April 19, 2009

Lately there seem to be a lot of stories in the British press about men who prefer to remain living at home, rather than move out on their own. And most of these stories focus on a reluctance to get married.

There are many things in life I feel I'm missing out on but being married isn't one of them. It's not that I'm against it, I'm ambivalent about it and always have been.

Growing up, I never fantasised about walking down the aisle. The only aisle I ever see myself walking down is the one that leads to the back of the plane to use to loo.

It's not that I haven't had the opportunity. The first proposal was from my friend Charlie when we were in our 20's. He said if it turned out that we were both 40 and we were still single, we should just marry each other and that would be that. But the getting-it-over-with sentiment never appealed. Not that it matters. He's married.

The second proposal was from my British friend Ben who, when he found out I was thinking about getting a visa suggested we tie the knot to get round the restrictions. I told him I appreciated the offer, but passed. It's illegal; going to jail isn't my version of the ideal honeymoon.

Proposal number three came from a man I met at a party. He leaned in and whispered: "If I wasn't already engaged, I'd marry you."

I told him his fiancée was a lucky woman.

He nodded in agreement. "I know." He said. He was serious.

But my favourite proposal came from a taxi driver. He looked me over in the rear-view mirror and asked if I was married. When I said no, he was silent for about 30 seconds. Then he said: "All right. I'll marry you."

At first I thought, why not. Free taxis for life. But then I realised he probably wouldn't let me ride with him or if he did, he'd make me sit up in front while he worked.

I'd have to sit quietly and whenever I talked he'd get angry with me for not letting him drive in peace. We'd argue over routes or what radio station to listen to and then I'd start to fidget and spill hot coffee on his lap. It wouldn't work out.

Most people get married because they want to start a family. But if that's not on the agenda, what's the point?

I asked my friend Tamara who doesn't want children what it would take to get her down the aisle. "A guy that comes with a remote control so I could fast forward through all the need and narcissism they inevitably bring with them."

My friend Susan in New York has more practical criteria. "A full sized kitchen with counter space."

It's good to know what you want. But that wouldn't do it for me since I don't go in the kitchen.

My friends and I never talk about marriage as an idealised objective. Those who were married in their 30's are now divorced. Either that or they're unhappily married because they don't want to face being alone.

The couples I know who enjoy being married, were living together for several years before so nothing really changed other than the language and the subtle but meaningful symbolism that comes from the promise of never-ending partnership.

"I don't even wear my ring," my friend David says, "but I know I'm married. I like it. It's like a chocolate covered chocolate bar. It's all chocolate, but you're still happy there's more chocolate."

If it's the right person, I can see the value in that. But then again, too much chocolate has always given me a stomach ache.