Every so often, I encounter a headspinner of a piece whereby I read it once, then circle back to gaze at it again to wonder how it got onto the printed page. Such is an article that just surfaced in Cosmopolitan called “Why I Married Myself: These women dedicated their lives to self love.”
Think theater of the absurd. Think of marriage defined as anything you want it to be. Think of a trend of people (all single white women, as far as I could tell) finding the marriage market so bad, their best semi-legal alternative is to go the narcissism route.
In what is a rare critique of a Cosmo piece by GetReligion, we start here:
On the rooftop of her Brooklyn apartment building this past spring, Erika Anderson put on a vintage-style white wedding dress, stood before a circle of her closest friends, and committed herself -- to herself.
“I choose you today,” she said. Later she tossed the bouquet to friends and downed two shots of whiskey, one for herself and one for herself. She had planned the event for weeks, sending invitations, finding the perfect dress, writing her vows, buying rosé and fresh baguettes and fruit tarts from a French bakery. For the decor: an array of shot glasses emblazoned with the words “You and Me.” In each one, a red rose.
Then come the statistics.
Self-marriage is a small but growing movement, with consultants and self-wedding planners popping up across the world. In Canada, a service called Marry Yourself Vancouver launched this past summer, offering consulting services and wedding photography. In Japan, a travel agency called Cerca Travel offers a two-day self-wedding package in Kyoto: You can choose a wedding gown, bouquet, and hairstyle, and pose for formal wedding portraits. On the website I Married Me, you can buy a DIY marriage kit: For $50, you get a sterling silver ring, ceremony instructions, vows, and 24 “affirmation cards” to remind you of your vows over time. For $230, you can get the kit with a 14-karat gold ring.
I read the whole piece with some disbelief. Since many marriage ceremonies these days occur in a house of worship, I wondered why no clergy were consulted for this piece. Even for those faiths that do not consider marriage to be a sacrament, it’s still a vowed agreement that must be entered into by two people of the opposite sex.
Then again, maybe some clergy were consulted and they laughed themselves sick when they heard about it. First Things is the only publication I'm aware of that's provided a theological critique of this odd movement.
The bottom line here, in terms of basic journalism: There’s nothing in the Cosmo article that mentions anyone presiding at these events or whether any texts from holy books are used in these DIY ceremonies.
We do get a whiff of religion further down in the story, but it’s pretty faint.
Solo weddings can take many forms. Dominique Youkhehpaz married herself in a quiet ceremony with candles in her bedroom when she turned 22, vowing to be kind and compassionate to herself. She was the only one in attendance, although she announced the union to friends. For a ring, she went with a nose ring. “I breathe my vows every day,” she says.
She first came across the concept of self-marriage when she was a student at Stanford University, studying love, ritual, and religion in the anthropology department. She happened to meet a woman who had once said vows to herself in a mirror, and the idea stayed with her. When she graduated in 2011, Dominique went to the Burning Man festival in Nevada, where the theme was "rites of passage." She decided to help women at Burning Man marry themselves, saying their vows into a mirror. Word got around and some 100 women showed up to tie the knot.
I kept on wondering whether the story truly concerned marriage or if it's a clever way of helping single women to cope. The answer came later in the piece.
Sasha is quick to note that marrying yourself is not about saying you want to be alone. She herself would like to marry the right person, she says, but she won’t couple up with someone just for the sake of coupling. “I don’t want to squish myself into a box,” she says. “Marrying yourself is a way to commit to your dreams. It helps you go for the life you want if your life hasn’t fulfilled the storybook requirements.” (Italics mine)
In other words, if you can’t have what you want, want what you have.
Elsewhere, the piece quotes Rebecca Traister, author of "All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation," as saying that one of the only times in their lives that women get affirmed is when they get married. And so:
… the stigma for single women remains. “It’s left over from centuries of one kind of marriage pattern and one path for women,” Traister says. She recalls reading books as a girl in which the story always ended when the heroine got married, as if that were the ultimate goal. “We’re set up as a culture to treat marriage as the most exciting thing you’ll ever do in your life,” she says. “But if you marry yourself, you can say: My life is just as meaningful as the life of the person who happens to be getting married.”
As a single woman myself, I agree with what she says about marriage and culture. All the fairytales do end that way, so when your life doesn't, people blame you.
Which is why I think this story is more about the revenge of single women going after the one institution that shuts them out more than a deconstruction of marriage itself. Marriage these days has been so re-defined and squeezed into structures it was never meant to occupy, that it’s no surprise that a certain class of people are choosing themselves as their sole priority and creating a ritual for it.
Whatever you call this weirdness, a reporter should maintain some critical distance, which was not the case here. Not a few publications have trashed the idea, including the Daily Beast, which sees this trend for the wackiness that it is. It lampoons whereas Cosmo swoons.
It’s odd that Cosmopolitan, which saturates its pages with more news about various kinds of sex that you’ve never wanted to hear about, was so demure with this piece. What does marrying yourself mean sexually? The article doesn’t go there.
It also doesn't address single men marrying themselves or is this a woman-only phenomenon in the blue states? Is it all about the dress? Had the writer contacted even one marriage-centric organization (the National Organization for Marriage would be a good start), she could have gotten plenty of quotes to serve as an antithesis to her topic. I googled them in less than five seconds.
But did she want to? Probably not, because in the minds of many who may read Cosmo, it's all about yourself. Plus, marriage is a fluid concept. When it has lost its role as a protective fence around sexual love and a safety net for the love of another adult and children, it ceases to mean anything at all.