a self-love poster spotted on Providence’s not-so-mean streets
I spotted this philosophical poster on my way across the street to walk underneath the changing trees of fall.
“A heart that loves itself cannot broken.”
First let me say that I love these mysterious people who are stapling self-love posters to telephone poles. Their intent to spread the message of self-compassion could not be more admirable. Their tactile work is so much more satisfying and human to take in than another inspirational quote on Instagram.
My heart swelled reading their message. But my critical mind could not stop there.
“But is this true?” I stopped to ask myself, before crossing the street to walk through the park. “Is it really true that a heart that loves itself cannot be broken?”
the first blush of fall on that walk
My heart got broken this year in a way that it had not been broken in years. There were nights when I woke up at 4 am and felt like a meteor had landed in my heart, leaving a charred crater in its wake. The despair of that break-up left my heart jagged and in pieces.
Did that mean that I don’t love myself? Or did that mean I was allowing myself to feel?
I thought about that lovely poster on my walk through the trees.
Here’s how I would amend the text if I were to make it feel true to me.
“A heart that loves itself cannot be permanently broken.”
“A heart that loves itself heals more quickly after heartbreak.”
“A heart that loves itself will not lose itself in grief for years.”
“A heart that loves itself will grow more resilient to love again.”
When I was going through the worst of this heartbreak, someone told me it was a good sign that my heart hurt so deeply. Being more heartbroken than ever, he said, meant I had opened up to love, and the hurt would only lead my heart to grow back stronger. I took solace in the idea that heartbreak could only grow my capacity to love.
Here is what I know for sure by now: Heartbreak is unavoidable. Loss is the flaw in love. Many of our attempts at romantic relationships do not work out over the long-term. Even superficial online dating attempts can break your heart, slowly over time, little by little, cut by cut. Horrible people will be elected as our leaders. People will disappoint us. Our friends and lovers and family will pass away.
There is always going to be heartbreak and disappointment.
The best we can hope for is that our hearts break and then grow back stronger. Self-love comes when we stop blaming ourselves. The key to healing your heart is taking out the thorn of self-blame.
Healing is a shift in perspective. A shift of knowing that you are lovable and life can be good even after devastation. Cue the song, “I Will Survive.” Seriously, if you are going through a heartbreak right now, play that song on YouTube and dance to it. We need to feel the feelings and let them move through us, through journaling, talking with a trusted friend, coach or therapist, dancing, walking, or whatever works best for you to alchemize the pain.
It’s not inevitable that a heart grows back stronger. A heart can also break and not stitch back together. A heart can grow bitter, jaded, shriveled, and resigned, which happens all the time.
Many, many people give up on love and their dreams all the time. It’s a miracle to keep going and to be at peace with your life as it is right now.
It takes a strong heart to keep on beating. A heart that loves itself.
P.S. In a little over two weeks, on Thursday November 4, at 8 pm ET (NYC time), I am going to interview my dear friend Carolyn Arnold about her new memoir Fifty First Dates after Fifty. This is a free online event to celebrate the launch of Carolyn’s book. We would love for you to join us.
Carolyn, an inveterate social scientist, and definitely a quirky, independent woman, devised an unusual dating plan to go on fifty first dates to find the right partner for her. I’ll be asking her about how she stitched her heart back together after disappointments and rejections.
Once you have been slammed a number of times in dating, how can you stay positive and keep going? You can read this interview I did with Carolyn way back in 2012 to get a taste for what we will be talking about.
If you have been considering working with me as your life coach this free event is a nice low-pressure chance to get to know me a little better and see me in action interviewing Carolyn. If you are over 40, 50, 60, or 70 and battle voices in your head thinking it’s too late, you should definitely come. You can register here.
Me encanto la charla! I loved being on Univision’s ¡Despierta América! (that’s “Wake Up America,” a kind of Good Morning America aimed at the Latino audience in the US) talking about self-marriage and what I do to reconcile with myself after a big internal conflict … give myself a kiss and buy myself chocolate! This interview was funny!
I love it when the interviewers ask interesting questions. Paola Gutierrez asked me what made me fall in love with myself enough to marry myself. I thought for a second and said, “My sensitivity.”
Awwwww. I fell in love with myself all over again.
if you understand Spanish, watch this interview! Or even if you don’t speak Spanish. This chat has buena onda (good vibes).
Last month was one of the more bizarre periods of my life. When I married myself five years ago it was an entirely private ritual that only two friends attended. Marrying myself had nothing to do with being single. Marrying myself was about a deep process of self-love and -acceptance. Really marrying myself was part of a healing process.
After TeleNoche aired an interview with me about self-marriage a month ago the Argentine (and Latin American) press got interested–as far away as Marie Claire Mexico.
I did three TV interviews, two radio, and two for the press, all in Spanish! Whoah!
Suddenly everyone knew me as “the first woman in Argentina who married herself.” People I interact with daily on my block (at the cafe, gym, kiosco, and health food store) congratulated me.
Weeks later my body pump teacher at the gym is still teasing me every time I slow down during the class. “Sasha, is marriage not treating you well?”
The latest surreal conversation on my block was with the Venelezuan at the local dietetica (health food shop) who came out from behind the counter when I was shopping to ask if was me. “Are you the woman who married herself?” I was there to buy almond milk and suddenly I was talking to him about what happens when women make vows to themselves.
If the people in my neighborhood are any indication, self-marriage had captured the attention of Argentina. Or Latin America. I didn’t even know it was possible anymore to achieve such media penetration now with so many different outlets. A woman in my weekly writing group told me she heard people talking about self-marriage everywhere from Twitter to Clarin to La Nación, Argentina’s leading conservative paper where a man wrote this little essay mocking self-marriage. He ended this with this typically Argentine poetic ending, “I point out that there is no love for oneself, above all, because there is no love for oneself without love for the other. and vice versa.”
Right. Exactly. That’s what I have been saying. We are in agreement buddy. My self-marriage was a private act. I never posted about marrying myself when I took that leap back in 2014 but I got a lot of benefit from marrying myself so when media wants to talk to me about it I oblige. My self-marriage was all about building my capacity to love myself–and others too. Then people get angry that women want to love themselves! “You’re such a narcissist.” “How sad you couldn’t find anyone to marry.” “Society is falling apart, etc.”
