As a lifelong single person, I used to get asked if I wanted to get married someday. I’m happily single, marrying another person has never interested me. Now I’m now getting a different question: Why don’t I marry myself?
Marrying yourself, also known as sologamy, is having a moment of popularity and mockery. For example, it has been described as self-obsessed, selfish, desperate, defensive and pathetic — and that’s just by one person in one article.
Sologamy’s appeal is not as silly or as obvious as it seems. I’m sympathetic to the sentiments motivating people who go through these rituals of self-love. I agree that you don’t need another person to complete you. You can love yourself. You can commit to yourself. You can articulate what’s important to you, and then vow to live by those values, in the presence of the significant people in your life. You should feel just as entitled to celebrate your life as couples do to celebrate theirs.
But I don’t want this for myself.
I want to live my life outside marriage, on my own terms. I want to resist the notion that the best life is a married life. By engaging in a new form of marriage that borrows so heavily from the old, I’d just be strengthening the grip of marriage rather than freeing myself from it. Self-marriage expresses a yearning rather than a resistance.
Besides, I don’t like dresses.
It is not just self-marriage that gives me pause. I think regular marriage ceremonies have an outsize role in our cultural values and practices. Jaclyn Geller, author of “Here Comes the Bride: Women, Weddings, and the Marriage Mystique,” proposes this alternative: “When every person turns 25 he or she gets a party. The celebrant can register for housewares, furniture, linen. He or she might even have a ceremony that involves committing to important people, one of whom might be a lover. But these material rewards would not be contingent upon finding ‘the one.’ It’s moving that the older generation wants to help the next generation get a start in life, but reserving this support for those in amorous couples is outrageous.”
I realize that weddings are so strongly embedded in our culture that they are not going to be displaced anytime soon. Perhaps, though, we could take more seriously and celebrate more fulsomely the other life events that people find meaningful and significant. They could include, for instance, completing college or graduate school or a tour of duty, buying a first home, writing a book, getting a coveted job or promotion, or attaining acceptance into the Peace Corps or the training program of your dreams.
While researching my book “How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century,” I interviewed several single people who created their own celebrations. To mark her 25th year of living in California, Karen Hester reserved a historic inn at the top of Mount Tamalpais and invited about two-dozen family members and close friends. “We don’t really have rituals for celebrating these long-term friendships,” she told me, “or just who I am.” Dan Scheffey celebrated his 50th birthday by hosting a party for 100 members of “the family I have” and “the family I chose.”
I’ve heard from other single people who had similarly creative and ambitious visions, but less successful outcomes. One woman told me that she tried repeatedly to plan a special event, but each time too many of the people she invited declined — some, after they had already RSVP’d and all the arrangements had been scheduled and paid for.
My heart ached for her. I felt fortunate that nothing like that had ever happened to me. But her story stayed with me. The next day, I realized that something like that had happened to me, years ago. Then, the day after that, I remembered that something else had also happened, more recently.
I don’t want to tell you about either one. I don’t want to be the kind of person who feels entitled to the presence of other people at my significant life events, the way some brides do. Not even if some of those people invited me to their weddings and I attended, and then attended again when they married a second time. Not even if some of them made it to the weddings of people who have a less central place in their lives than I do.
What close friends and family seem to be saying when they will go to the ends of the earth to attend the wedding of someone who is not that important to them, but beg off the single person’s meaningful milestones, is that single people’s lives just don’t matter as much as married people’s. That, for some, is perhaps the deeper meaning and motivation behind marrying themselves. Maybe single people should be borrowing the wedding template after all, because it so powerfully proclaims: “This is an event that matters; you don’t get to skip it. This is a person who matters.”
That, I can get behind. But I still don’t want to marry myself.