body. However I doubt she had a choice. That same thing happened to me with someone asking me if I was pregnant again right after I had my baby. It was a little kid asking though so I don’t blame him for blurting it out.

After that Garner talked about her kids growing up and how much fun it is to be the parent of a teenager and adolescent. She truly loves being a mom and it shows. One thing I noticed in this interview is that she didn’t mention Ben as a supportive partner at all. Read the part about her career and how hard it was to manage with three kids. She didn’t say “I had help from my husband at the time.” That says a lot. As I mentioned in the title, her marriage to Ben Affleck makes so much sense when you consider that she wasn’t even allowed to get a manicure when she was growing up. I’m her age and I started wearing makeup in eighth grade! I love hair, makeup and fashion and that’s not her thing, but she definitely picked a bad boy. Also I have to give her credit for selling the hell out of this movie. She made me want to watch it.

Jennifer Garner looks happy after Ben's breakup!

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YES DAY

The photo in the header is from 2018, credit: Avalon.red. The other paparazzi photo of Garner is from January, credit: Backgrid. Other photos are from Yes Day credit: John P Johnson for Netflix

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62 Responses to “Jennifer Garner had a strict childhood, which sort of explains her marriage to Ben Affleck”

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  1. Rapunzel says:

    “Somebody [visited me] the day that I had my first. He looked at me and said ‘is there another one in there?’ “- that’s sounds like one of the Affleck brothers or Matty D.

  2. Lauren says:

    I’m sorry, but the fact that her father sounds horrible. I’m absolutely sorry to say it, but goodness me. If my father ever tried to dictate my developmental years by trying to claim ownership over my person, my experiences and me sexuality I don’t what I would have done. My mother had something similar happen to her and she basically got married at 16 to escape that situation and said that her daughter would never go through that.

    • Darla says:

      Her father sounds like a cretin, a throwback. Good for her that she loves him, but there are too many out there like that.

      • Silvie says:

        She’s from West Virginia, so…
        I’ve commented this before, but I have friends who waited tables with her in NYC before she got famous, and they’ve all said Jennifer Garner is the real deal: as genuine and nice as you’d think.

      • Susan says:

        HEY HEY there are readers here from WV, let’s not be rude….

    • Julia says:

      Funnily, I also couldn’t get my ear pierced (not before 13, by which time I didn’t care anymore and didn’t do it until my late 20s) or dye my hair and wear a lot of make up, but I wouldn’t described my parents or my upbringing as strict, far from it!

      Now, the fact she felt she had to call her dad at 48 to inform him (and apologise) about getting her ears pierced does sound a bit off

    • Snuffles says:

      I had a high school friend who had a similar upbringing. She was raised by a single mother and her grandfather. They were SUPER strict. I think partially because they didn’t want her to end up like her mother. I remember them thinking I was a bad influence because I took her to a concert once. And was as goody two shoes as they come.

      This girl was incredibly smart, we were in a science and tech program together. But when it came time to choosing a college, her only goal was to go to one as far away from her strict mother as possible. She picked some shit school in Florida. Went buck wild the moment she got there and got pregnant before she finished freshman year and had to drop out.

    • just a small town girl says:

      Her dad sounds a lot like mine, so I can relate. Spoiler alert, only one of his four children is close to him, and it’s me, because I got out the soonest and had the otherwise normal-est life. The rest of my siblings have really struggled and had issues.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Completely agree. Her upbringing sounds awful and oppressive.

    • Lizzythe2 says:

      I think that culture and marketing say you don’t look good enough without makeup. It sad you need to pierce something to look, feel good, be cool is detrimental. Maybe the dad was trying to teach them that they were beautiful without any of that. That their value was not tied to their looks. Seems to me she and her family are very close and does not see in her father what some of you are claiming. I also don’t see her comment of calling her dad before she pierced her ears as seeking permission. Or even feeling the need to inform him.

  3. Nina says:

    The comment about how they “were very good girls” has me taken aback. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of nail polish and wearing it will not make anyone a “bad girl”. Wow.

    • Aang says:

      Right? Good girls don’t polish their nails? Holy patriarchy!

    • Arpeggi says:

      Yeah, that was weird. It’s ok to not be obedient, submissive girls, that doesn’t make you bad. Same with going out it boys, wearing the clothes you want to wear, etc. But she seems to have had a super strict, kind of terrible childhood and hasn’t completely realized how messed up it is to still need your dad’s approval to pierce your ears in your 40s

    • Blerg says:

      She has said the “Garner girls were good girls” thing before in interviews, but I do not take it to mean that she believes this definition of “good girls” or thinks nail polish and makeup make a girl “bad.” I have always thought she is just acknowledging the claustrophobic church-ladies-are-watching-you culture she was raised in, where such easy judgments can be made.

