Me, Myself and I Do: taking a look at sologamy, the unusual phenomenon of people marrying themselves
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
It’s unusual how much the modern world looks to Jane Austen. Whether or not you’ve studied English at any level, it’s likely that you’ve heard or read these words — the opening line to Pride & Prejudice — in some context.
The problem is that, when we take Austen’s words superficially, we examine them as a means by which to establish the imperative of romance rather than discourse, and we problematize their intended meaning.
For our purposes here, the key word is must. That a single man must be in want of a wife. Because, surely, in the archaic age of 1813, that kind of marital pursuit would be seen as paramount to life’s success. Even if Austen meant to grapple with bigger concepts and issues, these words are at least superficially relevant to their times.
And yet, if we move a couple hundred years into the future, these platitudes still seem to apply, and that raises a question: why do we commit so uncompromisingly to archaic ideals?
Today, a woman is no longer merely ‘a wife’, and a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a multitude of different things — a yacht, a Tesla, maybe world peace.
Just the same, a single woman may be looking for different, more pertinent things by which to validate herself than a simple, bumbling husband.
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD MYSELF
In 2015, British author Sophie Tanner decided that enough was enough; she concluded that the notion of settling down was far too outdated to remain so culturally fundamental and took the plunge, declaring a commitment to herself in a reworked version of the Christian vows.
When the minister was scripted to ask,
“Now, do you Sophie Tanner take Sophie Tanner to be your wife? Do you promise to love her, comfort her, honor[sic] and keep her, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, in sadness and in joy, to cherish and continually bestow upon her your heart’s deepest devotion, as long as you shall live?”
Tanner’s response was scripted: “I do.”
The scene took place on the steps of the Unitarian Church, surrounded by fifteen bridesmaids, some family, a friend dressed up as the Pope, and a large gathering of strangers. It was a public display, performed both as ceremony to herself and as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival.
Obscure and seemingly pointless, this type of declaration might set off a thousand bells. Some might even see it as deluded, arrogant and self-indulgent, but this demonstration of self-love is something that Tanner sees as the polar opposite of narcissism.
“Narcissists don’t actually love themselves,” she explained. “They don’t have a sense of self worth and they’re very insecure. Whereas I see marrying yourself is more about self-worth — which is not vanity.”
The theme of celebrating self-worth was what drew Tanner to the idea. Following the worst of a bad breakup, after a bit of time, she found that she was finally beginning to see her real self once again.
“I suddenly was just feeling my sense of self returning and starting to feel optimistic and back to my old self,” she said. “And I thought, god, this is such a good feeling. There’s no real way to celebrate that.”
Unlike there have generally been for couples — and even in some cases larger groups — no self-evident event existed by which an individual could celebrate this feeling, akin to a union with the self. That sent Tanner out on a search to find the greatest bond with the self.
That is what led her to sologamy.
FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE
A system of marriage is generally set to unify assets between multiple individuals, so there is no official, legal avenue for a person to marry themselves, and it’s likely that there may never be. There might not ever need to be that legal recognition. That unofficial status doesn’t undercut the purpose of the celebration.
But so much of the Western, cultural idea of marriage is rooted in a specific idea of religion, or even tradition. Because of this, the individual is able to pick and choose segments of their prescribed text in order to legitimate their particular understanding of this union.
Unfortunately, that kind of understanding is often weaponized. When an idea is so strong, and so rooted to a person’s perception of themselves, resources like the internet allow them to express vitriol and anger against things they perceive as offensive.
And, while the lack of official documentation and rights that come along with the marriage totally and completely nullify it at a legal level, that hasn’t stopped some people from showing antagonism, especially in public comment sections across the web.
“I was surprised, generally, at reactions about it,” Tanner said. “Some people obviously find it hilarious and bonkers and crazy, which is fine — but I think what surprises me more is the anger towards it.”
“The kind of backlash that I get can be quite upsetting because I think that people miss the message as I mean it.”
Restricting how a person expresses a romantic connection with the self can often be connected with religious expression of marriage. After all, much of the idea of a wedding is in tune with specific religious cultural practices.
But by recognizing the union of a person to themselves as an extrapolation of themes, rather than a blasphemous interpolation of dogma, isn’t there something more positive to be found there?
Maybe even something worth celebrating?
JUST — AND ONLY — MARRIED
I reached out to an event planner, Carolina Soares, at the Event Firm, to see how one would go about planning a sologamous wedding here in Waterloo. Her approach was as direct and casual as one would expect, taking a simple approach to framing a custom wedding to the needs of the person.
As with any other wedding, even a sologamous one would begin with an understanding of what the individual was looking for.
“[We would] probably look into the motivation for that,” Soares said, outlining the approach.
“What the person’s looking for. We do all custom design in our company so [we] kind of put together a vision.”
I was maybe a little surprised to find that a sologamous wedding could be approached just like any other, and it couldn’t help but cause me to wonder how that impacts marriage as a whole: is it now less a unifying of assets, and more of just a simple celebration of a deep, personal connection?
We’ve come a long way from the landed gentry of Austen’s age, and the effects of that are still rippling through the currents of our culture. A person here no longer marries because it is a social imperative. They no longer marry in order to finally have acceptable sexual relations with their partner. They no longer (at least usually) marry to gain access to a fortune, because people of all types are now able to participate in society and build their own fortunes.
As a celebration of something beautiful, is sologamy really any different than any other kind of marriage?
UNTIL DEATH DO ME PART
The good news of sologamy is that, due to its minuscule connection to legality, anyone is able to marry themselves. It binds a person to wonderful ideas of self-love and self-respect, yet it doesn’t disqualify them from participating in other romantic relationships in their life.
Beginning from the theory that sologamy couldn’t possibly be anything more than a silly, pointless and maybe even desperate attention-grabbing Instagram technique, I’ve come to recognize the real value inherent in establishing a connection with the self.
Why would a person marry themselves? I suppose the question could apply to any union in the same way: why would anyone choose to marry anyone?
Marriage is a declaration of commitment and respect. Marriage is working hard to build a life on a platform of consideration and giving of the self.
None of us necessarily need to go out and funnel our finances into putting on an enormous public display of that — the weddings at the Event Firm, Soares commented, have ranged from $5,000 to $80,000 — but the sentiment that sologamy suggests, as well as the enormous significance of making that sort of declaration for the self can be a truly beautiful thing.
As the script from Sophie’s wedding indicated, as was set to be spoken by the minister:
“This is about Sophie’s growth as an individual. With care, respect, responsibility and knowledge comes the affirmation of her own life’s happiness. With respect for individual boundaries comes the freedom to love unconditionally.”
Sologamy sounds silly. But loving and being true to yourself through expressions of respect and independence is really anything but. What sologamy represents is fundamental to being human.
Without self-love, we truly have nothing.