Last year VICE asked the question: Is marrying yourself the next hot self-esteem trend? Reports were coming in of women from California to the UK's south coast, mostly in their thirties, taking the next step with themselves. Sticking up two fingers to convention and saying, "Alright, I'll take your outmoded tradition, your patriarchal road to ruin, and I'll make it about myself in every single way."
Sologamy, as it's called by the powers that be, isn't recognised in the US or Europe. However, while it might not be a legally binding union, it is part of a growing self-empowerment movement. The benefits are plentiful – no pressure to change your perfectly decent surname, no doing sex with the same body again and again, no resentment over a lopsided cleaning rota. It's all about real self-love. So you can see why people are into it.
Sasha Cagen is a life coach who offers lessons on how to embrace what she calls the "quirkyalone" lifestyle: a way of being for those who find themselves terminally single and just want to appreciate being alone until something perfect comes along romantically, if ever. Cagen is an advocate of the self-wedding, which she views as a much-needed coming-of-age ritual that functions like a Bat Mitzvah or a quinceañera. She wrote a book about it when it first started happening in northern California ten years ago, and now runs a business off of it. Plenty of women have got self-married directly as a result of her ideas and direction.
There are also plenty of critics of the concept, who largely think it's a narcissistic mess and the true embodiment of everything wrong with a society centred around self-importance and personal fulfilment. However, with the amount of young people staying single on the up, it's likely a move that will continue to appeal to some.
But is it a solid idea? Does it actually make you feel any better, or does your face now just come up in Google Images every time someone searches "woman marries herself"? I spoke to Cagen and other women who married themselves in the past year or so to see how they feel about their commitment retrospectively, and how – or if – it's really changed anything.
Sophie Tanner, Brighton, novelist.
VICE: During the honeymoon period were you just totally in love with yourself?
Sophie Tanner: Yeah I was. Six months before the wedding I'd moved into a studio and lived alone for the first time ever. I felt really lonely and weird about it. But in the honeymoon period there was a change. I was more, "You know what? We're going to have a night in together." There was a sense of treating yourself and indulging. People ask if I want to get married and I can say, "Actually, I'm already married to myself." You don't have to worry any more. You're not waiting around for the one because you are the one. You've found that person.
Have you had the usual marriage ups and downs?
I've had a lot of sickness: normal winter crap, sinusitis, colds and that sort of thing. And that phrase keeps floating around in my head – "through sickness and in health". It can be depressing and boring when you're ill in bed all the time. I'm expecting serious arguments and bad patches because people change and I'm expecting to change again, and have to get to know myself again and accept that change. I think there's always going to be times when I let myself down or I behave in a way I'm ashamed of. But I'll just accept that and not beat myself up.
If you do date anyone else, how will that work with your marriage? Would you get a second marriage?
People think if you marry yourself you gain a nun status, but obviously if you're a nun you commit your body to God. This is committing yourself to yourself. You can still love everyone else. Some people ask if I'd divorce myself, but divorcing yourself is being in the worst place you could be. That's when you don't ever want to live with yourself again, which is akin to suicide, really. I'm not going to get to that point. So would it be polygamy? I don't know how it fits, but I'm open to a relationship or potentially marriage.
Do you think self-marriage receives criticism because it's a form of radical self-love too great for a lot of people to come to terms with?
Yeah. Stylist covered it when I first got married, and although I'd addressed the concept of narcissism quite a lot, there was a lot of chat about how it was narcissistic. There's a huge difference between vanity and self-love. Why people find that the most vain thing you can do in this society – when selfies are so prevalent and there's so much about putting on your best face and appearance – I don't know.
Do you have anniversary plans?
I might be going to France in the mountains and getting some people who want to get married to themselves to come too. Have a big banquet. I thought it'd be nice to work with a charity for disadvantaged young women, to empower them.
Grace Gelder, London, photographer**.**
VICE: Why did you want a self-marriage?