    • jb says:

      Came here to say this!
      I started wearing eyeliner at 11, I drank a bit in high school and kissed lots of boys (and girls!); but dammit I was a A student, volunteered a TON, on sports teams and started working at 16. Excuse me, tell me how I was not “a good girl?”

      A good girl/woman is someone who is self-actualized, gives to herself and her community and makes something of herself…. and is NOT based on make-up or outward appearance.
      Down with this narrative that a woman’s moral worth is based on her appearance and sexual propriety. It’s hurtful to women’s development!

    • Original Jenns says:

      I think the fact that she always references The Garner Girls was my clue to what her upbringing was like. Not in a good or bad way, but such a southern, small town, good girl identifier, if that makes sense.

    • Oh-Dear says:

      you can’t read tone on the page, and based on how she has let her daughters dress and things she has said in interviews, I can imagine she said the ‘very good girls’ part as a characterization in her dad’s (and maybe community’s) eyes, maybe emphasizing it.
      At least I hope so – undoing that narrative into adulthood is so hard to do. I imagine it is why she stayed with Ben and continues to help him – it is the ‘good wife’ thing to do based her upbringing.

    • Laura says:

      I thought the ‘very good girls’ comment was weird too. I have a cousin who once described his wife as having been a ‘very good girl’ when he met her and I was like ‘What’s a bad girl??’ Knowing full well he meant someone like me. He just paused, dumbfounded. mwhahahaha.

  4. KL says:

    “We didn’t wear makeup we didn’t have our nails painted. We were very good girls.”

    … good lord, so much to unpack in two simple sentences.

    (For what it’s worth, I didn’t do either of things as a kid. But for reasons other than parental association of makeup/nails/willingness to obey with my innate worthiness.)

  5. smegmoria says:

    I had a lady that was making sushi at the grocery store chase me down. I had picked up some sushi and she ran after me and told me I couldn’t eat it. My husband stood there looking confused. I just had to sigh and tell her I wasn’t pregnant. I get this alot, from adults.

    • Jordana says:

      @smeg, you were much more polite than that woman deserved! Also, pregnant or not, she didn’t need you to explain yourself.
      Once when I was pregnant I ordered a latte at Starbucks. The barista looked at me and paused and and ask “decaf?”. I said, no. And that was the end of it.

      • Hannah Young says:

        I was at a wedding just before my son was 1, and I was still nursing him. It was after dinner, he had been fed already, so I went to get some coffee. I was told by a woman guest by the coffee urn that there was no more coffee. I turned away without much thought until I saw that everyone at my table were drinking coffee. Thinking that the coffee urn was replenished, I went back to get some. Another woman guest stood in front of the urn and told me that there was no more coffee. I went back to the table thinking that the other guests must have gotten the last servings of coffee, when my husband came to the table with coffee for us. I asked him where & when he got them, and then realized that those two women just lied to me because they didn’t think that a nursing woman should have coffee.

  6. Tiffany :) says:

    In the before times, I was at a grocery store and the clerk asked the woman in front of me when she was due. The woman’s voice cracked as she said she had the baby last week. The clerk apologized, but you could tell the woman was very hurt. It was heartbreaking to witness.

  7. a0 says:

    She was just profiled for the cover of The Hollywood Reporter and I’m struck by how much she still gushes about Ben.

    • Endlesscircles says:

      I like she does. So often it’s a contentious breakup. They have kids. I get the impression they really love each other, like TRULY, he loves her just as much, but his issues ruin it. Kinda torturous?

      Jennifer has always struck me as pretty normal for Hollywood, and this explains why she’s so adored by so many.

      • LaurenS says:

        His “issues”… that he wants to f*ck other women? lmao. Yes, there’s SO much love there. If she hadn’t got knocked up, he never would have married her.

      • Lena says:

        Nobody has to marry anybody these days unless they want to. He wanted to. That whole idea irritates me, that a man doesn’t have complete agency over his life, especially one that has always done what he wanted no matter how it might affect his 3 kids.

      • Al says:

        I dunno, he’d already spent Christmas in West Virginia with her family, it’s not like they were just fooling around.

  8. Watson says:

    Shrug her upbringing isn’t super shocking. She’s like 47, so back then I’d assume no makeup/piercings/nail polish wasn’t a big deal not like now where teens wear a kardashian level of foundation and contour.

    I’m more curious about her need for approval to get piercings done as an adult.

