A table for one
September 29, 2017 7:58 PM   Subscribe

 
I came in ready to mock but the articles have actually pretty much sold me. Although I'm in agreement with the Aeon writer that maybe the conspicuous-consumption modern Western wedding model is maybe not the best thing to emulate for a self-commitment ceremony. Still, there's a lack of liturgy or ceremony for affirming adult women's lives and selves, and when you try to fill that gap you go with the examples that are culturally on offer.

I will however now entertain myself envisioning new liturgical rites for self-commitments.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:29 PM on September 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


Like a lot of us, I have recurring dreams with a certain plot. One of them is what I call the Bad Wedding. I'm a bride and I'm trying to arrange a wedding, invitations and dress and all, but the groom is missing. Maybe he's a stranger, maybe he's an ex I haven't seen in years, maybe I forgot to ask him. The dream always ends on a rising panic with me dressed for a wedding, or supposed to be dressed for it, and everybody expecting the ceremony to start. I realize now why this article gives me a vaguely panicky, claustrophobic sense - a self-wedding would literally be my nightmare.

I'm not married for a lot of reasons, but the only one that I could potentially be proud of is this - I chose myself, and put myself first in my life plans. A self-wedding is nothing that I personally could ever choose, but if other women feel that that's the way to celebrate their priority, they certainly should. I am especially interested in the Japanese experience of this, considering what a raw deal the traditional Japanese marriage was for a woman.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:36 PM on September 29, 2017 [9 favorites]


is it creepy to self marry if you have an inner child?
posted by knoyers at 8:43 PM on September 29, 2017 [16 favorites]


Unlike a certain serial kidnapper/killer, I'd not fuck me. So why should I marry me?
posted by Samizdata at 8:53 PM on September 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


Jam:Married Myself
posted by Jon Mitchell at 8:59 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


When my dad died, I used the couple hundred dollars I got from what he had left to buy a KitchenAid mixer, the thing my mom had always brushed off as "don't buy that, that's something you put on your wedding registry". I'd feel a bit silly about doing something ceremonial about it, but realizing I had permission to be alive and my own person and do things for myself without waiting to get married was a really big thing for me. I spent years living in a hovel of an apartment and I admit I'm a messy person, but like--I didn't even consider things like buying furnishings I liked, or art, because of course someday I was going to get married, even after I realized I was queer I still intended to do that, and therefore I had to wait because someone else was going to have opinions about furniture that I had to take into account before I bought anything.

My first year of working as a software developer has in general basically been about setting up housekeeping for myself. Not as a temporary stopgap solution until I'm cohabitating, but as though I need to like my life as it is. I don't do great with that in other respects, but every time I walk into the living room and see the giant rose wall hanging that I got because I wanted it and it didn't matter if anybody else liked it? It's really nice.
posted by Sequence at 9:05 PM on September 29, 2017 [105 favorites]


In that respect the following holds true: what marriage equality has begun to provide the gay and queer community – that is, recognition and legal status – self-marriage might offer to a group often demonised and discriminated against: single women.

Some of us in various LGBT& communities actually think and argue that "marriage equality" was a step backwards in similar respects, that it's a moving away from radical or liberal possibilities (heretics!). Our critique is similar: just as the author concludes in her essay that self-marriage is performative rather than revolutionary vision ("Self-marriage is about attempting to hijack conventions ... However, the truly revolutionary way forward would lie in aspiring ..."), those of us gay people challenging "gay marriage" make the same essential argument. It's not a huge deal that the author's essay doesn't mention this when referencing gay people, but some recognition there would have been appreciated.
posted by polymodus at 9:13 PM on September 29, 2017 [12 favorites]


I think it might work out better for everyone if the concepts:

(a) not having to wait to live because it's perfectly OK to try to arrange the life you want as a single person along with
(b) having society recognize and respect the fact single people are often as grown-up as married people

vs

(c) marriage

were, ah... divorced? Or at least not married.

