Grace Dent: How come it's lesbians rather than gay men that are giving up on civil partnerships?

Accepted wisdom has said for decades that lesbians loved settling down

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The Independent Online

It’s been seven years since the introduction of same-sex civil partnerships and statistics on divorce are beginning to roll in. The numbers of same-sex couples ending civil unions leapt by 20 per cent last year. Overall there were 794 dissolutions in 2012, almost 60 per cent of which were female couples. Lesbians, it seems, are cutting their losses much more quickly than gay men. Almost twice as quickly. Comparatively, 3.2 per cent of male unions to 6.1 per cent of female couples end in dissolution.

It’s maybe worth taking a few fleeting seconds here to ponder same-sex divorce and the reasons for it. Not much longer, mind – because if it’s anything like straight divorce, this will still be considerably longer than anyone who considers divorce on the heady run-up from being engaged to getting married.

No, this is a time for far more serious, introspective questions like: “Is it wrong to dress my niece in a flammable faux-satin Victorian flower-girl costume?” Or: “Is it acceptable to force guests to watch me and my loved one Riverdance to Clannad in a special choreographed wedding routine?” The answers to these questions, incidentally, are: “‘No, this is borderline child cruelty” and “Pipe down, Michael Flatley. No one wants to see this. Not even your mother.” But just like the subject of potential divorce, soon-to-be weds – whatever sexuality– don’t want to hear truth.

What’s interesting is that, after all the very expensive John Lewis spoons are opened, the weight is gained back, the sex life has vanished and the realisation is made that the way the other person clicks their jaw while eating toffees is starting to feel like a hate crime, statistics show women are leaving their wives sooner than men are leaving their husbands. Why, we have no idea. All we can do, besides give every civil partnership an exit interview – which I am totally willing to conduct if jobs are available – is chuck about ideas, examine and quash some cultural clichés, and leave future generations to work out why lesbians say goodbye sooner.   Actually, “Lesbians Say Goodbye Sooner” sounds like a rather excellent Hollywood romcom title, in which Jane Lynch – recently divorced  from Lara Embry after three years – could play the lead role.

Accepted wisdom has said for decades that lesbians loved settling down, far more than gay men did. In fact, three good dates in and lesbians were play-dating their cats for tolerance feasibility and putting the feelers out for a cheap moving company. I never thought this was a special lesbian trait, more a women-in-general trait. It’s lovely to be loved and secure, and it’s practical to have one house between you.

But now, scrap that, women are leaving other women and breaking up those homes far sooner. Who can we blame for this? Feminism, Tinder, Kevin McCloud and his stupid “I want a castle” shows? Maybe the quality that women possess, more than men – thus doubled in a lesbian partnership – is a stronger will to say goodbye when the marriage becomes untenable. Meanwhile, perhaps, men are more likely to stay put as, despite unhappiness and informing every port in a storm that their other half doesn’t understand them, they really like their lovely house, their Le Creuset pans and their married stability.

Or perhaps men enter marriage with a larger margin for error? Or maybe when women fall out with other women it turns more grave, personal and untenable quicker. Or perhaps none of this is true but in centuries to come the Church will have to admit that instead of destroying marriage, gay men actually held the secret of eternal love that the straights never really managed. Hope I’m alive to see this happen. Boy, there’ll be a lot of red faces.


No one is safe from the trademark brigade

After last month’s daftness, when we learned that the noodle chain Pho had trademarked the universally recognised Vietnamese word for noodle soup, Starbucks has now trademarked its spanking-new patisserie invention the “Duffin”. This is a surprise to the baker and businesswoman Bea Vo, of Bea’s of Bloomsbury, who has been selling Duffins – a doughnut-muffin hybrid – for two years.

Imagine, if you will, Bea’s duffin – a buttermilk and nutmeg muffin, baked, filled with raspberry jam like a donut and then dipped in melted butter and sugar. The duffin – like most of the delicious things in life – will not lead to any gold rosettes down at the slimming club. In fact, several duffins will possibly lead to support knickers and an inability to see one’s feet – but if you should want to try Bea’s duffin recipe. It’s in her 2011 cookbook.

The Starbucks Duffin (TM), developed by its pastry suppliers Rich’s Products, uses nutmeg and buttermilk batter, and is injected with raspberry jam. Starbucks charmingly says it won’t stop Bea making hers, but it does own the name. As Ms Vo said, in words slightly less expletive-strewn that I personally might have managed in this situation: “It’s like saying we trademarked ‘fairy cake’ and we’re going to let this one person make fairy cakes because they’ve come up with it. But everyone else, well, we’re going to f*** them over.”

In America, it’s worth noting, over the last two years Starbucks has spent $750m (£470m) acquiring three new businesses – Evolution Fresh juices, La Boulange Café and Bakery, and Teavana (a tea shop with cakes), with the intention for Starbucks to compete in the marketplace with grocery stores and bakeries. Big money like that needs to be protected with a lot of legal trademarks. Hold on tight to your recipe books, all you little kitchens. Goliath is here and he wants your cookies.

A taste of Banksy's medicine

Having solved British social injustice and fiscal woes, and stuck it so hard to The Man that his eyes span, Banksy the artist, has moved his paint pots to the US temporarily during October. His “Better Out Than In” artist residency in New York is currently thrilling the usual crowd of tourists, simpletons, the easily culturally stimulated and Sky News with its cerebral display of “a balloon covered in elastoplasts”, “a dog pissing on a fire hydrant” and “kids spray-painting a ‘graffiti is a crime’ sign”. I hope Barack Obama is prepared for the levels of social unrest this gritty urban art-warrior will cause. We still don’t know where 40-something Banksy actually lives – he claims this week to be considering leaving commercial art, which I take as code for “I am richer than God himself”. But I hope kids daub his front wall with meaningless twaddle twice-weekly.