Maybe these people haven’t noticed that women have a tendency to give away so much of themselves in relationship (or in the pursuit of relationship) there is not enough left for themselves. When you love yourself you have more love to give. You’ll have better relationships! Why is making vows to love and care for yourself narcissistic? On the other hand, the Marie Claire Mexico got it just right in their writeup, pointing out that you can be in a relationship and marry yourself too.
How this “First Woman to Marry Herself in Argentina” madness started
This Latin American wave of self-marriage publicity started three weeks ago when Jason Mayne, a young reporter from TeleNoche was researching self-marriage because he was going to LA to do a story and wanted to do more. He discovered in a news story that I married myself here in 2014 in Buenos Aires’ Japanese Garden. He emailed me and two days later we taped an interview about self-marriage in the Japanese Garden, just where I had married myself with two friends in a very private, tiny ceremony five years before, witnessed by two close friends: one Colombian, one Estonian, both fellow tangueras.
I didn’t tell anyone on social media about my self-marriage when it happened. No one cared for five years. Where were all those self-wedding presents? Hahahahah evil laugh. After TeleNoche, all of a sudden all Argentine media wanted to talk to me.
In the last two weeks I have done three television interviews, two radio interviews, and one print interview (Infobae) for one of the biggest new sources. One Argentine friend emailed to say, “You’re busier than the president!” In fact, I lost myself in all the TV interviews. Neglecting my self-care meant that I needed to come back to the vows of my self-marriage to put my my health ahead of my work! I found the whole experience to be both scary (what do these people in Argentina think of me now? I must admit I do think about what people think of me) and extremely confidence-building. I had no idea I could do television interviews in Spanish. When I listened to this fifteen-minute radio interview with a station in Mendoza, I was in shock. I sounded like a porteña (a Buenos Aires person)!
Self-marriage does not equal “sologamia.” Please stop using that horrible word!
All the while I have been continually clearing up misconceptions. The media loves using “sologamia” in headlines and asking me how I am living the word “sologamia.” I don’t even know what that word means, and I never used the word to describe self-marriage, but let’s make it clear. The word “sologamia” clearly creates an impression in people’s mind that marrying yourself means you are committing to be alone. That might be the case for some women or men who marry themselves, but that has never been the case for me or even one of the women I have talked to who have married themselves. Self-marriage is a ritual that involves making vows to yourself, and it’s usually a ritual of self-love and self-acceptance.
I am currently single and want to be in a relationship. But that doesn’t mean I would divorce myself. This self-marriage is forever.
Would you marry yourself? Pollo, the host of Con Amigos Asi, would!
So with all of that, I present you the transcript from this truly hilarious segment of “Con Amigos Asi” where the first woman who married herself in Argentina explained how and why it’s done.
This interview was truly like nothing you have seen on American (or probably European) TV. It was like hanging out with a group of friends at an asado (BBQ). My friend Sharon said it was like an asado with great vibes.
I surprised the twentysomethings on the show because they assumed marrying myself meant I closed the door on marriage. No. There are no closed doors. These are two distinct things.
I explained that as I got older it becomes clear that the path of self-love is very important but it’s not recognized in society.
They were very open to listening as well as joking around.
We did some really hilarious spontaneous mini-coaching sessions on their contradictory feelings about relationships. “Sometimes I’m happy, Sometimes I cry. I’m confused Sasha.”
Also, one more thing: When I talked about this show with my Colombian friend (who also married herself and cares deeply that people get the deeper meaning of self-marriage) she worried people would get the wrong idea and think that marrying yourself is kind of like that joke on Seinfeld, when Jerry meets a woman played by Janeane Garafolo and says, “I found my soul mate, this woman is incredible, she is just like me!” That was a funny joke but no, that’s not what self-marriage is about! Self-marriage is about self-acceptance, not marrying your doppelganger.
Also facial treatments are great self-care but they are probably not the deepest expression of self-love. (During one of the spontaneous mini-coaching sessions on the show one of the women said she would express love for herself with facial treatments.)
But I will trust that you get that these are jokes.
Self-marriage is profound and funny, like the best things in life.
An asado (bbq) with really good vibes – watch it here with a transation
Note: We have an English translated transcript of this video below. For your best watching experience, you can click through to watch on YouTube and scroll down to read the transcript as you watch.
Sasha Cagen: The Woman who Married Herself, interview on “Con Amigos Asi” on the Argentine cable TV channel KZO
Pollo: I don’t have it clear.
Juan: What? What? Wait, wait.
Pollo: And now, the only woman who married herself… well, I do not know if she is the only one, but she is the only one in the program today. She married herself… she married herself!
Pablo: And she is not unfaithful with herself. I cannot believe it!
Pollo: She married herself and imagine how much less mess you have to go through. She has no problem living together with a partner, they do not fight over going to their parents´ houses.
Jani: For me, she was a visionary.
Pollo: This starts here and never ends!
Pablo: She separates from her husband and keeps everything!
Pollo Exactly, there is no contract to pronounce it…
Juan: If she doesn´t cook, nobody else will.
Yani: Phew! She should have been when the lawyer was here.
Pollo: Wait! What?
Juan: Wait and… Can I ask you a question?
Pollo: Yes, in fact you can ask her but I can help you.
Juan: Would you marry Pollo Alvarez?
Pollo: Yes, I would marry myself.
Pollo: I consider myself a good candidate.
Pablo: Would you marry Pablito Giménez?
Pablo: Yes, bolúdo (Argentine Spanish word to call someone an asshole in a friendly way). Yes. If I don´t love myself, who else will?
Juan: I won´t marry marry Juan. No way.
Pablo: That is true.
Yani: We all know that. Luckily it´s crystal clear.
Juan: You believe in my a lot, eh!
Pollo: I… Yes. The truth is that If I think about it, yes, yes, I would marry myself, yes.
Joshi: For me, the ideal partner.
Pollo: With whom?
Pollo: With yourself?
