Who says men need to get married to be happy? George Clooney is a confirmed bachelor and he's on to something, says one writer. There's a new type of single guy now
There comes a point in every man’s life when he must check out of Guyland, wrote Martin Deeson two weeks ago in these pages. This, for those of you who missed it, is the place in a man’s life when he lives singly and without responsibility. A place where he is no longer a boy but not yet a man; where he trips over beer cans in the morning on his way out the door, and asks for the woman he wakes up with to jot down her e-mail rather than her phone number to save him the embarrassment of having to ask her name.
It’s also known as bachelorhood and, according to Deeson, the age at which he should make his way to the departure gate is 35. This is when a man should start thinking about finding a good woman and settling down. Shortly afterwards, he should also consider trading in the sports car for a Volvo, donate the Xbox to a children’s charity and decommission the DVD collection. The reward for doing so is a life of simple bliss, where he lives longer and happier, snuggled up in the warm embrace of a loving relationship.
Well, not so fast, Deeson. Not everyone feels this way. George Clooney seems to be pretty happy in Guyland. Bruce Parry, the TV adventurer, is 39, and when he’s not rampaging through the Amazon, he hangs out in a beach hut in Ibiza, partying like a dervish. In fact, Clooney shows no sign of wanting to change: when Nicole Kidman bet him $10,000 that he would be married by 40, he mailed the cheque back after his birthday, with a note saying, “Double or nothing for another 10 years”. He’s 47 now.
Readers agree. “Stay single and see her at the weekends. Man is not meant to be caged,” wrote Lucas from London. “It’s a great lifestyle choice,” wrote Rob D, also from London. “As for married men living longer, well, the indoor cat lives longer too. But it’s a fur ball with a broken spirit looking out on a world that it will never enjoy.”
And I agree, though it is becoming increasingly apparent that many people close to me don’t. Now in my mid-thirties, I am used to my mother asking where various ex-girlfriends were, but then, last weekend, she sat me down and told me that finding a “life partner” was like looking for a job: you had to be determined and focused, she said, before finishing with “and stop faffing”.
I’ve lost count of the number of times a friend’s girlfriend has taken me aside and asked me when I am going to “come in from the cold”. Usually I yawn and say, “When I meet the right person”, but even I don’t believe it any more. Truth is, I probably have met the right person, probably more than one. But I’ve been in a couple of long-termers and I’ve seen what marriage can do to my friends, and I’ve decided I am happy in Guyland and I want to hang out here longer.
This should be a bit of a worry. Under Deeson’s rubric, if I continue walking single file, I will — in a few years — be suicidally unhappy and statistically more likely to be heading for an early grave. I will drink more, smoke more and slowly go to seed. Women will stop regarding me as an “eligible bachelor” and begin seeing me as, well, a sad spinster.
Problem is, I just don’t buy it. For a start, bachelors are different now. Traditionally they can be one of two things: a toxic bachelor who spends his evenings with a bucket of KFC and a can of lager, or a career bachelor who is too busy to socialise because he is working until 3am.
Over the past five years, however, a third type has emerged. Dubbed “city adventurers” (which, I grant you, sounds a bit naff — Bear Grylls in pinstripes?), these are single men aged 25-39 with an average wage of more than £40,000. They spend their spare time eating out, going to the pub and the cinema and taking weekend breaks. They will probably ski or snowboard and, when asked, they will say they are knowledgeable about wine (though they probably aren’t).
In short, they lead interesting and fulfilling lives. “We have the time to pursue things that we really want to,” says Duncan, a 33-year-old art director who has found a new lease of life since breaking up with his girlfriend. “My friends who are settled have almost every minute of every day accounted for. Because all of my time is not taken up by a relationship, I can write that script, play some squash, chase dreams and enjoy the finer things in life.”
Too many feeble men give in to the supposed security of marriage. They see it as panacea to their problems (including, but by no means limited to, alienation, indecision, and lack of direction and motivation). “I don’t want to be the oldest father at the school gates,” lamented one friend recently, explaining why he was getting engaged to his girlfriend, who we all know will make his life a misery.
Marriage like this is for wimps. “I genuinely pity most of my married friends, who feel trapped, bored and frustrated,” wrote Mike from Hong Kong. “The only men I know who are happily married are the laid-back guys who need a woman for direction. Marriage is not a smart idea for the alpha male.”
My old flatmate, Zar, a 32-year-old lawyer, agrees: “The best thing for me is realising that I have not been panicked into thinking I have met the right person and then discovered that I have married the wrong person, with whom I have a child and am in debt and losing my hair about what school I am going to send them to.”
Being single, solvent and in charge of your own life is fun. And then there’s the sex. “When I first found myself a bachelor at 33, I hadn’t realised how much women in their mid-twenties enjoyed the company of a man of that age,” said James, 35. “More cash, more charm and more of the benefit of the trial and error of what women like.”
The fact that you probably have a flyer place that isn’t full of deadbeats playing Nintendo only adds to the appeal.
Incidentally, dating younger girls draws a curiously bitter response from single women my own age. I remind them that there is nice symmetry in this: every schoolboy remembers the moment at 15 when all the best-looking girls in his year decided they didn’t fancy their spotty-faced contemporaries and began dating the sixth-former with a Vauxhall Astra. It’s not revenge, exactly, but they started it.
There are downsides, naturally: having to go out with your married mates on a “pink ticket” when all they want to do is hit pathetic strip clubs because they are so severely rationed by their Mrs; listening to similarly aged single female friends bang on about being left on the shelf; fear of shotgun weddings.
And then there’s the part about dying early. It’s true: bachelors die younger than their married counterparts. When I dug deeper, though, I discovered this has a lot to do with smoking, drinking and diet. And if you can keep these things under control, you can hang out in Guyland, well, indefinitely.