It's OK if they flirt, but consumation seems like it's usually going to create feelings of confusion. Marriage often confers (a) and (b) but it shouldn't be the source, and naming the thing we're trying to get at something like "self-marriage" feels like it reinforces the mixing of the two rather than solidly establishing the possibility of (a) & (b) independently of marriage.
posted by wildblueyonder at 9:21 PM on September 29, 2017 [18 favorites]


"...singlehood no longer necessarily equals the absence of romantic love; rather, this love can now be self-administered."

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay ahead of you.
posted by Capt. Renault at 10:04 PM on September 29, 2017 [18 favorites]


Anyone else remember a big spread in the LA Times circa mid-nineties about a performance artist who married herself? I remember she was wearing pink rubber gloves. I was a teenager, and she made a big impact on me.
posted by gusandrews at 10:08 PM on September 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Wildblueyonder, I like that, and I wonder if we could generally invent ceremonies for young people of around college age, to recognize their achievement of living by themselves. It might go a long way to giving them confidence to put off marriage, particularly if marriage is a bad idea.
posted by gusandrews at 10:11 PM on September 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


I hope they can make it last.
posted by adept256 at 10:12 PM on September 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


I just find this weird and puzzling and more emblematic of a focus on romantic love that's unnecessary unless you're artificially isolated from other women. You don't need to marry yourself to have someone who tells you you're beautiful, that's what your mothers and sisters and female cousins and girlfriends are for!
posted by corb at 10:31 PM on September 29, 2017 [8 favorites]


I'm not a cat hoarder, I'm self-married. And my presents to myself just happen to be more cats.

You know, at first I thought that term was ridiculous but now I'm liking it more and more.
posted by schroedinger at 11:02 PM on September 29, 2017 [20 favorites]


Please don't go putting the cats in any boxes.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:18 PM on September 29, 2017 [7 favorites]


> is it creepy to self marry if you have an inner child?
No.
posted by runcifex at 11:31 PM on September 29, 2017


I think this is also tied to the same impulse that keeps overweight women in sweats and an oversize t-shirt because they'll buy clothes when they lose 10 lbs. I wrote impulse but I meant crushing cultural pressure. Sorry I had more than a few beers tonight.
posted by Uncle at 11:42 PM on September 29, 2017 [13 favorites]


Or the same cultural pressure that made my 17-year-old self think law was a bad career choice because surely I'd have to step back when I had kids, and that would suck.

Once in college when talking about marriage a friend commented something like "Emily? Psh, she seems too cool for that." and it legitimately blew my mind. I had never actually considered that not getting married was a possibility for me, or that it wouldn't represent a huge failure. Probably a reason it took me a really long time to come out of the closet.

So many unquestioned assumptions!! And bright & feminist as I was as a kid I couldn't even imagine alternative ways of living.
posted by Emily's Fist at 12:09 AM on September 30, 2017 [13 favorites]


Please don't go putting the cats in any boxes.

I am given to understand the cats put themselves in boxes under the ancient feline imperative “if I fits I sits.”
posted by rewil at 12:48 AM on September 30, 2017 [33 favorites]


When I was in my teens, I was absolutely sure I was going to get married - car, home, 1.5 kids, the whole nine yards. Had a couple of serious relationships, then kinda stopped dating in my late twenties.

Went through the whole "when are you getting married?", "You shouldn't set your standards so high" talk from relatives. Being Asian means older relatives can be much, much more intrusive and judgmental. The good thing about turning 40 was that a lot of that talk disappears.

It helps working in a library though - so many colleagues are also single, and perfectly happy being so. It's not the best life, but it's comfortable and even if I were to meet a perfect Mr Right tomorrow, I am not likely to change how I live right now.

