If you follow celebrity news, you know the biggest thing to happen this week was the announcement that People magazine’s two-time Sexiest Man Alive George Clooney is engaged. It shouldn’t be such a big deal — just another celeb tying the knot, right? Except that Clooney has resisted the societal pressure to get hitched — again — after two decades of bachelorhood.
Not to say that he hasn’t suffered for it; Clooney has had to keep defending his unmarried state (as if it were a crime) and battling the anti-marriage bachelor image that has been thrust upon him. All of which makes us wonder what is it with this incredible societal pressure that makes an unmarried person have to defend his or her decision to be unmarried?
Do we have an unhealthy obsession with marriage?
Perhaps. Bella DePaulo, author of numerous books on the single life, calls it matrimania.
Clooney keeps reminding people that he isn’t a commitaphobe — he was married for to actress Talia Balsam from 1989 to 1993 after all (not really long, but still) — and although he has had numerous girlfriends since then, he has been committed to each and every one of them (as are most of us serial monogamists):
People forget that I was married. I love that, ‘Will he get married?’ I don’t talk about it because I don’t think about it. I don’t ever question other peoples’ versions of how they live their lives or what they do.
Nevertheless, that will not stop the media from putting his photo on the cover with the headline, “At last!” — just like poor Jennifer Aniston has had to endure ever since she and former hubby Brad Pitt split.
It’s the “At last!” that’s problematic:
At last! s/he’s found love!
At last! s/he’s engaged!
At last! s/he’s married!
At last! she’s pregnant!
At last? Isn’t it funny — or perhaps odd or sad — that in 2014, when people can live together, have children without being married (or even without having a partner), or be part of any romantic arrangement they want, many still feel uneasy with those who remain unmarried for any length of time? It’s as if we are all blindly following some sort of script for romantic love and any deviation from it causes angst.
It also perpetuates gendered stereotypes. Just look at how the media is portraying Clooney and his fiancee, Amal Alamuddin — she “tamed,” “hooked” and “tied Clooney down,” because she had a secret — she “played hard to get.”
Excuse me, what year are we in?
OK, we get that the spotlight is on celebrities — we are a celeb-driven culture, for better or worse. But there’s a trickle-down effect, and the pressure to marry hits us whether we’re prepared for it or not. So, it’s a good idea to be thinking about it … and hopefully challenge it.
- What kind of pressures have you felt to couple up or tie the knot?
- Have you been as successful as Clooney has been in ignoring it until the right person came along and made you feel differently about marrying?
- What gendered stereotypes have you internalized?
- Do you have “At last!” moments?