After George Clooney got engaged this week, "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon joked, “Up next — locusts!”
Yes, the only thing more mind-boggling than the 52-year-old heartthrob “putting a ring on it” would be a biblical plague. Why? Is it just because, after his 1993 divorce, Clooney told Barbara Walters that he'd never marry again?
Plenty of famous people swear off nuptials only to reconsider later. Yet there seems to be a collective chorus of disbelief — even outrage — over the fact that Clooney is marrying, as if people are sputtering, “But … but … we thought he was a commitment-phobe!”
This chorus is coming from us: women who have been there. (Not there literally with Clooney, but with men like him.) And we should learn our lesson from this engagement heard round the world.
For the last two decades, Clooney could freely date — for years, sometimes — his bevy of actresses, models, waitresses and other arm-candy delights and then break it off without much fallout, because, after all, he was a “confirmed bachelor.” (Would that there would actually be an official certification for that, because it would save women a whole lot of trouble.) It was his get-out-of-jail-free card.
How could anyone possibly get upset at Clooney for ending a relationship when he’d made it perfectly clear on national TV that he just wasn’t marriage material? Neither his dumpees nor his public had any claim on outrage because he’d been upfront about it from the start.
So the recent news came as a shock. When 36-year-old British human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin — who studied at Oxford and New York University law school and has represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, among others — was spotted sporting a rock from her Oscar-winning boyfriend, it was indeed as if a biblical plague had descended upon the Earth.
It meant that George Clooney is not a commitment-phobe. He’s not anti-marriage. He’s not a perennially eligible bachelor. He was just not that into his other girlfriends — at least, not enough to marry them.
And this, my girlfriends worldwide, should put an end to the lie we all tell ourselves and each other about our exes: that they’ve got issues; that there’s something wrong with them; that they’re flawed in some deep, dark way (one that makes them even more deliciously attractive); that they can’t commit because they’re afraid of their mothers/their ex-wives/their shadows. We pity them, these former flames of ours, and simultaneously feel good about ourselves, because, hey, it’s not us, it’s them.
But it’s not. Because, after they dump us (or cowardly force us to dump them because we finally realize we’re in nowheresville), they go off and get hitched to someone else — someone younger, someone smarter, someone leggier, someone who knows more languages than we do — and it’s like a Band-Aid has been yanked off our hearts, letting the blood of shame pour forth. It was all a lie. It wasn’t them. It was us.
It all comes down to what Meg Ryan cried in “When Harry Met Sally”: “All this time I thought he didn't want to get married. But the truth is, he didn't want to marry me!”
Hey, who knows? Maybe Clooney was so bothered by his single status and his reputation that he went to therapy and worked through those issues. Could it be that it really was him and he changed? (Just kidding. Can you imagine him complaining to a psychologist, “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just settle down?”)
No, chances are Clooney did no soul searching. Chances are he was using the good old George Costanza “it’s not you, it’s me” line — a trick men have been doing throughout the ages: dating women they had little to no intention of tying the knot with, biding their time until they met The One. They themselves might not have even known they were looking for her, but as soon as they saw her, they knew.
And that’s the point. We all know when the man we’re with is not going to marry us. We don’t know why. Doesn’t matter. We should let him go and not call him names like “emotionally unavailable” and “man-child,” just because he didn’t want us. Because when he marries the next woman — like Clooney is marrying Alamuddin — we’re the ones who will look as dumb as we feel.
Instead, let’s raise a glass to Mr. Clooney and all the other “commitment-phobic” men out there. Here’s to finding The One, and letting us go find ours.