Ideas

Ideas | Mark Peters

The ‘sologamy’ trend: ‘Love yourself’ is more than just good advice

A bride poses for her wedding pictures on a pier along the shore of Lake Paranoa, on the 100th day without rain in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. The capital's drought record occurred in 1963, when the capital was without rain for 164 days, or about five months. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
Eraldo Peres/Associated Press/File

“Love yourself” is good advice and a foundation of the therapy business. Some take that advice more seriously than others: such as single people who opt to marry themselves in elaborate sologamy ceremonies.

For example, an Italian woman named Laura Mesi recently drew supportive nods, raised eyebrows, and media attention aplenty for her sologamy ritual. With 70 guests, a wedding cake, a honeymoon (solomoon?) in Egypt, and presumably a huge bill, Mesi’s commitment to herself had every trapping of a “normal” wedding — except a partner.

Reviews of the trend are mixed. The Daily Wire describes sologamy as “The Saddest Trend You’ve Ever Heard Of.” Other publications are more sympathetic, such as Cosmopolitan, which featured the recent headline, “Why Women Are Choosing to Marry Themselves.” Whether you find sologamy depressing or empowering, it’s a fascinating word and logical trend, given the still-high pressure to marry, especially for women.

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There are several precedents for sologamy or self-marriage, even if they don’t use either word. In a 2003 episode of “Sex and the City,” Carrie Bradshaw announces her plan to marry herself (and starts a registry as part of some hijinks involving lost shoes). In 1993, real-life Inglewood, California resident Linda Baker celebrated her 40th birthday by marrying herself. That combination may be a trend within a trend: Oregon resident and educator Jennifer Hammer combined her 40th with a self-marriage ceremony last year, and Mesi’s ceremony was also timed to her 40th.

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Back in 1985, a Doonesbury storyline featured a “singularity ceremony.” Supporting character Marcia Feinbloom decided to have a sologamy-type event for herself, ending, as she put it, “one of the most extensive manhunts in the history of Manhattan.” Part of her announcement resonates well with today’s sologamists: “Today is an occasion for new beginnings. At the stroke of midnight, I will be taking a vow to get on with my life!”

Such sentiments are common for self-marriers and are examined in books such as Sasha Cagen’s “Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics” and Linda Chappo’s “Marry Your Self First: Your Key to Manifesting Loving Relationships.” Most sologamists share a desire to feel complete and loved even if they never find that perfect partner. Not that they give up on looking entirely: saying “yes” to yourself doesn’t mean saying “no” to sex and relationships. They’ve just emphatically rejected the idea that being single makes you an incomplete, depressing and/or depressed social defective.

“Sologamy” is part of a family of marriage-centric words going back centuries. Bigamy is a common word for having two spouses, but just about every number has formed a similar polygamy-describing word: including “octogamy,” a word for having eight spouses that’s been around since at least the 1300s and appears in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” “Adelphogamy” is marriage between brothers and sisters, but not the way you’re thinking: it usually involves several brothers from one family marrying several sisters from another. “Autogamy” sounds like a synonym for sologamy, and it almost is — it refers to self-fertilization. Fertilization, like marriage, is a common subject for words formed from “-gamy,” which is derived from Greek.

Many articles on sologamy have spotlighted the website iamarriedme.com, which sells items such as the I Married Me Self-Wedding In-A-Box ($50 with a silver band, $230 with gold). This business is a side product of married couple Jeffrey Lavin (a jeweler) and Bonnie Powers (a branding strategist). Levin describes the business as “extremely part-time” and not a significant source of revenue. Rather, he said the idea is “to support and put forward the idea of self-improvement and positivity.”

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The business was inspired by Levin’s own wedding to Powers, in which they not only exchanged vows but performed a self-marriage ceremony for guests. That led to the sologamy services they’ve been offering since 2013. Levin said choosing sologamy isn’t about “not having a ring,” but rather affirming the self. Their products promote healing notions such as forgiving, honoring, and loving yourself. Such affirmations are appealing to people worn out from the blaring chorus of people asking, “Are you married yet?” Sologamy is a creative way to say “yes” and get on with your life.

“Marriage” is one of the most controversial words in the dictionary, but since lexicographers follow usage rather than morals, all major dictionaries include same-sex marriage in their definition. If sologamy catches on, dictionary writers will need to make another addendum that broadens the term further. Marriage has most often been about the number two. If solo marriage spreads further, marriage may finally be about number one.

Mark Peters is the Ideas language writer.