Sometimes I envy the unmarried among us
I got married at 45, when I had reconciled my inner anti-establishmentism with the realities of the tax system
George Clooney is to marry human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin (above). His mother describes the pair as intellectual equals, which is about as easy to swallow as a lukewarm mocha
Maybe it’s the season’s promise, the apple blossoms discarding their delicate confetti, buds falling to the pavement like tiny crushed brides, that makes even a recalcitrant old silver fox turn his thoughts to matrimony. Debonair George Clooney, the man the entire world wants to shag (or at least bathe with in decaffeinated coffee), is to marry British human-rights lawyer, Amal Alamuddin.
Clooney’s mother describes the pair as intellectual equals, which is about as easy to swallow as a lukewarm mocha, considering that Alamuddin was advising the UN on the use of drones, and brushing up on her Arabic, while Clooney was dressing up in a spacesuit.
I reckon singlehood is quite a feat these days, what with endless celebrity nuptials on our screens and newsagent shelves groaning under the weight of glossy bridal magazines guiding readers through dark matrimonial arts such as matching the groom’s sock garters to the table napkins.
The unmarried few
There are more than 1.7 million married people in Ireland. Most are in their early 30s when they totter up the aisle. Statistically, only about 20 per cent of middle-aged people remain unattached, according to an Irish Times survey published last weekend. Scattered like wild flowers among the stern topiary of my married friends are a couple of single women, contemporaries, whom (how can I put this delicately?) I occasionally envy.
“Would you like to marry?” I asked a fortysomething single friend the other night, as we eked out a potato omelette in a busy cafe and I pretended I didn’t have to go home and crawl under the stairs to find school bags sheathed in Easter-holiday dust and confirm my nagging suspicion that no one had emptied the half-eaten contents of the lunch boxes that had been thrown in there a fortnight ago.
“Yes,” she said, “as long as I didn’t have to live with him.”
I got married at 45, when I had reconciled my inner anti-establishmentism with the realities of the tax system and the rigmarole that would be involved if I stepped under a bus one morning and my partner ended up having to adopt his own children.
‘The game’s not over yet’
“Why did you never marry?” I asked.
“What do you mean, never?” She arched a superbly threaded eyebrow. ‘“The game’s not over yet. Our desire for love and sex, intimacy and friendship, doesn’t leave us until we are crumbled into our urns,” she said, forking the fluffy yellow egg into her pretty pink mouth.
“But you are happy being single,” I said, “and you’re successful, and you can afford to get your roots done every six weeks, and you have a brand-new bicycle, and VIP gym membership with all the towels you can eat, and you wake up in the morning to the glorious rattle and hum of the dawn chorus, not to the heaving gasps of an arthritic electric shower that your spouse has been standing under for at least 15 minutes despite the mounting hysteria of detention-threatened offspring who, although taller and fitter than either of you, still can’t find the toaster, their shoes, their homework or their bus fares.
“I think people get married because it’s the next thing on the list,” I added. “The next stop on life’s sightseeing tour. You’re born, you crawl, you walk, you take a gap year, you graduate, you take another gap year, you bungee jump in Borneo, waitress in Putney, sleep with someone entirely unsuitable and unforgettable in a rusting Winnebago in Calgary, get worn out using other people’s toothbrushes, eventually meet some bloke over the photocopier while you’re temping in a business park in Clongriffin, borrow 30 grand for the dress and the reception and the safety-tested fireworks and the better-be-shagging-perfect honeymoon – and, hey presto, you alight at destination Happy Ever After.”
“Or maybe they’re rational, mature, confident adults who don’t have to be dragged kicking and screaming through life as if they’re about to be lobotomised,” my friend said, gesturing for the bill.
I dropped her home to pack her already-ironed clothes for a business trip.
“The grass is always greener on the other side,” she said.
“Maybe,” I replied, “but I bet you a cerise-pink fascinator and a lump of almond icing that nobody’s used your colour-protect shampoo to clean their football boots.”