I am preparing myself up for one big relationship though - getting a cat of my own.
posted by Alnedra at 1:54 AM on September 30, 2017 [22 favorites]


hopefully it doesn't end in divorce
posted by pyramid termite at 3:26 AM on September 30, 2017 [6 favorites]


With the proposed upcoming tax changes I see self-incorporation as a preferable means towards recognition of personhood for single women in the US.
posted by grimjeer at 5:36 AM on September 30, 2017 [17 favorites]


As a progressive-minded secular humanist, I believe that same-entity relationships should be accorded respect and understanding without having been solemnised by an elaborate traditional ceremony.
posted by acb at 5:58 AM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


From the Jezebel article "Single Women, Please Stop Marrying Yourselves":

"I don't think this is necessarily a matter of single women desperately needing to indulge wedding fantasies (though there may be a hint of that). But to "consummate" self-acceptance with an act of marriage, complete with a ceremony/wedding, endorses marriage as the ultimate act of adulthood (which, well, it's not). That's not flouting the bullshit pressure to marry; that's buying into the idea.

If you really want to break the rules, why "marry" at all? If you're looking to redefine a celebration of personal and emotional growth—and these women certainly are if they are literally redefining how a person may get married—why do it with a wedding? Fuck the wedding. Throw yourself a fabulous party celebrating yourself; the people who matter will be there for you. But don't call it a wedding, because doing so just gives the concept of weddings even more power. It furthers an inane and expensive obsession, and we really don't need any help with that."

posted by jazzbaby at 7:26 AM on September 30, 2017 [22 favorites]


I buy myself "anniversary" presents frequently. No need for anything more official.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:31 AM on September 30, 2017


Bella DePaulo, a psychologist who has written extensively on the lives of single people, has a fairly nuanced take on "sologamy":
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.
DePaulo's arguments against using the framing of "marriage" to describe these sorts of celebrations seem spot-on to me. I'd also strongly agree with the top-quoted article that self-marriage represents yet another stage in our culture's "self-centred emotional meritocracy", as defined by the "stipulation that true love can be earned only by the relentless cultivation of self-sovereignty." I find the valorization and discourse of self-love deeply confusing.
posted by informavore at 7:33 AM on September 30, 2017 [10 favorites]


My first instinct was to agree with most of the bewildered comments above, especially the ones that state that this is more a perpetuation of marriage than a challenge to it.

But... at the same time, I do think there's something to be said for acknowledging yourself as a source of companionship. A lot of the negative takes above- from the articles and the comments- seem to be variations on, "if you don't have a man, get companionship and validation from girlfriends, family, other people!"- with the underlying implication that seeking those same things from yourself is in the best case hopeless and in the worst case narcissistic.

This may sound a little vain, but, the other day I was scrolling back through a text conversation with a friend looking for some advice she had given me and I was re-reading for the first time some of my side of the conversation. I had forgotten all of it, and it struck me that had someone else been talking to me like this, I would have thought, I want to be friends with this person. But I don't need to be friends with that person- I am that person! I can watch a movie, or take a vacation, or eat dinner- everything that people view as vaguely suspicious if you try to do alone- and simply enjoy the company of myself and my thoughts. No scheduling and misunderstandings, ever, guaranteed.

And that thinking- that I can not only be a sufficient companion for myself, but that being my own companion was actually very good! I happen to click particularly well with myself. It's not just something I have to "settle" for, a last resort because I can't find anyone. It's not inherently worse than doing all those paired activities with a man, girlfriends, family, partner- and in fact is a good deal better than doing those activities with someone whose company I don't actually enjoy.

And that realization was incredibly validating, because as an asexual/aromantic I've always been deeply afraid that everyone was right when they said that without a romantic partner in life I would never, could never, ever be happy.

