Do I take my­self to be my not re­ally law­fully wed­ded...


JUNE is the month for wed­dings. For the bride, that means orange blos­soms and Kate Spade china. For the sin­gle­ton, it of­ten means an­other hideous brides­maid dress.

This fun­da­men­tal in­jus­tice could be one of the rea­sons some sin­gle peo­ple are de­cid­ing to be­come mar­ried peo­ple, only not in the usual way. In a trend called “self-mar­riage,” a per­son makes a vow to love, hon­our and cher­ish him or her­self.

Wed­dings for one have been pop­ping up here and there for a while. Glee’s Sue Sylvester, un­able to find any­one else who shared her love of “ex­treme taxi­dermy, tantric yelling and pok­ing the elderly with hid­den pins,” got self-hitched in Sea­son 2.

In Com­mit­ted (2010), El­iz­a­beth Gil­bert’s dith­ery med­i­ta­tion on the mean­ing of mar­riage, Gil­bert writes of a friend who on her 40th birthday per­formed a pri­vate sym­bolic cer­e­mony in the Pa­cific Ocean. “She had fi­nally mar­ried her own life,” says Gil­bert, “and not a mo­ment too soon.”

Self-mar­riage re­cently gained a na­tional me­dia spot­light when An­der­son Cooper in­ter­viewed a North Dakota woman who tied her own knot back in March. Com­ment­ing on the story, co­me­dian Stephen Col­bert cracked wise about this blow to North Dakotans: “Your state fi­nally gets a woman, and she de­cides to marry her­self.”

Jok­ing aside, the is­sue has sparked a pre­dictable con­tro­versy about the cul­tural mes­sage that self­mar­riage sends. Is it a “form of ac­count­abil­ity,” as one self-mar­ried new­ly­wed sug­gests? A fem­i­nist dec­la­ra­tion that you don’t have to wait around for Mr. Right? An as­sault on tra­di­tional mar­riage? Or just 21st-cen­tury nar­cis­sism with bou­quets?

The self-mar­ri­ers seem to have a range of mo­tives for mar­ry­ing (rather like their twop­er­son coun­ter­parts). Some view it as a lark, a party, a Ve­gas im­pulse, even a form of per­for­mance art.

For some it’s an ex­ten­sion of the Oprah-es­que mode of self-help, which exhorts ev­ery­one to be self-em­pow­er­ing, self-af­firm­ing, self-car­ing, self-ac­tu­al­iz­ing — just plain selfy.

For oth­ers it’s a New Age jour­ney. One web­site of­fers a self-mar­riage course in which one vows “to hon­our the in­ti­mate re­la­tion­ship and union with Self, in order to live au­then­ti­cally at all times.” The process be­gins with a for­mal self-en­gage­ment and “cul­mi­nates at the end of the project with a po­ten­tial self-mar­riage cer­e­mony.”

(Po­ten­tial? What are the im­pli­ca­tions of break­ing off an en­gage­ment to your­self? Cer­tainly, the “It’s not you, it’s me” ploy be­comes very tricky.)

Op­po­si­tion to the self-mar­riage trend also comes from dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. Some of it just feels like an­other erup­tion of the sim­mer­ing feud be­tween the mar­ried and the sin­gle, each fac­tion be­ing vaguely ag­grieved and re­sent­ful about the other side’s choice, to the point that it looks like over-com­pen­sa­tion.

Some crit­ics are miffed that self­mar­ri­ers re­ject the tra­di­tional in­sti­tu­tion of mar­riage, view­ing it as re­gres­sive, but still claim its most ob­vi­ous out­ward sign, the wed­ding.

Oth­ers seem to think that the self­mar­ri­ers are get­ting the milk for free. Or they’re buy­ing the cow. Or they are the cow. Or some­thing. (Oh, it’s so con­fus­ing!)

My own reser­va­tion isn’t moral but prac­ti­cal: Self-mar­riage looks kind of dull. Two-per­son mar­riage is not only a good way to dis­cover an­other per­son, it’s also a bet­ter way to dis­cover your­self. Para­dox­i­cally, you find out more about your­self by tak­ing into ac­count some­one else’s point of view, in­stead of just con­firm­ing your own.

Mar­riage is im­por­tant — not to men­tion in­ter­est­ing — be­cause it makes you part of some­thing big­ger than your­self. If the big­gest thing you can imag­ine is you, then self-mar­riage might not be the road to hap­pily-ever­after.

Pos­si­bly the next trend will be self­di­vorce. DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: I hate ruddy as­para­gus and my wife knows it. She serves it twice a week be­cause she likes it her­self, no other veg­etable for me. This is petty but it’s typ­i­cal of our re­la­tion­ship now that the hon­ey­moon is over. So to­tally over! She makes noise and wakes me up when she comes in late from work. She bought a hor­ri­ble lit­tle dog with­out even con­sult­ing me on how I felt, and now she ig­nores it. And, she re­ally let her­self go. She’s got­ten ugly. When I met her, she was no beauty but she dressed up and pret­tied up. Now she’s 60 pounds fat­ter and she looks like a rhino. She’s my third wife and I thought I was get­ting bet­ter taste than I had be­fore when I only mar­ried beauti- ful women. I don’t know where I’m go­ing wrong but I hate to get di­vorced a third time and split the money, and there’s a fair bit of it. We both had kids by our first spouses and that’s not an is­sue. I feel like walk­ing, but I’ll look like a real loser. There’s no love lost. She doesn’t love me, ei­ther, and my grown kids de­spise her as a money-grub­ber. — No Taste in Women, age 51, Wpg.

Dear No Taste: What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween three bum mar­riages and four? You al­ready have the rep­u­ta­tion of chang­ing part­ners fre­quently. If you’re no longer at­tracted and you don’t have the de­sire to please each other, and there are no kids to hurt, call it a day! Your kids will be re­lieved and so will you. Then, for good­ness sake, stop mar­ry­ing ev­ery­one you sleep with. If you do re­marry a fourth time, with­out work­ing on your­self and im­prov­ing your taste, get a big pre-nup hap­pen­ing.

Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I saw a cer­tain mar­ried woman I know park her car in my garage. She doesn’t live in this apart­ment block, and she took the spot a cer­tain sin­gle man I know parks his car. Why was she hid­ing her car, car­ry­ing wine, wear­ing stiletto heels? Hmmm. Hanky panky, I’d guess! We rode up the el­e­va­tor together and my eyes were amused, I guess, be­cause she turned and gave me a look, be­fore she got out. I hadn’t said a word ex­cept hello. I don’t in­tend to get her into any trou­ble and I have seen her twice since. There is al­ways dead si­lence in the el­e­va­tor as we go up. Should I say some­thing like “Your se­cret’s safe with me.” She must be wor­ried I’m go­ing to tell on her or gos­sip to some­one. I’m not. I’m just amused and I’m no an­gel my­self. — Not her En­emy, Down­town.

Dear Not her En­emy: It you’re not go­ing to tell on her, then stop smirk­ing and then keep­ing silent like you dis­ap­prove and can’t think of a friendly word to say to her. Chat with her about the weather and show her you’re not her en­emy. She knows what she’s do­ing.

Jane Lynch as Glee’s Sue Sylvester.

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