Joshi: Yes (nodding her head)
Pollo: Well, now I speak with her. Let’s welcome the dearest Sasha Cagen! Welcome, please come forward. Sasha Cagen (pronounced in English)? In English is it Cagen?
Joshi: (pronouncing her surname correctly): Cagen!
Sasha: Hi, how are you?
Pollo: Welcome! Come in, please!
[A lot of back and forth about how to pronounce “Cagen” in English and Spanish.]
Pollo: Really, because obviously, surely, to do what you did, has to do with a process and with something that you believe in, but for outsiders, perhaps the most orthodox ones, you got our attention. So tell us, what is it all about?
Sasha: Well, yes, it’s usually not that someone wakes up one day and decides to marry herself or himself. Self-marriage is usually part of a period of introspection. I think it’s something people who are working on these things to love themselves enter into this process of self-marriage. It is something you can do for recognition in your life, as an adult. Because we do not have many rituals for adults. We have marriage and, I do not know what else, a birthday, but it is not something very…
Yani: Fatherhood. Motherhood, too.
Sasha: Yes, and well you can even marry yourself if you are already married. I am a life coach and I have helped women who are married to marry themselves. Because… especially women have a tendency to get lost in the relationship with others. Whether you are single or you are with someone, self-marriage can be a ritual to make a commitment to yourself. It is very personal and it is very creative because we do not have magazines that tell you what to do when you marry yourself. That’s why it is very free.
Pollo: Now I ask you, I understand what you are saying to me, that to marry yourself is creative and that it is part of the process but what is the difference between marrying oneself and not marrying oneself. Because in general I do not understand.
Joshu: The change?
Yani: The difference?
Pollo: What is the difference? Forgive my ignorance.
Yani: Single or married with yourself–isn’t that the same?
Sasha: It’s a process, a ritual …it´s something that you want….
Yani: Ah! It´s a ritual.
Sasha: I believe people have to be….
Joshu: Something symbolic maybe….
Sasha: People want something to do for that ritual of self-love. It’s symbolic and for me it was something that happened some months before my 40th birthday, because I felt a lot of pressure and unhappy because I had not found a man to marry. I was also doing therapy and thinking about how to love myself after working through many internal things. And it was weird, of course, it was strange.
That’s why for me, to marry myself here in Argentina was so much more free. I was far from my family, my normal friends … [Laughter] I have also my not-so-normal friends … open-minded friends I met in tango and they supported me. My Colombian friend, she got married to herself too. And she was present in my day. [Note: It should be said I have plenty of open-minded friends in California too!]
Pollo: Did she marry herself?
Sasha: Yes, she was present and….
Joshu: And did she know about this because of you?
Yani: No, no she married herself.
Joshu: Yes, yes, but did she get to know about it from you … I think this self-marriage is a beautiful idea, did she hear it for the first time from you?
Sasha: No. It was ten years ago, when I published this book [holding the Quirkyalone book in her hand]. I interviewed two women in California who married themselves. When I was 30, for me it was also like, why do you need to do this? I also was judgmental but I also felt interested in it. But it was also like … hmm … good for you, but it’s not for me. After time as I got older I realized that it is so very important to love yourself. To learn to love yourself really is a very important path in life. And we don’t value this so much because we want to get married, because society gives importance to marriages. So it is a ritual of self-love…
Pollo: It´s okay. It´s right what she is saying.
Joshu: But Sasha, do you feel that marrying yourself shows even more self-love than not marrying oneself … no? Because one can have self-love without marrying oneself, I just say.
Sasha: Yes, totally. Yes, and it’s not necessary need to marry yourself.
Joshu: But you felt even greater self-love when you married yourself?
Sasha: Sorry? Oh, If I feel greater self-love? Yes! Well, because I have the reference of this ring, you see, it is a commitment and it is a symbol. That’s how I can remember it.
Joshu: Yes, you see it and you remember it.
Sasha: Exactly. It´s a symbol that I can remember.
Pollo: I have a question, sorry. Again, I am very very ignorant on the subject …
If one learns how to value yourself and that is why you can marry yourself isn’t it the same learning to say OK, society believes that you have to marry because the canons say that … Anyway, I can be single, alone if I am OK with myself, I do not think it is necessary to marry yourself. And yes, I understand that maybe it is something more from society than something that I really want. Do you understand the point?
Sasha: Yes, it’s not necessary and I’m thinking a lot about this now, at this moment because this idea captured society in Argentina and …
Pollo: Yes, because we have so many problems in our society so this is excellent… It´s like a break within such a big mess… that we say, OK, let´s talk about this!
Sasha: It is something different.
Pollo: Yes. It´s good.
Sasha: I have been thinking about this and I think maybe the people who have experienced abuse in their lives really need a ritual, and understand that can be valuable to do a ritual of self-love, there are people who understand exactly why … and there are people who say why you need to do this? And I think you need to have a calling for self-marriage, it needs to call you, otherwise it’s not right.
Pablo: And the paperwork is the same? You go to the registry office? It´s the same as if you marry someone?
Sasha: I didn’t do that. [I thought he was talking about a wedding registry for presents.] But I could say those are the presents I want, for me it was very quiet. It was more of an internal process, more than an external one.
Yani: And one question… I ask you a question….if you did a whole process of self-worth and self-love because of something in particular, why does it matter to you what society thinks of you because you can easily love yourself. And it´s like a little bit contradictory in the sense that if you love yourself and at some point you don´t care about what the rest thinks, why doing a ritual to show the rest? I don´t know if I’ve made myself clear.
Sasha: I think the point is to talk it out loud, to have witnesses and when I say this to you and you are my friend I promise that I want to follow this path, that I will say no to what is not good for me. I will love myself, I will consider myself beautiful. It’s a memory, the same as a wedding.
Yani: And if you fell in love with someone, for example…. ?
Sasha: It’s all good.
Yani: Can you be unfaithful to yourself?
Sasha: There are no closed doors.
Yani: Ah! Ok, yes.
Boy: In fact, in the end, it ends up being just as marrying with someone else… You are in a relationship right? And the wedding is more symbolic because… you… the love is the same, it wouldn´t change anything theoretically. So….no….
