Fremdschämen: a German word made of fremd (foreign) and schamen (to be embarrassed). The term is typically used to describe someone who feels embarrassment on behalf of someone else.
Marriage is about many things, but at its center is a relationship. It is people deciding to stick together through thick and thin, come what may. It’s that partnership, that joining of lives, that makes it a marriage.
The term marriage, even outside of wedded bliss, means coming together, so imagine my surprise when I saw an article in Good Housekeeping entitled “Why I Married Myself: Self-Marriage is a Growing Movement Around the World.”
The piece opens on the story of one Erika Anderson, who held a wedding for herself (and herself) complete with invitations, vows, and shot glasses reading “You and Me” (one has to wonder who the “you” is in this equation, as she or he is demonstrably absent). Anderson wears a ring that reads “I choose you” in French.
Who did? You? You were born with you. You had literally no choice in the matter.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” GH reports the wedding invitations read. “I had cold feet for 35 years. But then I decided it was time to settle down. To get myself a whole damn apartment. To celebrate birthday #36 by wearing an engagement ring and saying: YES TO ME. I even made a registry, because this is America.”
Yes, that’s right. She wants gifts for nothing, for undertaking no rite of passage. For, essentially, throwing herself a party.
“There’s something about people coming together and saying, ‘We see you, we support you, we’re in it with you,’”Anderson said. Would her friends not see and support her without a sham wedding? In the words of her own father, “Is this for real?”
Even those involved don’t treat it like an actual marriage. Anderson says she will keep dating, something actual married people do not do. Sasha Cagen, who also “married” herself, says that she is open to meeting someone else and getting married. As in, actually married. Would she consider that bigamy or, at the very least, being unfaithful to herself?
Ladies, You’re Making Everything Worse
Self-marriage appears to be a mostly female movement meant to prove that one can be successful and fulfilled without a man while only reinforcing the stereotype that women are marriage-crazy.
It is, of course, entirely possible to commit to treating oneself well and to be fulfilled without a partner in life, all without pretending to have a partner by using the term “marriage.” It is possible to say that you need to take some time to work on yourself before adding another person to the equation, also without using the term “marriage.”
While this may seem like a way for women to have a wedding for the sake of having a wedding, Anderson was once married (to another person), so she’s had that experience. This isn’t a case of FOMO (fear of missing out) gone nuclear. It’s much deeper than that. These women seem so desperate for a connection that they’re pretending to have one in a way that could prevent them from having a real one. It made me sad. These women express interest in being married to a man someday, but what suitor wants to take on a woman who claims to be married—to herself?
In the article, nearly everyone quoted talks about this action as a way to commit to treating oneself well, for better or for worse. There is nothing wrong with these goals. Many people treat themselves so poorly that they wouldn’t dream of treating another person that way. Treat yourself well, ladies—but there’s no reason to pretend to be married in order to do that.
Step Back and Rethink This
One has to wonder if, deep down, this is a method of self-protection. A wedding ring is a strong sign that a person is taken, so for someone who had genuinely hoped to meet a partner, it would be completely counterintuitive to wear one. This seems more like a way to get “married” while avoiding the risk of getting hurt.
Equally alarming is the friends who support it. A true friend will encourage his or her friends and be there for them, which can sometimes mean giving them a reality check. If your friend is thinking about marrying herself, this is the time to support her by not supporting her bizarre actions. It’s the time to tell her to get to the deeper issues here rather than derail her life.
These ladies doth protest way too much. As for Good Housekeeping, I thought they were better than this.