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George Clooney's Midlife Marriage

The celebrity's engagement is more predictable than you think

George Clooney's Midlife Course Correction


George Clooney at the 2014 Berlinale International Film Festival, in Berlin.

En español | As AARP's ambassador for love and relationships, I certainly noticed when social media exploded over the news that confirmed bachelor George Clooney is engaged.

At first I empathized with all the women out there, single and married, whose first thought was the fantastical: "But why not me?" (Sorry, ladies, but Clooney's intended is Amal Alamuddin, a 36-year-old British human-rights lawyer who speaks Arabic and French.) But then I couldn't help chuckling at his timing, which proves once more that most men have a biological clock, too — they simply can't hear it ticking until years after women do.

Clooney may have found, as many men do, that there comes a time in life when you finally face the fact that, no matter how much fun the single life has given you, you'd be better off with a suitable lifetime partner. Any number of events in your life can bring about such a realization. Among them:

  • You acknowledge that some of the people you've been seeing aren't exactly partner material.
  • You glance at a calendar and realize your ability (physical, emotional or both) to do the hard work of parenting (and grandparenting!) may have a certain shelf life.
  • Having a good time has started to become less important to you than having a meaningful one.
  • You look at other people's children and it dawns on you that you really want to leave behind a legacy of your own.
  • Hearing about a close friend dying young — or dying in middle age, for that matter — you realize how easily it could have been you.

In short, everyone — even the world's most eligible (divorced) bachelor — must ride the arc of life to its inevitable conclusion. And even though it's possible to pair up at any time in your life cycle, it's delusional to think you're the same person in your 50s that you were in your 30s. Yes, you may be looking for a babe if, like certain chiseled screen icons, you can still get one. But — similar to Clooney — you may no longer want just a babe or just a hunk. Instead you want a person of substance, someone who can captivate not just your body but your mind. (And if she happens to be mother-of-your-children-type material in the bargain, so much the better!)

So it's no surprise that Monsieur Clooney would choose to think now — at the age of 53 — about getting married, rather than piloting the ship of singledom for another decade.

It would be in keeping with what we know about midlife male desires that he wants to do the whole nine yards of nesting and that his internal clock — to say nothing of the culture at large — is telling him the "last best time" to do that is right now. (The last best time for women is considerably earlier, but that's another column.)

Like other "professional bachelors" who suddenly wake to the chilly clang of their own mortality, Clooney seems to have heard the call to commitment and heeded it. And, as is often the case when a person undergoes a radical "life-course correction" like this, everything will probably happen at warp speed now: Even the dreamiest movie stars know when it's time to get out of the nightclub and head for the nursery.

Dr. Pepper Schwartz answers your sex, relationships and dating questions in her blog.