Sasha: It´s something….
Boy: If it changes, it changes, as the lawyer said. Papers change.
Pablo: Well, but…let´s say…. In terms of love… it´s the same.
Pollo: The thing is you shouldn´t marry thinking that you are going to divorce… it´s a great mistake.
Pollo: Because we should do nothing thinking, Oh, I get on the plane and I have…. And no…. You have to do things and then you…. Have to consider the consequences of what will happen… If you don´t move forward you are a coward I believe….
Yani: Sasha… and when you get to know a new person, right? Now do you tell him look, I am married to myself? No, you don´t tell him?
Juan: For me it’s OK to tell him/her anyway eh…
Sasha: No, it’s fine. When we know each other, but in the first date it would be very weird.
Yani: No, it’s not good.
Sasha: it has to be shared with time, yes, I believe.
Juan: Why did you choose to marry in Argentina?
Sasha: Because I felt freer here that I have a love for tango. I moved to Buenos Aires because of tango. I have several friends from tango and I feel like the freedom to follow this path here that for me in California, in California I was afraid of my self-marriage being seen as something from Burning Man, I don´t know if you know it.
Pollo: Yes, yes.
Sasha: But it was like I don´t want to be associated with Burning Man. I want to make it authentic, mine.
Juan: Burning Man is that festival that takes place in the desert.
Someone: And what´s the book about?
Sasha: The book is this, that is a word that I invented and it describes the people who want to be with someone and are patient, who can wait for the right person, so in that path, It’s very easy to feel social pressure because you’ve been single for many years so… that word means maybe, if you’ve been single for a long time it´s because you are selective and you are strong so it´s another perspective.
Yani: Did your parents want to kill you because of the self-wedding?
Sasha: (Laughs) No, no no!
Boy: No, no, if your parents…. Like… I don´t know, when you were thirty years old or when you were of a certain age that they made you feel…..
Yani: Pressure. That is why you decided to investigate about the subject or…?
Sasha: No, my parents were always very relaxed about marriage and they wanted me to be happy.
Yani: Ah! OK.
Sasha: I felt the pressure from society. Yes, because I think a girl feels it when she is 12, I felt like “If I have a boyfriend we are more.”
Someone: Yes, that´s true.
Sasha: Yes. It´s like you are pretty or you´re better because you have a boyfriend, why? Maybe you haven´t found the right person.
Pollo: And also, you should see, in connection with this, behind closed doors for both women and men … maybe on the outside it seems excellent and on the inside there’s a hell.
Joshi: Yes, anyway, beyond that also the society…
Juan: Both things, marriage and alone….
Boy: Now it´s not exactly like that
Pollo: Not anymore.
Yeni: Do you think that today is not exactly like that? At least… For me, to some extent it is.
Sasha: No, yes, yes, it´s still like that. (There is still social pressure to be in a relationship.) I work with those people. I am a coach and that’s one of my specialties.
Pollo: What type of coach are you?
Sasha: A life coach.
Pollo: And what does it mean?
Sasha: It´s kind of a therapist.
Sasha: But there is more action in it.
Pollo: But… is it for couples? Do you go with your partner?
Sasha: I also have couples because I have couples and they want to build a relationship where no one gets lost.
Pollo: Well, well, wait. Let´s imagine we are in the coach´s office. Can we?
Sasha: Yes! We can.
[Here’s where we start the spontaneous mini-coaching sessions….]
Pollo: Who wants to be treated by the coach? Joshi, Joshi…
Yani: The punishment because he was late.
Pollo: No, but he doesn´t want it… if he doesn´t want.
Yani: It doesn´t matter.
Pollo: We need that before…. Yani, good, perfect…. She´s decided it herself…. I didn´t decide it.
Pollo: Can you come here, Juancito? I haven´t decided it, I swear.
Juan: I liked it more the passive Jeni.
Pollo: A big round of applause to Yani.
Boy: Good Yani!
Pollo: Well, are you single, Juan? Well, deal with it yourself.
Pollo: Well, he will do a consultation.
Boy: Good Yani!
Pollo: Well, are you single, Juan? Well, deal with it yourself.
Pollo: Well, he will do a consultation.
Joshu: Will it be a performance or real life?
Pollo: No, no…. not real life.
Pablo: No, real life never.
Pollo: No, no because otherwise it´s confusing.
Sasha: Are you a client?
Sasha: Very good. I love it.
Juan (sad background music): Sasha… you know, something is happening to me lately and…. And I thought that given my age… I am already 35… I feel that many of my friends are having a family, they are finding their way in life and… I cannot manage to achieve that… I am standing to the other side of it.
Pollo: No, but he is 10 years less than what he said.
Juan: Six less years.
Yani: Don´t interrupt! Leave him…leave him!
Juan: And I feel all of them are finding their way in life… and I am staying sideway of it, but the truth is that I don’t want to force a situation to be in that train that today I feel I am not ready to get on.
Sasha: And… How do you feel about all this? What are your emotions?
Juan: Well, they are contradictory. Sometimes I feel good, I feel comfortable, I have my freedom… but other times, on a rainy Tuesday I feel I would like to have a boy by my side to watch TV.
Sasha: A boy? Or… a girl!
Someone: He is a chamuyero.
Pollo: A rainy Tuesday he goes out with an umbrella.
Sasha: Oh! A boy…. Ah….Do you want to be a father?
Pollo: He wants to be a dad to watch TV. But… he wants to be a dad for the rainy Tuesday, if it does not rain on Tuesday we are… No, no, sorry. Continue.
Sasha: And on Wednesday when it rains, you also want a child?
Juan: Yes, until Wednesday.
Sasha: I want to understand how how strong the desire is. If the desire if very strong.
Juan: It´s contradictory. There are days that it is strong, some days it´s not. There are days that are yes, the desire is strong and the days that are no.
Sasha: And when you feel it in your body, when you connect with yourself?
Juan: For me it´s hard. It´s very hard to connect with myself.
Sasha: Oh, well. Have you thought about marrying yourself?
Pollo: Ah… she is going toward that way.