Would I do a self-marriage? Absolutely not. I've always thought that one of the greatest things about being ace/aro was that I'd never have to deal with the frustration and cost of weddings (one of my roommates recently got married and jeez), and even worse, being the center of attention as a bride. But I'm happy to see other women acknowledge that their own company can be enough, can be more than enough, for them.
posted by perplexion at 8:44 AM on September 30, 2017 [23 favorites]


If you really want to break the rules, why "marry" at all? If you're looking to redefine a celebration of personal and emotional growth—and these women certainly are if they are literally redefining how a person may get married—why do it with a wedding

I feel like there's something oddly totalitarian about this sort of rhetoric. There is a suggestion that no-one should ever do anything that stretches convention unless they are prepared to undertake some sort of re-evaluation of all values. It creates the impression that there is no valid choice but to commit to the party line of the conformist or the iconoclast. I don't think that's a true or useful idea. I think a valid reason for "doing it with a wedding" is just wanting to do it with a wedding.
posted by howfar at 10:18 AM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


"I don't think this is necessarily a matter of single women desperately needing to indulge wedding fantasies (though there may be a hint of that). But to "consummate" self-acceptance with an act of marriage, complete with a ceremony/wedding, endorses marriage as the ultimate act of adulthood (which, well, it's not). That's not flouting the bullshit pressure to marry; that's buying into the idea.

I don't have wedding fantasies; I have a distinct lack of the *stuff* that makes adult life easier that the married people get for free by putting it on their gift registry(ies). Married people have a huge head-start in living any kind of life they want if they have a wedding with a built-in guarantee of receiving everything you could possibly need to set up a home (plus cash). Straight or gay.

It's more expensive to be single, and we have to buy everything that you'd get for your wedding on our own.
posted by tzikeh at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2017 [8 favorites]


While weddings are not my thing, i'm surprised at how many comments include "these self-marriers are doing it wrong" which, you know, they get enough of from family and friends. I support the decoupling of sex, marriage, child bearing, child raising and cohabitation. The a la carte life is not a threat to bundlers except for people who were pressured into a bundle for lack of choice and awareness.

If a person wants a wedding, let them have a wedding.
posted by Anchorite_of_Palgrave at 10:31 AM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


Why isn't there a tradition of having a big ceremony with cakes, flowers and attendants for things like getting one's masters degree? Or, for being married for 30-50 years? For accomplishments? People have parties, but not ceremonies, even though huge commitment, effort and actual personal change has occurred.
posted by marimeko at 10:44 AM on September 30, 2017 [10 favorites]


But how can you have a ceremony for something that has already happened? A ceremony is something which effects a change, not something which marks a change. For example, there is a ceremony for getting a degree, a graduation ceremony. But if you have cakes and flowers after, that's a party after a ceremony, just like a wedding reception is a party after a ceremony.
posted by howfar at 10:56 AM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


The way a wedding is viewed (and performed) is not the same way a graduation ceremony is viewed in most people's eyes.
posted by marimeko at 11:00 AM on September 30, 2017


howfar: But how can you have a ceremony for something that has already happened?

Because ceremonies are man-made constructs, so we can have them for anything we like. Ceremonies are made-up and vary widely across the country. Ceremonies are only considered "ritual" because the ones we generally celebrate have been in place for some time. There is nothing to prevent anyone from inventing a ceremony.
posted by tzikeh at 11:45 AM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


Why isn't there a tradition of having a big ceremony with cakes, flowers and attendants for things like getting one's masters degree? Or, for being married for 30-50 years?

Married couples can have a vow renewal ceremony (at least in most Christian denominations). They make lovely anniversary parties, especially if the wedding was a small one, or the couple has been through hard times. And there are graduation parties, although those are usually a pain in the ass. The graduate has to wrangle together a bunch of relatives without the promise of an open bar, plus their friends are either trying to manage their own graduation events or unwilling to come to the party with all these older relatives, none of whom are as likely to be cute, young and single as wedding guests or bridal party members might be. A nice graduation dinner at a restaurant is about as much as that event can handle.