    • Jess says:

      I’m exactly her age and we weren’t raised in prehistoric times! This was the 80s and 90s when there was ton of makeup and piercings and Madonna was at her height. I didn’t wear makeup because I was lazy but having a father prevent all of that for one of my friends would have been viewed as a very creepy controlling conservative cretin kind of thing to do.

      • Watson says:

        Not wearing makeup wasn’t a big deal in my area growing up (west coast granola country), so even though there was pop culture, most people i know in her age range didn’t wear makeup either.

      • iconoclast59 says:

        I’m about a decade older than Jen, and I still remember the day in 6th or 7th grade when we were all scandalized because our classmate Debbie G. wore – gasp! – PANTYHOSE. The gossip machine kicked into overdrive. It makes me laugh now to think of it!

      • Lucky Charm says:

        I’m a few years older than Jen but from a strict Catholic family. My sisters and I weren’t allowed to pierce our ears until we were 13, or wear makeup until we were 16. My dad wouldn’t allow us to wear pants to church, and my mom didn’t believe in painting our nails (good girls never did ANY of those things, you know). I never knew going to a hair salon or getting a manicure was even possible until I moved out and realized I could.

    • BecauseOfCourse says:

      No, it was the 1980s, not the 1880s. The only girls at my high school who weren’t allowed to wear makeup were the pentecostals, and I was in a much more Bible Belt town than Garner.

      • Christine says:

        I grew up in Oklahoma, in the 80s, and my mom letting me pierce my ears at 14 was a thing. Not a thing any of my family cared about, but still, a thing.

  9. sunny says:

    I really like her- I think she seems kind, and positive, and genuine.

    Ben seems like he would be a terrible partner. Like smart, and charming, and funny but a selfish man who constantly would centre himself and require so much emotional support. Yikes. It must have felt very lonely.

  10. ThinkAboutIt says:

    Context is everything. She’s referencing her dad and her childhood from 40 years ago. So the reactions here to that seem to today’s standard. 40 years ago, I get it.

    • Jess says:

      Holy fudge do some of these postings make me feel old! I’m exactly her age and we’re Gen X so these types of attitudes when we were teens were very much seen by my friends and I as gross and controlling. Why are some posters acting like her childhood happened during the Dick Van Dyke show?

      • SarahCS says:

        Thank you! I’m only 5 years younger than her and most of us were painting our nails and wearing make up regularly in high school (and getting A’s in my friend group).

      • Jenn says:

        Yeah, her upbringing honestly sounds a lot like mine — I was adopted by parents who were conservative in THEIR time, who were born in 1920 and 1932. I often joke about being a Xennial who grew up in a 1950s Time Warp. No ear piercings, no talking to boys on the phone… but I had a lot of other freedoms, like being allowed to travel alone internationally, so it’s a wash, you know?

        But I caught the very tail end of the Satanic Panic, and it sounds like she maybe grew up… kind of in the middle of it? That’s what I’m picking up anyway.

    • BecauseOfCourse says:

      40 years ago she was 8. She’s referencing the late 80s and early 90s– 30 years ago –i don’t know how to break this to you, but we all wore makeup and nail polish then and it did stick out if you were in high school and didn’t, especially in a small town. You guys have a warped view of the past! My mom was in HS in the mid 60s and girls wearing makeup then was also very commonplace.

    • Emily_C says:

      Dude, it was the 1980s, not the 1880s. I was unusual for not wearing makeup in elementary school — because I didn’t want to, not because I wasn’t allowed, and I loved painting my nails and did have my ears pierced. I lived in a small town in high school in the 90s and I was still one of very few girls who didn’t wear makeup regularly. My GRANDMOTHERS wore makeup as teens. So no, Jennifer Garner’s upbringing was not normal.

      • elle says:

        I’m 52 and grew up in a small Southern town. I was considered odd for not starting to wear makeup in junior high, because I just wasn’t interested. Also odd for not going to church, again, because I just wasn’t interested.

  11. Lunasf17 says:

    Ha. One of my friends was raised Morman (left that cult as soon as she was out of the house) and in her 40s she wore a bikini to a family lake trip and her mother was so disappointed and embarrassed that her grown ass daughter (who looked amazing in a bikini) was wearing what she wanted. My friend is also hesitant to get any tattoos since her parents are still alive and would be upset. To me that’s so crazy but America was colonized by a bunch of religious prudes and it’s still so apparent in our culture.

  12. Ohreally says:

    She was pregnant before they were married, or do I have that incorrect? She left her first husband (Scott Foley) for Michael Vartan and then dumped him for Ben AFTER she waited for the first Jennifer to be done with him (the waiting is actually subjective). This is just a list of things that happened similar to many actor’s lives so I am missing the way she was repressed. Earrings don’t really account for much after everything else. I enjoy her work, but this image of not being as out there as everyone else. It’s subjective for sure. She definitely seems to be a good engaged mother. The “good girl” thing seems like a stretch.