Juan: Very good, very good, very good. Come Joshi, I tell you that with Joshi we have… here it´s the truth, now comes the truth… um
Sasha: Oh! Well!
Pollo: A kiss to Joshi´s mum that she always watches us.
Joshi: Ah… kisses!
Joshi: Hi Sasha
Sasha: Hi, how are you?
Sasha: What do you want to focus on today?
Joshi: Um… the truth is that I don’t have a partner and maybe I feel like something is failing. Am I make myself clear? Like I don´t know very well which way to follow. if keep on like this. Or not.
Sasha: Failing as a woman or failing as what?
Joshi: Life, in life maybe… in general.
Sasha: In life…
Sasha: And is it something you really want, the relationship?
Joshi: It happens to me that sometimes yes, too much. And sometimes no. I am in a dichotomy like… Sometimes I cry, sometimes I smile.
Sasha: And what do you feel most of the time?
Joshi: Most of the time? Um… I am confused, Sasha.
Sasha: And… have you thought about marrying yourself?
Pollo: It´s OK, it´s OK.
Sasha: That is the solution.
Someone: That is the solution.
Joshu: Mmm…. Yes, I have thought about that.
Sasha: Oh, yes? Do you have vows? Have you thought about vows with yourself? (In Spanish, this word sounds like Botox)
Someone: Not Botox, vows.
Sasha: No! Vows.
Someone: The granola won´t be shared if she marries herself.
Joshi: Vows… um… yes, yes. I thought… I feel that I would be a great partner for myself.
Sasha: What would you like to promise to yourself?
Joshi: Eternal loyalty. I mean, that to begin with. Um…. Love, love.
Sasha: Love to yourself.
Joshi: Yes, love to myself. It´s weird how it sounds but…
Someone: It´s OK, it´s OK.
Sasha: And how do you express that love? How would you like to?
Joshi: I take care of myself, I do skin treatments…
Someone(boy): Me too…
Joshi: And that is self-love… and I take care of myself a lot.
Sasha: What would you like to tell yourself so that you love yourself? What your internal dialogue would be? What would you say?
Joshi: Like… a mantra to myself?
Joshi: Uf… Maybe I would repeat it all the time like… “How pretty you are!”
Sasha: That´s good!
Pollo: It´s fine!
Juan: It´s fine.
Pollo: It´s fine!
Sasha: I like it, I like it… it´s very soft.
Pollo: Excellent, excellent!
Pablo: I am beginning to think that Joshi uses all specialists who come so in real life she doesn’t pay the real ones.
Pollo: The last thing I ask you, obviously. Is it in the bookstore this book (Quirkyalone)?
Sasha: Well, today I emailed my agent to say we have to sell the rights to an Argentine publisher because there is a lot of interest now.
Sasha: There is a translated book in Brasil (SoSingular), of this book but in version, but we don´t have it yet in Argentina.
Pollo: Well, but, look… there is it, there is your instagram so that they can ask you questions there.
Pollo: Two more things before we go. I would like that with this vision of a woman with a more open mind that at least, from the people we are here. You tell me who here you believe is closest to marry himself or herself… I mean… Who of all of us, from the little you have seen us… you say… which goes that way to marry him or herself… Who do you think?
Sasha: Oh. Him! (Pointing at Juan.)
Juan: Come on Juan! You have found the love of your life.
Pollo: He does not make good coffee.
Pollo: And the last thing I say… It has nothing to do with this but I would like you to answer this. If you had to … This is an intuition, it´s almost a prejudice… Who do you believe…. From all the people who are here, maybe nobody but…Who likes men and women? Who likes people … who does not care about gender?
Sasha: Ah…you mean bisexual?
Pollo: Bisexual… who? Who? Who do you think? I want to know.
Someone(boy): Come on Sasha! Say it! It´s just a question.
Sasha: Those two. (Pointing at Yani and the other boy, Pablo)
Pollo: Those two!
Pablo: It´s OK, yes, it might be… A big round of applause to Sasha!
photo by Julia Ribeiro / shot while filming a “nota” for the Argentine news program TeleNoche about self-marriage in the Japanese Gardens (where I married myself in 2014!)
What happens when a national news program in Argentina wants to know about the American woman who married herself in Buenos Aires? That happened this week. The interview was all in Spanish. Oh my god, it was amazing! We shot this very entertaining video in the Japanese Garden in Buenos Aires–exactly where I married myself five years ago!
This interview was a chance to spread the concept of self-marriage as a ritual of self-love and -acceptance in South America in Spanish on the biggest nightly news show in Argentina TeleNoche. Since then I have gotten lots of media requests from radio stations and newspapers in Argentina.
Just as a reminder, self-marriage does not at all imply or require being single. I’ve helped married and single women marry themselves in my coaching practice.
I see comments on social media arguing, “But constructing a beautiful relationship is so important.” I agree! Perhaps some who marry themselves don’t want a relationship but that’s not my approach in my own life or with my clients. In my view, self-marriage is not a rejection of intimate relationship but a foundation for it. Self-marriage is the foundation for everything.
I also want a loving committed, interdependent relationship with a man. That’s the vulnerable part of me that might not get seen in my advocacy for self-marriage or Quirkyalone. If that sounds contradictory, so be it–it’s really not not. Loving ourselves helps us love other people. Being kinder to yourself helps you look at a a loved one, a friend, or strangers, with a softer, more loving gaze. I can’t say that marrying myself made me a perfect person, but the ring is always a reference point to remember the way I want to treat myself and others.
That’s the deep side of self-marriage. There’s also a hilarious side because marrying yourself can be pretty fun. With Jason Mayne of TeleNoche I was able to be more myself than I am in most interviews.
When I talked about Quirkyalone with Anderson Cooper on CNN the interview felt like a battle. When you go to battle you’re tense. When you’re joking you can be more relaxed. Maybe it’s was Jason’s sympathetic genuine millenial vibe, that we were in a park, or that I was speaking in a foreign language. Anyway, he managed to bring out the best in me. We had so much fun!
Watch the video and let me know what you think.
For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, my team and I translated the interview.
Jason: And this ring, what does it mean?
