Yasmin Eleby did not want to be single at 40. So when her birthday rolled around she bought a purple dress, rented out a Houston-area museum, and rounded up ten bridesmaids. Then she married herself.
"She's attractive, she works hard, and she's worldwide," the CEO of the museum told a Houston Chronicle reporter. "It doesn't hurt her that's she's now indicated to others that she has high standards."
Sologamy, as it's called, is not recognized in the United States or Europe. Self-marriage isn't a legally binding union, but part of a self-empowerment movement that started in 2000 and soon became a minor trend —which means Eleby is far from first woman to marry herself. And while there aren't really any obvious benefits to doing it—you don't get tax breaks and your mom isn't going to be relieved that you've "settled down"—some advocates say the world would be a much better place if everyone did it.
Back in 1957, a University of Michigan study showed 80 percent of people thought people who preferred being single were "immoral" or "sick." But in the 90s, there were shows like Sex and the City and Ally McBeal that showed women prizing friendships and, crucially, themselves over their relationships with men.
That idea coalesced with Sasha Cagen at a 1999 New Year's Eve party. She was anxious about not having anyone to kiss, although she realized at midnight that absolutely no one else did either. So the next year she wrote her manifesto on quirkyalone, which she defines as "a person who enjoys being single (or spending time alone) and so prefers to wait for the right person to come along as opposed to dating indiscriminately."
Last year, she started offering coaching and lessons on how to embrace the quirkyalone lifestyle. It's her whole business. Among the things she's proselytizes is the self-wedding, which she views as a much-needed coming-of-age ritual that functions like a Bat Mitzvah or a quinceanera. Five women have done it under her tutelage, Cagen says, and she married herself last year.
"If it catches on people would be comfortable having registries," she told me. "We don't really have a way of saying we've arrived as adults. This says, 'I'm really to take myself seriously as a person.'"
It used to be that you went from living with your parents to living with your spouse, at which time you were an adult. But in 2005, a whopping 51 percent of American women lived alone. The sea change inspired a book by NYU professor Eric Klinenberg called Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, which combated some of the "spinster" or "weirdo" stereotypes that used to come with living by yourself. He agrees with Cagen that there shouldn't be some huge anxiety of turning 33, looking around, and panicking about not having someone to marry.
"In fact, people who live alone tend to spend more time socializing with friends and neighbors than people who are married," Klinenberg told Smithsonian in an interview. "So one thing I learned is that living alone is not an entirely solitary experience. It's quite a social one."
The practice has two more advocates in a husband-and-wife duo that started a company called I Married Me. For $300, people can send away for a ring (rose, gold, or silver) and a box full of inspirational cards. Jeffrey Levin says the idea came when he met someone who performed self-weddings at Burning Man. And when he married his wife, he also married all 120 of their wedding guests… to themselves. (He told me that he gets about an order per week on his website.)
Who knows if Eleby was inspired by sociological studies or terms like "quirkyalone," or anything other than an excuse to go on a honeymoon. She didn't respond to my request for comment, so it's hard to say if she considers it comical or life-changing. If you're willing to take the word of someone trying to make a buck off the micro-trend, it's definitely the latter.
"To be honest, it's a hard sell," Levin told me. "People think it's very self-absorbed. It's not something they embrace too quickly. When they do it on a personal level, it's quite profound and quite powerful."
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