I am really not sure what to say, but I had to share this. Almost 30 years ago, the comic strip Doonesbury featured a two week series about a single woman, Marcia, who decided that she was tired of looking for Mr. Right, and was going to celebrate her new freedom by holding a singularity ceremony, complete with flowers, a minister, invitations and “bridal” registry:
(The whole series can be viewed at GoComics.com.) The strip was an acerbic commentary on dating and social expectations in the 1980’s; it was funny and sad and so over the top I assumed it was satire. Until today.
Yesterday, the Guardian ran an essay entitled I Married Myself. In earnest prose the photographer Grace Gelder describes her engagement:
Not that I could say with any certainty how exactly I’d found myself in the rather surreal scenario of proposing to myself on a park bench on Parliament Hill last November….I’d been on a journey of personal development using meditation, dance and performance to increase my self-awareness. Included in this was a Shakti Tantra programme focused on sexuality and how this was bound up with making agreements with yourself and other people. Sitting on that park bench, it dawned on me that a self-marriage ceremony witnessed by other people would potentially be this massively powerful means of making those agreements stick.
She goes on to describe planning the ceremony, buying a dress and picking out a ring. It culminates in a ceremony sealed with a kiss:
It felt like a really big deal saying my vows, which were mostly about me promising to take more risks in matters of the heart. I remember really paying attention to the words as they left my mouth and it felt like they were hanging in the air. Equally, the ring, a less spontaneous purchase than the dress, brought home to me this idea of commitment, sealing the deal if you like. The day was obviously centred on me, the final event being a mirror for me to kiss, but it also felt like I was sharing something very special with my friends, giving everyone an opportunity to reflect on their own ideas of love and commitment.
Someone, please!, help me understand this. It would be very easy to turn on the snark and mock this woman for her self-absorption and lack of understanding of the meaning of marriage. And maybe that is all that is going on. But something is telling me that there is more going on here and that on the eve of the Synod on the Family, it is important to try to empathize with this woman, and more importantly, try to understand the cultural forces which shaped this decision. This is the culture to which we must bear witness, but before we can do that we have to meet them where they are—wherever that is.