Out of Sync
The relationship may have been thrown out along with the bathwater. In a head-spinning series of cryptic utterances, Spears—who denied a split on March 11—has now signaled she's not a girlfriend, not yet a free agent. Announcing March 25 that she was not in an "intense" relationship, Spears then declared "I'm single, right now" during a taped faux wedding aired March 27 on a British talk show.
Meanwhile, at a strip club near Des Moines, Timberlake was saying pretty much the same thing. "I said, 'You can't do a private dance because of Britney,' " says Keana, a dancer at the Lumberyard, where Timberlake and his 'N Sync band-mates turned up on March 26. "He said, 'No, me and Britney are broken up.' He looked hurt"—and opted for a game of pool instead.
So when is a breakup really a breakup? For Spears, 20, and Timberlake, 21, the clear answer—or lack thereof—stems from their youth, says Timberlake's mom, Lynn Harless. "They are two kids who have intense feelings for each other," she says. "Good things are intense, and bad things are the same way."
Noting that "they have hit a rough spot," Harless says that differing schedules—Spears has been promoting her film Crossroads in Europe, while Timberlake has been on a. tour of the U.S. with 'N Sync—have proved stressful. "They aren't normal kids who can sit down and say, 'Let's talk about this.' "
Maybe they should try. In March Timberlake sparked rumors when he was spotted dirty dancing with a comely brunette at L.A.'s hip Club AD. For her part, Spears—who was 11 when she costarred with Timber-lake on Disney's new Mickey Mouse Club—has kept busy on the Manhattan club circuit, boogying with girlfriends and sipping Evian at hot spots Lotus and Go. Returning from London March 26, she flew to Miami for a weeklong beach vacation.
Will the couple, who share a home in the ritzy Mulholland Estates neighborhood of Los Angeles, reconcile? Only they know for sure. Or maybe not. Says a Spears friend: "They're in love one minute, not in love the next." Harless, for one, remains optimistic. "They are just having problems right now," she says. "We just want them both to be happy."