Meet the male Ally McBeals

by Syrie Johnson

David E Kelley, the man who created Ally McBeal (the neurotic lawyer who's desperate to get married), shared a secret this month. In an interview he dared to suggest that worrying about finding the love of one's life is not the exclusive province of mini-skirted basket cases. "This might be a big universal secret," he confessed, "but the truth is that a lot of men feel exactly the same way as Ally McBeal. And listen: some of us are even more emotionally neurotic."

What? Men are paranoid about their love life? Men want to exchange one-night stands for nappy-changing?

For Charlie Davies-Gilbert, the answer is an unequivocal "yes". "You always think in the first two weeks, 'Could this be the woman I want to marry? Is this The One," says the 28-year-old political risk broker. "When I was younger I thought 'I want to be a farmer at 23, and I want to be married by 28'," Davies-Gilbert continues, "I'm neither. As a single bloke, you can't help looking forward to having a family. As a guy, you'd never go to the theatre or do anything really cultural, whereas a girlfriend makes you go. And the truth is, however dull it might appear, those things are really nice to do."

Girls who want to find a Mr McBeal should take note. "Girls aren't prepared to give relationships a chance - if it's not happening in two weeks, they want out. If they gave it six months, things would probably work out fine."

Rob Clayton, 27, owner of Creelers restaurant in Chelsea, agrees. "You know Greg Martin, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson's ex. He was vilified for having three chat-up lines. 'What's your star sign? Do you want to move to the country?' and 'Do you want children?' I do want to move to the country, I do want children and I'm a Virgo.

"I really am looking forward to having children, and living in the Cotswolds," Clayton continues, "My best friend got engaged the other day, and even though I was happy for him, I was quite upset. Everyone wants to feel needed, everyone wants to feel that there's someone who would give up everything for you - and not just your family. There are a lot of things you miss out on being single - Sunday mornings in bed reading the papers, falling asleep in front of the telly together; cooking for someone."

What about his bachelor lifestyle? "I wouldn't be giving up anything," Clayton replies. "The idea of finality is actually one of the best things about marriage. It's the idea of a woman stating in public that they're making a commitment to you."

Ally McBeal's fears that success at work is at the expense of her personal life also strike a chord with male view-ers. "I think blokes think about marriage and children more than they let on," says Clayton. "I love my job - the restaurant opened two months ago - but it means I work during 'sociable' hours. At the end of the day you want to be able to go back to someone you care about who really cares about you."

Another man who doesn't rate the "Men Behaving Badly" lifestyle is Daniel Germain, 27, who started the fruit juice company Innocent. He moved in with his girlfriend Clare Shilland last week.

"We've been going out since last April and I wanted to settle down. I've always been a bit of a homebody, I like to cook and relax after work. Until now I was sharing a flat with two other guys, and I was really wound up about sharing space with them. The reason I've stopped browsing is because it's boring. I've never really been one for playing the field. It never makes you feel good.

"And I'm looking forward to having babies," Germain continues. "I saw a really tough-looking guy holding a kid the other day, he looked like a bouncer, and no one was going to touch his little girl - things like that do make you feel broody."

A major part of Ally McBeal's life is her regrets about her old flame Billy, the love of her life. Eric Murat, 27, (owner of a new club Papa Gaio) is similarly pessimistic that he'll ever replace his ex. "I was going out with her till two months ago and I haven't looked at another girl since," he admits.

"She was The One. I wanted to marry her and have children - and I still do. She was the catalyst for me deciding to work for myself. But strangely it was when things started to happen for me that it went pear-shaped.

"Before I met her, I wasn't the type of guy who thought I could settle down. I wanted to marry her because marriage seems to make a relationship more real. It's not a piece of paper and a ring, it's a commitment. And I love children.

"The thing I miss most is the sharing," Murat says, "There's so much you do every day, alone. You could be doing all those things with someone else. And of course I miss the cuddling, and getting into a bed someone else has warmed up - or waking up with someone and making breakfast.

"Happiness is what life's all about - sharing and loving. When you meet someone like my ex, you think you won't ever meet anyone again."