    • another Nina says:

      Thank you! Someone had to say it! She really made that earrings sound like a bigfreakndeal

    • Tiffany :) says:

      Scott Foley has said many times that Jen didn’t cheat on him with Vartan, but some people still like to insinuate that she did. Kind of a form of slut-shaming, especially with the ending comment, “The “good girl” thing seems like a stretch.”

      • Ohreally says:

        Slut shaming? She’s a flawed human being and your choosing to point out that Scott’s words without touching on Vartan’s reaction and the overlap with JLo who was actually engaged to Ben is fishy. You want to stan? Stan. You can do so with some reality. I stan Elizabeth Taylor, but she too made some messy choices. I’m amused at YOUR reach though. Shaming is definitely a reeeeeach.

      • Al says:

        Exactly, and there wasn’t overlap between her and JLo. Ben publicly dated other women including Enza Sambataro in between.

  13. Cee says:

    My dad wouldn’t let me wear makeup or paint my nails. It infuriated me. I started doing it anyway by the time I was 16 years old and since then I have no patience with men who try to tell me how I should look, dress, do my hair and makeup, etc.

  14. Kristen says:

    If I remember correctly, she was raised in WV. It was a very simple lifestyle, I don’t think it was oppressive, just a small town, wholesome kind of upbringing. I remember her saying that her parents never commented on their looks – they seemed to focus on helping the girls transcend the hypervaluation of looks and all of the accoutrement. I think it sounds like a breath of fresh air.

    • Susan says:

      She grew up in Charleston, and in a wealthy section of the town, which is the capital city of WV. (google “south hills, Charleston WV”). Her parents are really not reflective of the culture there, TBH. she has talked about how her mom grew up poor on a farm in Oklahoma and her dad was a chemical engineer. This is wholly unscientific but every friend I ever had with an engineer dad lived under stricter rules than some of us others. LOL

  15. Onomo says:

    She seems very nice but also that it’s very important for her to be seen as nice, kind of performatively so, rather than someone who is nice but also they don’t tolerate fools and you can’t f*** with them, like Gayle Simmons, or Fran Leibowitz, or Cher.

    I think dating Affleck and being married to him would mess with anyone’s head, due to the lying, manipulation, poor me-ing aura he has, so I hope she has peace now.

    It’s definitely hard to break free from the programming you got from your parents and yet it can also be done!

  16. Sansa says:

    I know very little about Garner aside from the odd gossip post, but I would bet money that she was raised in a strict, conservative Christian household, maybe in a smallish town but definitely in the context of a religious community. “you’re not allowed to wear makeup or get piercings” sounds very much like the “dressing modestly” aspect of purity culture. google if youre not familiar with purity culture, it’s wild….repression of women and prescribed gender roles presented as loving protection and the natural order of things. this culture would have been prominent around the time she was growing up.

    I suspect that her parents loosened up as both they and she got older. She likely was not asking her dad for permission (and I would bet he was like “you’re an adult Jen, lol do whatever”) but it can be really hard to shake that upbringing and those instincts. I speak from experience!

  17. LaurenS says:

    Zzzz still/forever living in the past: “good Garner girls,” shows she was on 20+ years ago, a marriage that ended half a decade ago. She did this big interview with the Hollywood Reporter and it tries to portray her as being reluctantly on social media, kicking and screaming and blah blah. Uh… she sheltered at home with her social media manager. She’s so contrived and obsessed with her image. Very fake and performative. Not surprising that her relationships have failed.

  18. Emily_C says:

    You know whose father was also super strict, to the point of him being condemned in gossip all over town for it? Madonna’s.

    I’m uncomfortable with Jennifer Garner saying “we were good girls” about not wearing makeup etc. Does she still think girls who wear makeup are “bad”? It wouldn’t surprise me. Breaking away from that kind of upbringing isn’t easy, and I’m not sure she’s tried to do it at all.

  19. Susan says:

    She is living proof that some people really can’t shake their upbringing. Im definitely middle age and I still feel the effects of my mother’s “constructive criticism.”

  20. Natasha says:

    I’m about Jen’s age and my parents&grandparents were also very sexist and controlling with the “good girls” crap. When Jen told her dad about the earrings she’s was seeking his approval and that’s really sad. I see that with my sister. I rebelled and broke away completely, but my sister still thinks getting their approval means they love her. I don’t think my sister knows how to love herself. Parents don’t realize how much they mess their kids up mentally.