Whether the Jewish bar/bat mitzvah fills this need in someone's life, I couldn't say, not being Jewish. It's definitely not aligned with the actual coming of age in the modern world, but it does give a person a moment of recognition as a full member of their local society. Plus presents, cake, embarrassing dances and enormous regrettable dresses.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:58 AM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think I asked the wrong question. I think it's, 'why aren't young girls dreaming of their graduations one day'? Weddings are elevated to such a place in people's minds and cultures that there is no other ceremony to compare in life. And it seems like big personal accomplishments and other milestones (having a baby, for instance) would garner at least as much pomp and circumstance as a wedding ceremony–artificial a construct that any ceremony actually is. Maybe it's only 'weddings' that single people are having for themselves because there is nothing else out there to use as a template for what they are trying to express.
posted by marimeko at 12:14 PM on September 30, 2017 [8 favorites]


I told my pastor I was having an affair. He said, "You know, you're only cheating yourself."
posted by 2N2222 at 12:22 PM on September 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think it's, 'why aren't young girls dreaming of their graduations one day'?

You have to form a lasting bond to have a marriage. And although our society has improved, we still teach girls the lesson that forming that connection should be one of their major life goals. In theory, you can graduate entirely on your own work -- although, in practice, you have to rely on the aid of your family and/or the government to get there, because it is such hard and expensive work. But what a wedding implicitly says is, this person is worthy of love. And you can't just earn that. You have to be (although the song denies it) both lucky and strong.

Of course millions of unmarried people are entirely worthy of love, and have just been unlucky. We therefore have no traditional claim to a fondant cake, a registry and the full respect of our grandmothers. What this ceremony suggests is that maybe we do. It's a radical suggestion, and although it's not for me, I hope it brings real joy to some.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:28 PM on September 30, 2017 [9 favorites]


My friends and I (young tech people) have often groaned at that there are wedding registries and not "first apartment, plz send spatulas and electric kettle!" registries -- most of us will wed without registries because we will have combined households years ago[*] and have plenty of stuff already; I've been to three weddings this summer and not a single one has had a registry.

I wonder if I could sell a self-marriage this to the IRS. "batter_my_heart1 is an independent catsitter and tends to the household, which mostly involves ensuring that batter_my_heart2 has a copious supply of nuts to eat when she gets home from work."
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:32 PM on September 30, 2017 [5 favorites]


Whether the Jewish bar/bat mitzvah fills this need in someone's life, I couldn't say, not being Jewish. It's definitely not aligned with the actual coming of age in the modern world, but it does give a person a moment of recognition as a full member of their local society. Plus presents, cake, embarrassing dances and enormous regrettable dresses.

I have wondered for a while how long it is until non-Jewish society appropriates the bar/bat mitzvah, either under that name or shaving the serial numbers off and calling it a “coming of age” or something. Christmas has successfully transcended Christianity (and, before that, Nordic and/or Roman Paganism) and is commemorated with gifts and feasting by people who make no claim to Christianity, and the bar/bat mitzvah is, at least in America, sufficiently well known that there are 30-year-old sitcom episodes based around it.

Perhaps it's the Hebrew name scaring people off, though in a society where Hebrew names (often de-anglicised) top baby name charts, would that really be a problem?
posted by acb at 12:37 PM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


You have to form a lasting bond to have a marriage

A marriage, yes. But not a wedding.
posted by marimeko at 12:43 PM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


"batter_my_heart1 is an independent catsitter and tends to the household, which mostly involves ensuring that batter_my_heart2 has a copious supply of nuts to eat when she gets home from work."

what cat eats nuts?
posted by AFABulous at 12:49 PM on September 30, 2017


A marriage, yes. But not a wedding.