Sasha: Well, it’s a commitment to myself, that I’ve taken that step of marrying myself.
Jason narration: There is a movement that grows in the world that is called sologamy or self-marriage, people who marry themselves. And one of the references is now in the city of Buenos Aires. Let’s go talk to her because I want to know what this is about. How is it that you marry yourself, is it a traditional party? No? Well, here we’ll see.
Sasha, what’s up?
Sasha: Hi, how are you?
Jason: Very good! I want to see this, what you have here. Is it a commitment ring?
Sasha: Oh well, yes, it’s my commitment ring with myself.
Jason: What does this ring mean?
Sasha: Well, it’s a symbol of the fact that I took this step to marry myself. As a symbol of self-love and self-acceptance.
Jason: And how long have you been married?
Sasha: It’s been five years. We’ve been together for 5 years!
Jason: Where did you get married?
Sasha: Here, in the Japanese Garden.
Jason: Where are you from?
Sasha: I’m from the United States, I fell in love with tango, I moved to Buenos Aires, I decided to marry myself and I did the ceremony here in the Japanese Garden.
Jason: And does it have something to do with not expecting the prince and going against all that societal pressure of marriage?
Sasha: Yes. I was going to be 40 years old and I had not married a man yet and I wanted to do something for myself, a ritual. About being an adult, being a woman, taking charge of my own happiness. And also my self-acceptance, that’s a very profound thing.
Jason: Did you tell your friends, your family that you were going to marry yourself? What did they say to you?
Sasha: Well, I told very few people, because I knew that most people would not understand. My mother told me, whatever is good for you is good for me, but I know she thought I was crazy. And that’s OK.
Jason: So it’s about not depending on sharing moments with another person, its about feeling feeling good being yourself?
Sasha: Yes, and I also like to be in a couple. Getting married to yourself doesn’t mean that I want to be single, it’s not like that. It’s that I want to take care of my happiness, when I’m single or when I’m with someone.
Sasha: For me, what is fundamental is to write the vows.
Jason: You wrote the vows?
Sasha: Yes, of course.
reading the vows from five years ago, translated to Spanish
Jason: These are the vows of your self-marriage?
Sasha: My self-marriage yes, because I can also marry a man. it’s not exclusive, it’s very polyamorous.
Jason: The polyamory, I like it, you already stole the concept.
Sasha: Yes, we are in everything.
Jason: Okay, for example, what does it say?
Sasha: I promise to follow what I love, my passions. I promise to fall in love with others’ imperfections as well as I fall in love with mine, because I’m not perfect.
Jason: There it is …
Sasha: I promise to see myself beautiful and accept my sexuality.
Jason: These were the vows of your self-marriage …
Jason: After, for example, was there a honeymoon?
Sasha: Well, there was a day to celebrate with friends, the honeymoon is still coming.
Jason: It’s pending.
Sasha: It’s pending.
Jason: And marrying oneself is only for women?
Sasha: No men can also marry themselves.
Making some very important point about self-marriage to the crew!
Jason: At what time did you say I want to marry myself?
Sasha: That was some months before my 40th birthday, I was very anxious.
Jason: How is the wedding ritual?
Sasha: Yes, there were many cases when women who wear the white dress and do the whole party. Everything.
Jason: You got gifts for self-marriage?
Sasha: There were gifts that were very sentimental, but not a lot of money. My self-marriage was very inexpensive, very economical.
Jason: Are there companies that offer self-marrying services?
Sasha: There are a few. There’s a box you can buy from the internet to help you with your process, and I see it as very economical, compared to the United States. Getting married in the US is very expensive, and we see what happens in many weddings and for me here is something very economical option that will help you a lot. And you’ll never divorce yourself.
Jason: So more economical, and you won’t get divorced if you marry yourself!
Sasha: Yes! And you’re free to do what you want.
Jason: Could it be that this is the key to happiness?
Sasha: It could be, yes!
Jason: Since you didn’t do something . . . as part of the production. (Takes out fake bouquet of flowers.)
Sasha: Oh no.
Jason: Here we throw the bouquet of flowers to the back.
Sasha: For the next. Let’s go. (Throws bouquet backwards to Jason)
Jason: Yes! I never thought this moment would arrive and it arrived.
Sasha: It arrived.
Jason: Thank you Sasha.
Sasha: I’m so happy for you.
Jason: Now the only thing that is missing is the ring and I’m all good. And the honeymoon.
Sasha: Let’s do it.
Jason: Thank you.
Pop music plays…
Analyzing the light and where to shoot – these guys were hilarious. The tattoed sound guy thanked me and said my story would help him get his mother off his back because he could tell her he was marrying himself.
Are you ready to come marry yourself in the Japanese Gardens in Buenos Aires? Or in some other beautiful spot in this city, or in your own city? It’s all possible! I do help women and men, single or already married, marry themselves through my coaching practice so if you want some support to take this step yourself, you know where to go. Check out my coaching page and request a consult.
My team and I have also welcomed women to marry themselves or do their own personal honeymoon with a Tango Adventure in Buenos Aires. If that gift to yourself appeals to you, check out the Solo Chica Tango Adventure. With Solo Chica you will not be solo long, just like when you marry yourself you might attract better offers after you take a stand for your own self-worth!
a self-marriage photo with my bridesmaids back in 2014
I married myself here in Buenos Aires in the Japanese Gardens as an act of self-love back in 2014. I wanted to marry the light and dark in me, the parts I like and the parts I don’t like as much. I can say though no marriage is ever completely smooth this self-marriage with myself has gone well. We are still together. Of course others have entered the relationship. Those who self-marry are generally bigamists who carry on relationships with others too!
I have been especially thrilled over the years when women who have come on the group Tango Adventure have also taken their trip to Buenos Aires as a chance to marry themselves or to celebrate their self-marriage with a honeymoon.
Two years ago I helped a coaching client marry herself by the Floralis Genérica sculpture, a giant metal flower that blooms daily in Buenos Aires. The sculpture was a gift to the city by the Argentine architect Eduardo Catalano. Catalano once said that the flower “is a synthesis of all the flowers and is both a hope that is reborn every day to open.” I couldn’t think of a more symbolically appropriate place to make vows to yourself every day to bloom anew.
