You might be forgiven for thinking that George Clooney was setting a trend in Lebanon for men to marry late in life. In fact, writes Christina Fakhry, he was following one as more and more Lebanese men are leaving it to their fifties before getting hitched. But it's Alumuddin who will be the one cashing in.
Now that Amal Alamuddin has given Lebanese pride a topnotch makeover by hooking the handsomest man on the planet at 53 -accidentally bestowing the "world's most eligible bachelor" title upon his Highness Simon Cowell, Lebanese men on the mid-life crisis spectrum may want to reconsider their views of commitment.
And with delayed marriages gradually becoming a worldwide urbanization-inspired trend that did not spare Lebanese politicians such as MP Ghassan Moukheiber, 56, who announced his engagement in a tweet earlier this month, the country is not exactly far from being at the onset of a clooneyfication process in terms of marriage.
Urbanization is a key influencer when it comes to delayed marriages. "Early marriages normally happen in the context of rural agrarian societies," Associate Professor of Sociology at the Lebanese American University Paul Tabar observes. "So broadly speaking late marriages are becoming more and more a feature of living in an urban setting that has been shaped increasingly by global forces where consumerism is important."
This consumerist attitude also reflects upon gender expectations in modern societies. "At the personal level the expectations of what men should be doing when [they get] married and the expectations of women about their potential husbands become much more shaped by these consumerist concepts," Tabar adds. "You need to work more in order to fulfill these expectations."
The increasing rate of women moving into the labor market also comes into play here. "Women are becoming more assertive more independent economically and socially and this has to be taken in by men who look to getting married," Tabar explains."They have to wait to start a career and have to put off marriage plan until a bit later so that all these things can be fulfilled first."
And while KAFA's Communications Coordinator Maya Ammar did not find herself in a position to directly link delayed marriages to women empowerment when asked about the subject, she did mention that "when the marriage is delayed and the union is established on maturity, it's better [as] the girl would be more empowered and have the chance to mature and live independently."
And even with pregnancy and the time devoted to children, women are more than ever able to pull off a professional career. "And then [a woman] may decide she wants to get children...but then she would have established the basis of getting back to her professional life, a plan which in turn is affecting men's plan to get married," Tabar adds. "It's an interaction."
But "even at a time when we still are forced to put off marriage plan due to these forces, we are not getting away with marriage," Tabar notes. "Marriage and falling in love as a basis for marriage are still something we all [would] like to happen in our life... despite the fact that the kind of modern life we live pushed us to look more into being consumerists, independent autonomous, not tied down to one person or arrangement."
To push the observation a bit further, the current 'automatization' of human relationships in the context of modern society could conversely be a marriage catalyst. According to Tabar, "the general lack of affection, love and emotion in society in the sense that society is becoming more bureaucratic, more calculating, more rational and has no room for emotion is creating the urge among men and women to actually forge a love relationship based on affection."
"Despite the forces telling us not to do it or put it off a little bit we still end up getting married, even though it's in a later stage in life," he concludes.
And although there are no available statistics on the topic of Lebanese men and delayed marriage per se (Lebanon is not exactly a statistics hub as you may know), the delay was statistically documented in the US in a report on the future of marriage published by the University of Virginia's National Marriage Project under the title of "Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America."
The report reveals that the delayed marriage trend is actually better for women than it is for men as college-educated women who get married after the age of thirty make 56 percent more personal income than their under 20 counterparts, while it's just the opposite for men: men who tie the knot in their 20s tend to make more money than those who marry after the age of 30.
And while this may not apply to Clooney who was previously married to actress Talia Balsam from 1989 to 1993 before venturing into marriage ground once again at 53 (I don't think income would be that much of an issue when it comes to the Clooneys either), the situation is a win-win for Alamuddin (now Clooney) who not only will get to spend the next few years (a less optimistic variation on "the rest of her life") alongside the hottest man on the planet but also got married after 30 having already established a respectable career as a lawyer.
Now if we were to illustrate the delay in figures on a local level, the Central Administration of Statistics' housing characteristics stats reveal that single men made up 81 percent of male population between 25 and 29 in 2009 as compared to 72.5 percent in 2004 which also applies to the female population to a slighter degree (51 percent in 2009 as compared to 49.7 percent in 2004), which suggests a tendency towards delaying marriage.
It's more likely that Clooney is being Lebanonized rather than Lebanese men being Clooneyfied. But you know his name still deserves to be turned into a verb; Lebanese women are benefiting either way.
Christina Fakhry is a senior journalism student at the Lebanese American University doing a minor in psychology. She is also an intern at An Nahar. She contributes to a number of Lebanese outlets and is following cultural topics and performing arts. @christinafakhry
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