Have you noticed how people these days get engaged, including the big diamond ring, but never get around to getting married?
When the news broke that George Clooney was engaged to Amal Alamuddin, several of my single friends were quick to e-mail me with the news that my favorite “poster boy” for living the singular life was no longer single.
“Really?” I responded. “He’s married?” knowing full well he wasn’t.
“No, but he gave her a ring.”
“Did they say when they were getting married?”
“No, but People magazine says he got down on one knee and proposed.”
I doubt that Clooney proposed in view of People magazine (a publication more aptly titled Who’s Doing Who). The cover reads “engaged at last” and in the article itself: “…the betrothed pair have not yet made an official engagement announcement” and “…a source in the Clooney circle says there is ‘no rush to the altar’ and this would be one of those long engagements.”
I’ll consider George Clooney no longer single when the wedding date is announced, the license signed and the vows said. From what I can see, other than being an opportunity for a media feeding frenzy, it’s a big deal about nothing. George Clooney has a new woman in his life and he gifted her with a big diamond ring — which probably eased concerns from her parents about his intentions for their daughter. Can we all just calm down?
Here’s the deal about engagements: I’m fine with people creating whatever relationship paradigm works best for them, but I’m firm on my stand that you’re still single unless you’re married. And there’s a big difference between getting engaged and being married — especially these days, when getting engaged is often the end of the road in terms of further commitment between a couple.
In fact, it seems that getting engaged has become the new “getting married” — the ring but never the wedding. She gets a piece of jewelry to signify a commitment and a promise of a more serious commitment to come. But that next step never happens.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are a prime example. They’ve been together for eight years, have six children, were officially engaged in 2012 and still haven’t tied the knot. Another example is Jessica Simpson and retired NFL tight-end Eric Johnson. They’ve been engaged since 2010 and have two children together — but still no wedding.
And then there are the really ridiculously long engagements like that of singer Jennifer Hudson and the father of her son, David Otunga (over five years); the six-year engagement of American Hustle star Amy Adams and Daren Le Gallo; and the grand champion of them all: Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham, who’ve been “engaged” for over 22 years.
It’s not just Hollywood celebrities either. Business coach Ali Brown, “the voice for women’s entrepreneurial success,” had twins with fiancé Brett Flanigan in May 2013 and has been engaged for a year and half. She bought a house with him in Arizona, set up her mother in a casita on the property and says she and Flanigan plan to marry later, but “who knows when” because “we have been too busy.”
Too busy? It only takes five minutes to get married.
Jill Bennett, a former member of SingularCity, met her true love while having dinner at a restaurant. They dated for 14 months before he proposed. Jill has the ring and says she’s certain they’ll be married within the next year. For Jill and her fiancé Michael, staying engaged forever is not an option. “I think it’s important to be married because then you’re really a family unit,” Jill says. “We can’t be that now, and on a certain level, it would be disrespectful if we didn’t marry. It means you want the privileges of marriage without the commitment.”
Los Angeles comedian Camille Solari and her boyfriend Hamish are expecting a baby in June. She says they’re going to skip the ‘‘being engaged” stage and just “get hitched.”
“Some people ask me how my ‘husband’ is doing; I don’t really correct them,” she says. “But I also don’t correct people who say my name wrong, I mean as long as they don’t call me like Camel Toe or something.” She was surprised to learn that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt weren’t married. “Those kinds of marriages can be complicated,” she says, reasoning that for megastars, it’s “probably simpler to keep their finances separate.”
Could that be the real reason why successful people only go as far as getting engaged — the fear of litigation over whose stuff is whose in divorce court?
Of course, people do go “all the way” — and actually get married, much to the relief of the billion-dollar wedding industry. As for myself, I actually like the idea of marriage — if you do it for the right reasons and not out of fear of being single or because of social pressure. Standing up before your community, family and friends to pledge your eternal faithfulness and commitment to the one you love and getting all the legal perks and benefits that come with marriage sounds like a win-win to me.
Nevertheless, what is interesting is how we, as a culture, have come to redefine getting engaged to mean some day — maybe never really — we’re getting married. Frankly, I think we need a new word for it. “Pledged” perhaps? Something less clinical sounding than “co-habitation,” which sounds like a term zoologists should use for colonies of chimpanzees. Something not so business-like as “partner” or as generic as “living together,” and certainly something more elegant than “shacking up.”
And I’m all for having gasp-worthy diamond rings as part of the commitment statement. But if you really have no intention of ever getting married, can you please call it something else besides “getting engaged”?
Copyright © Kim Calvert/2014 Singular Communications, LLC.