See the giant metal flower here:
Now I am excited again because a woman who is coming on the May 4-10 Group Tango Adventure has already married herself and she has chosen to make coming on the Tango Adventure her honeymoon. I asked her to send me her thoughts on why she was choosing to do her honeymoon with us in Buenos Aires and she wrote this:
Basically, my decision to marry myself in May 2016 was a gentle and gradual one. A honeymoon didn’t cross my mind at that time, but I did start thinking about how I would celebrate. In self-marriage, there isn’t an economic boost from family and friends in the same way as there often is with marriage to another person. So, this trip is the culmination of my ability to rally my own resources and dedicate myself to a long-term plan to bring myself pleasure and relief. It’s a buoying feeling to come through for myself, to make good on a long promise, and to acknowledge that committing to one’s own vitality is a serious act worthy of celebration and travel.
How beautiful is that? I love the last line about committing to one’s vitality as an act worthy of celebration.
If the idea of marrying yourself or doing your own honeymoon in Buenos Aires appeals to you, feel free to join us for that May 4-10 Tango Adventure, which is shaping up to be a great group of people. If you want to marry yourself then you will certainly have the support of two other women who have already married themselves. We also have the Solo Chica Tango Adventure for those of you keen for a honeymoon or self-wedding who can’t make those dates. You can pair Solo Chica or the Group Adventure with coaching and I will help you create your vows and your self-wedding.
a photo from the day I married myself in the Japanese Gardens of Buenos Aires
Marriage itself is evolving: First we had straight marriage as business arrangement, then we had the soulmate marriage, gay marriage, and now self-marriage. Two years ago the media got fascinated with the mini-trend of self-marriage. Since then I have emerged as one of the foremost experts on self-marriage. Certainly not anything I ever predicted I would be when people asked me what I wanted to be when I was in high school. I’ve been quoted in Cosmopolitan, Self, Vice, ATTN, New York Times, and on Nightline/ABC . I’ve given a million soundbites in the media about why women are saying I do to themselves, but I never really feel like I’m getting at the essence of why—at least for me. It’s easier to talk about the societal trends, but the societal trends are not as deeply true as the personal reasons. So I figured, I would tell my own self-marriage story in the truest way possible. The universal can be found in the particular and the particular is rarely found in a media soundbite. So here goes.
It still startles me to see in print: I married myself. It seems odd. It is odd. I never would have predicted that I would marry myself even though I was an early observer of the self-marriage trend.
Quirkyalone is a word I created to describe people who prefer to be single rather than settle. When I first heard about women marrying themselves, I thought it sounded like a way to ritualize the core principles of being quirkyalone: to love yourself and not settle in your relationship to yourself or with another person. I interviewed two Bay Area artists Remi Rubel and Aya de Leon who had married themselves. Remi and Aya drew on traditional wedding rituals: shower, wedding, reception, and honeymoon. They both went on to marry men and considered the self-marriage foundational, to help them not lose touch with their own needs within marriage.
At the time, I was 30. The self-marriage concept impressed me but I certainly never expected to do it myself. They had worn white wedding dresses and declared their love to themselves in front of an audience of friends. I could not imagine making vows to myself in such a spectacle. Really? I’m a relatively private native New Englander at the core: a writer, and a coach, not a performance artist. Couldn’t you love yourself privately without declaring your self-love publicly?
At 39, my feelings about self-marriage changed
Ten years later, why did I warm to the idea of marrying myself? There were many reasons, in retrospect, that map with the reasons more women are turning to this latest initially odd-sounding twist on marriage. As Rebecca Traister has pointed out in her book All the Single Ladies, women are not consciously rejecting marriage so much as they have more options to not settle out of economic obligation and social pressure. Today only 20 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 are married, compared to 60 percent in 1960. According to the Pew Research Center, millenials are much more likely than older adults to say society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children.
But it’s not as if I wasn’t looking for a partner. Like increasing numbers of women I hadn’t find a man to marry between 30 and 40. When I was in my twenties, I thought he was magically going to appear when I was 30. But he hadn’t. And he still hadn’t. Was that because I wasn’t ready? Was it bad luck? Who knows?
Many friends had married. We feted them with gifts, toasts, and photo slideshows celebrating them from infancy on. I didn’t begrudge them these celebrations, but when you get to 40 and haven’t had a wedding, you realize marriage is the only coming-of-age ritual our society provides. Some would call all that marital attention “couple privilege.” Where’s the coming-of-age ritual for me, or any adult, if she hasn’t found a spouse or doesn’t want to marry?
The pressure of the so-called “expiration date” had been weighing me too. All that pressure I felt at 30 or 35: that was nothing in comparison to the inner panic about being single at 40. I knew it was crazy to worry about whether men would still want to date me when I was no longer thirty-something, but I worried.
Something even deeper was tugging me to marry myself that was I wasn’t even able to fully articulate my reasons at the beginning. I just had the impulse. There is a quote from the memoirist Rayya Elias that I like: “The truth has legs; it always stands. When everything else in the room has blown up or dissolved away, the only thing left standing will always be the truth. Since that’s where you’re gonna end up anyway, you might as well just start there.”
I like the idea of starting with the truth, but sometimes you don’t know the truth when you start. You can only grope toward the truth via instinct and the actual living.
But how to do it?
I wanted to marry myself with no clue on how to proceed. Even though I had written about self-marriage, I felt lost. It’s not like there is a set of instructions to follow handed down by generations. There is no self-wedding industry. (Or if there is one, it’s tiny.)
When in doubt, I turn to Google. I did a search on “self-marriage” and that led me to Dominique Youkhehpaz, a “self-marriage minister and counselor” with a B.A. from Stanford University in Cultural and Social Anthropology with a focus in Love, Ritual, and Religion. Dominique married herself in 2008 at 22 and helped others do the same since. I emailed her and we set up a time to talk.
