Me and George Clooney, Engaged at 52
The once Sexiest Man Alive vowed not to wed again. Love found a way.
Finally, I have something else in common with George Clooney.
Our first shared experience is the year we were born, 1961, making us both 52. And now, he's engaged! (Congratulations to him and fiancee Amal Alamuddin.)
This puts us both in the strange world of celebrating love, head-over-heels romance and marriage while having gray hair and wrinkles, or at least in George's case, sexy eye crinkles.
Statistically speaking, Clooney is rare among men, not just because he's a gazillionaire Hollywood star who takes on human rights and anti-poverty causes. He's also unusual because he's walking toward marriage when so many of our generation are walking away from it.
(MORE: Why Can't Love Keep Us Together?)
As boomer divorce rates are up, so are our cohabitation rates, according to research from the National Center for Family and Marriage Research (NCFMR) at Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
A recent New York Times article points out the disadvantages of older people remarrying. They want to be sure their children receive intended inheritances, for one thing. They also consider financial factors such as what getting married would do to their taxes and Social Security benefits.
But some of us re-marry, and Clooney's in that camp for, it appears, the most traditional of reasons: Love.
The actor and one-time Sexiest Man Alive was married once before, to actress Talia Balsam, from 1989 to 1993. He has said he wasn't good at marriage, and in 2006, told People magazine his life was good and he wasn't on the lookout for marriage. I suspect many of us who have been divorced have made similar "never again" statements. But then things change and we have to eat our words.
A source just told People magazine that "George and Amal are trying to keep things very low-key." To which I say: Good luck.
Advice for George
When my now-husband, Steve Nordgaard, and I recently decided to tie the knot, we, too, wanted to keep things low-key. We'd been together for four years, living together in our Minnesota home for two of them, so marriage seemed a logical next step. Plus, we agreed hoopla was for younger people — say, my niece, who's getting married for the first time at age 28 in August.
So we went to City Hall, got a marriage license good for six months, then figured out when both our witnesses would be in town and my two teenagers at home weren't busy with sports or school activities. We booked a judge, set a date and trooped to the judge's chambers, where we Skyped in my oldest son from college for the three-minute ceremony.
But as it turns out, it was less low-key than we planned. That's because I happened to be talking to an old friend, Cindy Johnson, shortly before our wedding day. She and her husband, Dean, run Sweet Pea Cinema, a wedding video business near Milwaukee. I mentioned we were getting hitched. A day later, Cindy called and offered to travel to the Twin Cities to film the day.
"It's at City Hall," I warned her. "Low-key. No frills."
"That's great," she said. "We're looking for a sample video on our site to show our documentary style and, you know, uh, someone your ... "
"You mean our age?"
Cindy laughed and said she'd seen a gap in local video services for older couples who have stories that SweetPea wants to tell. People like me and Steve and George Clooney, who have been divorced or widowed, have overcome loneliness, regained self-reliance, reconfigured our families and hopefully figured out what we want the second (or third) time around.
That depth of experience makes for good cinematography, Cindy said.
It's About Sharing the Love
It also happened that I had coffee with freelancer Chris Polydoroff, a former colleague, the day before our February 8th wedding, and told him my weekend plans included getting married. He, too, volunteered his services — an amazing gift.
So we ended up with a professionally-documented wedding which, as it turns out, I'm extremely grateful for.
But here's the strange thing that happened, even as we tried for low-key: the more people we told, the more we experienced their genuine happiness for us.
We'd convinced ourselves we didn't want a fuss, that this was private and that we were just formalizing what we already knew would be a lasting relationship. But the more we experienced others' good feelings, the more we did want a fuss. We wanted our friends and family to share in the fun. Who were we to deny them a good party?
So we decided to throw one this summer. Probably not Clooney-sized, if he does the classic Hollywood pull-out-the-stops affair. But a chance to be together, to dance to my middle son's band, let my 12-year-old daughter and her friends decorate the tables, to see good friends and to eat cupcakes.
I can't wait.
So George, you know, you're George Clooney. Low-key was never really an option. I know, you need to keep the papparazzi out. But here's hoping you find a way to bring those closest to you in on your big life event.
Even though we're in the 50+ camp, and common wisdom says nobody wants to hear about love and romance involving people our age, you prove every day, through looks and deeds, that 50 can still be attractive. And now you're showing the world that it's never too late to find lasting love and commitment. Naturally it's easier if you're a Hollywood gazillionaire sex symbol. But hey. Cheers to you.