Indeed. The idea of ceremonies versus substance seems to be a key part of your critique, here, and I think it's an important point. What is it about weddings and marriage (and our attitudes to them) that makes us conflate the one with the other? I also wonder whether this is a historical phenomenon. The metonymic relationships between the words "marriage", "getting married/wed" and "wedding" seem like strong ones, it would be interesting to study the ways that the different words have been used in relationship to each other over time, to try to discern any patterns that might reflect conceptual changes.
posted by howfar at 1:10 PM on September 30, 2017


Because ceremonies are man-made constructs, so we can have them for anything we like.
When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'
OK, OK I kid but what I mean is that you can't call an anniversary celebration a ceremony because it isn't a ceremony. A ceremony isn't just an especially pompous party, it's a process which effects a change. That is what the marriage ceremony is typically understood to be. So, assuming we can agree definitions, a 50th wedding anniversary can't ever be a ceremony, because it doesn't cause the anniversary, it just marks it.
posted by howfar at 1:18 PM on September 30, 2017


As a non-Jew it would feel horribly appropriative to start celebrating ersatz Hebrew ceremonies. We already have confirmation ceremonies, sweet sixteens etc. I also wouldn't want to have a secular passover seder.
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:20 PM on September 30, 2017


it's a process which effects a change.

But that's just it, though. The only process that effects a positive change in one's life is effort (and happenstance). A ceremony can illustrate or encapsulate that, but a ceremony does not actually effect anything.
posted by marimeko at 1:45 PM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


The only process that effects a positive change in one's life is effort (and happenstance). A ceremony can illustrate or encapsulate that, but a ceremony does not actually effect anything.

That's seems to be a philosophical argument against the existence of ceremony in any form. Which, while it isn't necessarily an unreasonable position to hold, isn't widespread. The typical model of marriage is that the ceremony is performative, in the Austinean sense, being a speech act which changes something in the world. It's like a contract made on a handshake: by undergoing a particular, mutually understood symbolic process, we change our shared reality. I think the stronger position isn't to say that wedding ceremonies don't change anything (when I think they do, even if the change isn't positive) but to point out the strange conflation of the ceremonial and substantive aspects of marriage.
posted by howfar at 2:09 PM on September 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


As a non-Jew it would feel horribly appropriative to start celebrating ersatz Hebrew ceremonies.

Isn't this sort of what Jews For Jesus does? Or do I have that backwards? In my 20s or 30s an older cousin became a JFJ and I remember a few things like that.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:21 PM on September 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


I thought JFJ was an attempt to sell Protestant Christianity to people of ethnically/culturally Jewish heritage, supplanting Judaism.
posted by acb at 2:29 PM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


You know I would actually not be offended if a graduating kid had a registry. Heck yeah I'll buy you a rice pot, or a comforter!
posted by emjaybee at 2:58 PM on September 30, 2017 [6 favorites]


In my family it was pretty standard to give graduates gift cards to Target, BB&B and the like.
posted by AFABulous at 3:19 PM on September 30, 2017


Thinking about this a little more, I've identified my discomfort further with the "self-marriage" thing: it's not about the nature of the relationship, so much as that it's impossible to give unselfish love to yourself, because you benefit in every way every time you do.

I really feel like learning to give love to another person with no expectation of return is an amazing and huge thing, and I would show up all day anyday to celebrate anyone who has learned how to do that with another human such that they want to hold a commitment ceremony. It doesn't have to be romantic love - it can be familial, spiritual, really anything. I will show up and cheer and probably bring a present. It's awesome.

But you are your best companion, because you don't have to give up anything, no compromises required, to be with yourself, which means that no matter how much you are able to love yourself it's not the same kind of love. It's still important to love yourself, but it just doesn't make sense to make a commitment, because what would you have to give up?
posted by corb at 3:29 PM on September 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


I really feel like learning to give love to another person with no expectation of return is an amazing and huge thing

But isn't marriage, when it works, much more about giving love in the justified and fulfilled expectation of receiving it in return? Does a good marriage to another really involve more sacrifice than a commitment to yourself? Isn't it more a you pays your money and takes your choice situation? There's something in what you say that makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, because I feel like there is often a pressure on women to get married, and (I know not intentionally, and I know you're not just thinking about marriage) it seems like your position could lend support to the notion that there is a moral imperative to partner, with unintended consequences in the context of patriarchy.
posted by howfar at 3:59 PM on September 30, 2017 [6 favorites]


I really feel like learning to give love to another person with no expectation of return is an amazing and huge thing

Is that really what we're talking about when we talk about marriage though?

