Commentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The idea of a person marrying himself or herself in a formal ceremony might sound bizarre to most, but it has become the media’s latest crusade to redefine marriage.
According to the Media Research Center, CNN’s sister network, HLN, recently featured a story trumpeting the latest in non-traditional-marriage trends – self- marriage – in which a person makes a vow and binds themselves to matrimonial values. Some bride/grooms wear traditional wedding garb to these peculiar events, invite guests, cut the cake, and otherwise celebrate their love for themselves.
“There are about 32 million people in the United States who are in single households — about a quarter of all households,” said Brian Powell, professor of sociology at Indiana University to HLN. “And if you think of it that way, that means that all these people are living single and they live in a society where singledom is not recognized by a lot of people. It doesn’t surprise me that people who live alone want some type of acknowledgment from others that this is a reasonable choice.”
For some people, the narcissistic practice of self-marriage seems to be the way to acquire that acknowledgement. Nine years ago, a 30 year-old artist named Jennifer Hoes from Haarlem, The Netherlands, made headlines when she married herself as a way to work on herself in the context of a relationship.
“I want to celebrate with others how much I’m in love with myself,” she told Haarlem’s Dagblad newspaper about her 2003 nuptials.
Hoes claimed the wedding was a reward for years of struggle between the emotional and business sides of her character.
“Finally I managed to unite these conflicting parts of my character, and I find it most logical that it results in a wedding,” she said.
An alderman from the city of Haarlem agreed to act as registrar even though the marriage was not officially registered.
Even if she does get married to a man one day, Hoes says she’ll never divorce herself. “I don’t want to become emotionally dependent from another for not being in balance with myself. This marriage is really for better or for worse,” she added.
Two years ago, Chen Wei-yih, a Taiwanese woman who goes by the name of “Only,” also married herself in a small ceremony that was attended by 30 friends and family. The bride/groom wore a white gown and carried a bouquet of flowers and was only too happy to launch a Facebook page called “Only and Only’s Wedding” to document the event. The page has almost 4,000 “likes.”
“When I look back at my wedding, at the self-commitment now, I feel it is a thing to remind me that I should not betray myself in any way and any time,” Only told HLN.
The most recent self-marriage was that of a 36 year-old North Dakota yoga instructor named Nadine Schweigert who married herself in a commitment ceremony last March. A Youtube video of the event shows the bride/groom in blue satin and carrying a bouquet of white roses with more than 300 friends and family in attendance. According to MyFox Phoenix, guests were asked to “blow kisses to the world” after she exchanged rings with her “inner groom.”
“I feel very empowered, very happy, very joyous … I want to share that with people, and also the people that were in attendance, it’s a form of accountability,” Schweigert recently told CNN‘s Anderson Cooper.
She claimed the ceremony was a celebration of how far she’d come since her painful divorce six years ago that led her two children to decide to move in with her ex-husband.
“Six years ago I would’ve handled a problem by going out and drinking,” she said. “I smoked, I was 50 pounds overweight … this is just celebrating how far I’ve come in my life.”
She claims to take herself out on dates to treat herself and to “invest in this relationship.”
The concept has its fans, such as Samhita Mukhopadhyay of the liberal The American Prospect magazine, who declared Schweigert a hero. “Whether she meant to or not, she also showed the world she didn’t need a man to get married” and that “Schweigert’s decision and the decision of many women like her is actually quite courageous.”
But not everyone agrees. In fact, Schweigert’s 11 year-old son admitted that he was not in favor of what his mother was doing. His initial response was to put his hand on his mother’s shoulder and say, ‘I love you, but I’m embarrassed for you right now and I’m not coming’.” He eventually changed his mind and attended the wedding.
Susan Pazak, a psychologist from Southern California is another opponent. “Having a celebration focused on a woman’s or man’s progress, growth or accomplishments in front of family and friends is a great idea to being accountable to continue to grow and love oneself … calling it a marriage to self does not seem appropriate.”
The MRC concludes: “The very definition of the term marriage has become flexible, subject to change and reinterpretation. The term marriage is being redefined to mean any ‘special’ relationship which one person has with anybody, including this formalized narcissism.”
Regardless of its critics, self-marriage has become the new media darling, taking its place alongside other “choices” and “lifestyles” such as transgendered beauty queens and men who give birth. The only qualifier seems to be that the “choices” and “lifestyles” are anything but traditional.
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