Because that would render all of the various emotional labor threads invalid.

I'm not meaning to be flip here, but as a single person... I never had that as an expectation of a long term relationship. Parenthood... I could see that. But even then, most parent/child relationships (even good ones) have expectations baked in.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 4:01 PM on September 30, 2017 [4 favorites]


I have so many conflicting thoughts and feelings on this idea in general as a perpetually single person.

The idea of aping a wedding is distasteful to me. There are things drawn up into a wedding that I'd like to have (a huge party with people from all walks of my life sounds fantastic for one) and goodness knows I'd like to have the "you have achieved full adult status" badge that seems to come with getting married... but the whole ring and vows and all that just seems to be off.

However, I really do love the idea of having a commitment to self ceremony of some kind. I know so many women, both single and coupled, who have been drifting through life. I love the idea of committing yourself in a ritual to being more loving to yourself, to commit to true acts of self-care, and to following one's own dreams. I feel like I see so many people get subsumed by the expectations of others. I think there could be something radical in declaring that level of acceptance of one's own self-worth. I know a lot of people already walk through life with this feeling as a birthright, but so many people do not. It would be great for those people to have a ritual to reclaim themselves. And if it involves kitchen aid mixers and giant parties... I'd be down with that too.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 5:17 PM on September 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


"Because ceremonies are man-made constructs, so we can have them for anything we like. Ceremonies are made-up and vary widely across the country. Ceremonies are only considered "ritual" because the ones we generally celebrate have been in place for some time. "

howfar's hitting on a slightly different distinction -- that weddings, graduations, bar/bat mitzvahs, confirmations, funerals, etc., are ceremonies or liturgies that effectuate a change in status of the individual in the ceremony, typically marking the end of a liminal phase (engagement, studying, youth, dying) and involving public recognition by the community. A wedding reception is a party. A birthday party is a party. There are (or at least can be) ritualistic aspects to these parties, but if you want to make a powerful ceremony with social meaning -- not just a party -- you need to pay attention to the demands of traditional ceremonies. (In the article where the author does a 10-week self-commitment class with introspection and exercises and then has her self-commitment ceremony, that's a great example! There's a period of preparation and liminality, capped by a ceremony marking a change in community status.)

Where society fails to provide appropriate ceremonies to mark life events, people build their own based on what's available -- like turning a marriage into a self-marriage. Or, American culture doesn't provide any meaningful transition-to-adulthood ceremonies, so people engage in stupid-ass drinking stunts for their 21st birthday, or have ridiculously excessive sweet 16 parties. When society fails to provide a ceremony, people will improvise.

So one of the things that these self-marriages are saying is, "Society fails to provide a way for women (especially single women) to declare their transition to adulthood in their communities, their sense that they have completed a period of growth and desire to be recognized by their communities as having completed this transition." In American society, weddings DO often serve as a "transition to adulthood" ceremony because we don't really have anything else, and being married traditionally led to greater access to adult society. But clearly marriage-qua-marriage no longer is a transition to adulthood (we generally hope people are already adults when they do it, if they do it at all!).

If I were going to create a ceremony for adult self-declaration (for women, I'll specify) -- well, first, I think we're marking the passage from young adulthood into "full adulthood." I'd include some sort of readings of sacred texts relating to womanhood and adulthood (sacred texts here being "what's meaningful to the woman in question"); a recitation by the woman herself of girlhood/young adulthood/obstacles overcome; a naming of those who have helped her along the way; a blessing of some sort (secular or religious) performed by an elder or by those named as her helpmeets; a reception by the community (through a prayer or recitation or call-and-response or physical action); a "sermon" by an elder or leader, welcoming the woman and giving her advice; giving and receiving of symbolic gifts; I'll stop there for now. The ceremony would be solemn (and serious, and sometimes silly); the afterparty would be fun.

My master's degree is in liturgy, and my masters thesis was actually about the stunning lack of liturgies recognizing pregnancy (and birth, from the mother's POV -- the baby of course gets naming ceremonies) in Western monotheistic traditions, and the failure of the institutional Church to recognize this crucial liminal state and life-transition; the second part of it was creating a proposed liturgy for Catholics (and high-church Protestants). So this is like hugely relevant to my interests!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:45 PM on September 30, 2017 [12 favorites]


Oh, this poem was published in Poetry in January: Megan Married Herself
posted by Gymnopedist at 6:57 AM on October 1, 2017


I'm kinda sad that this thread went 36 hours and nobody linked to I Married Myself by Sparks.
posted by elsietheeel at 7:57 AM on October 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


I think it's, 'why aren't young girls dreaming of their graduations one day'?

Because that's not the narrative we sell to little girls. You don't get "happily ever after" with an MFA. You get it with a groom and then we NEVER HEAR FROM YOU AGAIN because your story is over! Congratulations! You found the Prince! And this is the story so ingrained in our culture that it often takes hard, intensive work on the self to shake loose of it and see other options. MetaFilter really lives in a bubble when it comes to this kind of thing.

And people wonder why the divorce rate is so high. There's no narrative structure in place for what comes after the wedding in terms of the bride's happiness except vague hand-waving about "you'll love being a mom!" and so on. The massively prevalent narrative for a woman is grow up/get married/you won the game (now have babies).
posted by tzikeh at 10:38 AM on October 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


But you are your best companion, because you don't have to give up anything, no compromises required, to be with yourself,

This is actually not true for women, at least. I like my single life, and apparently I am ferocious enough that no one feels comfortable giving me crap about it to my face, but I know it involves a diminishment of social status, loss of certain financial incentives, and, for me, most critically right now--no dog, because it's a lot harder to look after a dog when you're on your own. There are definitely compromises involved here. Just not the compromise of having some jackass with his feet up on your couch eating your food and wondering why you didn't just tell him to put the plate in the dishwasher when he's done instead of getting all naggy about it, geez, are you on your period again?

My master's degree is in liturgy, and my masters thesis was actually about the stunning lack of liturgies recognizing pregnancy (and birth, from the mother's POV -- the baby of course gets naming ceremonies) in Western monotheistic traditions, and the failure of the institutional Church to recognize this crucial liminal state and life-transition

Churching was pretty creepy, though...
posted by praemunire at 12:41 PM on October 1, 2017 [5 favorites]


In the last Anne of Green Gables book, Rilla of Ingleside, the middle-aged housekeeper, Susan Baker, provides sterling emotional and practical support throughout Anne's family's difficult World War I years. When things have calmed down, she announces

"And now, Mrs. Dr. dear," said Susan, "since the fall house-cleaning is over and the garden truck is all safe in cellar, I am going to take a honeymoon to celebrate the peace."
"A honeymoon, Susan?"
"Yes, Mrs. Dr. dear, a honeymoon," repeated Susan firmly. "I shall never be able to get a husband but I am not going to be cheated out of everything and a honeymoon I intend to have....I shall be away a fortnight if you can spare me so long."
"You certainly deserve a good holiday, Susan. Better take a month—that is the proper length for a honeymoon."
"No, Mrs. Dr. dear, a fortnight is all I require. ...

She seems to have been ahead of her time.
posted by huimangm at 8:18 PM on October 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


Isn't learning to love yourself the greatest love of all?
posted by asperity at 8:26 PM on October 1, 2017


Well shit, I work my ass off but after all of this time I end up being Susan Baker in the end.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:00 PM on October 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


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