Dominique explained the introspective, creative nature of self-marriage: “You can’t marry yourself without thinking about it deeply.” That was reassuring; I was on the right track if I needed time to find answers. She gave me examples: a Polish woman took 30 days to celebrate herself for 30th birthday. A guy married himself in a musical in his backyard. Another woman married herself alone in her bedroom with a candlelit ceremony. Talking to Dominique brought a huge feeling of relief; I could marry myself my own way. No white wedding dress or big audience required.
Dominique underscored the power of ritual, emphasizing that I could create my own ritual, private or public. “Ritual in itself has the power of transformation,” she said, and that made sense. I also thought, ritual somehow seals the deal. I would create a ritual. I hung up the phone feeling relieved, but like I had a gigantic creative question to answer: how was I going to marry myself in a way that felt true to me?
Who to tell
I also didn’t know whom to tell. Telling even my closest friends felt vulnerable. I didn’t know anyone else who had married herself, and the act of self-marriage still seemed unusual, verging on pathetic. Let’s get real: most of my friends had married men, and I was talking about marrying myself?
Later I would talk about my self-wedding ring at parties in Buenos Aires and a woman ten years my junior would ask me, “Why did you marry yourself and not the earth?” Suffice to way that kind of conversation was not happening for me in the Bay Area in 2014.
I texted my best friend my intention: “I’m going to marry myself, will you help?” Jenny had married an alien in a performance art ceremony in the 90s in which I was a bridesmaid, so I’m not sure why I was worried about telling her. But now Jenny had a partner. Her alien wedding was art, my self-wedding was sincere. She responded supportively.
Who knows why, I told my mother. Why did I think my practical New England mother, who has been married most of her life, would understand self-marriage? When I told my mother, “I think I’m going to marry myself for my fortieth birthday,” she laughed and said, “Whatever’s good for you is good by me.” I was sure she was thinking, My nutty California daughter. I wonder if she will ever get married to a man?
I also told the guy I was dating. He was the closest I had to a boyfriend at that time. He said, “Sure if you want to jump out of a cake for your birthday I will support you.” I took a sip of my wine and said nothing, feeling inwardly self-righteous, and thinking, You don’t get it. Marrying myself is not nothing like me jumping out of a cake! Marrying myself is about taking a stand for my own self-worth and the self-worth of all women, married or not. I decided to tell fewer people.
There was one last person I told in those quaking moments, right before I turned 40: my best friend in Buenos Aires, Alexandra. (Though I lived in Oakland, California I was spending time in Buenos Aires because of my Tango Adventure business.)
“I think I’m going to marry myself,” I told her in Spanish on Skype. Ale is Colombian, but we met in Argentina through tango.
“I married myself!” she said. What a surprise. Ale had married herself already! She told me the story that day.
She had woken up from an anxiety dream. The dream said, “You’re past 30, who are you going to marry? Who are you going to marry? You better do it now.” She decided the answer to the expiration date anxiety was: I will marry myself. She went to a fair that Sunday and bought a ring, declared herself married and instantly felt calmer.
A friend told her, “This is good but don’t close yourself off from others.” She said, “Of course.” Ale felt the same way as I did: self-marriage is something you do to honor yourself, and to calm the panic about not being married in a society that still puts pressure on women to marry by a certain age, but it doesn’t shut off relationship possibilities.
When Ale told me her story I felt like I was stepping into a small sisterhood: the sisterhood of women who had married themselves. I wasn’t so alone in this anymore.
A time of reflection
I had started therapy a year before I decided to marry myself in order to look at any blocks in my own capacity for intimacy and commitment. For a person who wanted to marry herself, I’ve actually been focused on my relationships. I had struggled in a lot of my romantic relationships with abandonment fears, and I had what I would later call “single shame”—a fear that none of my long-term relationships had been long enough, and thus, no one was going to want to be with me.
There had been one therapy session when my therapist looked at me and said, “There’s a lot of shame here.” That had been a hard thing to hear because it was true. Even though I have professionally taken a role as an author and coach who helps others with their shame about being single I was still plagued by a lot of those demons myself. Later I would realize that a lot of that fear came from the fact that I held a secret for twelve years of my childhood: a secret about having been sexually abused once. The secret itself had left a deep mark on my psyche. The secret had imprinted corrosive messages: if you ever tell anyone the truth they will leave you.
My self-marriage, it seemed to me, was about working through that shame, owning all of me, and learning how to be vulnerable enough to share my feelings and my full story. As Brene Brown teaches in her TED Talk on vulnerability, the path to joy and connection runs through sharing the stuff that’s hard to share. Sharing that stuff brings us closer. Somehow I felt that marrying myself would help me get closer with others.
Two questions came out of that therapy session; “What are you marrying?” and “Why call this marriage rather than a self-love ritual?”
I didn’t have the answers to those questions at the time but I kept them with me. I started reading about what Jung calls “the shadow,” the parts that we disown in ourselves. My therapist defined “the shadow” as the stuff you don’t walk to talk about even in therapy. I started to think I would marry my light—the things about me that are fantastic (I can be cheerful, fun, brilliant, helpful, caring) and the dark that I hide from others (I can be moody, messy, angry, bitter, negative, revenge-prone, and neurotic). I wanted my ritual to say: you are lovable, all of you. Even the parts you find difficult.
For my entire life people have told me I am very hard on myself. So I thought, marrying myself would help me with self-acceptance. The essence of love is acceptance.
As far as why call it marriage, I decided that was a semantic strategy. We consider marriage to be deep and important. So is loving yourself. If you called self-marriage a self-love ritual, the ritual wouldn’t have the same weight or importance.
the charms we found at the gas station
So then how did it happen in the end? How did I actually pop the question, and make vows to myself?
I got engaged spontaneously at a gas station on the way back from my 40th birthday hot springs trip to the desert. I had been shy to ask for attention about the self-wedding during that birthday weekend because it was a joint birthday with two friends. I didn’t want to make it all about me, but then I fell silent, moody and sullen in the car, because actually I did want attention.
On the drive out of the desert I finally got up my courage and asked my friends Liz, Sonya, and Jenny for help. We had stopped at a gas station selling Elvis paraphernalia, stuffed animals and jewelry. That’s where I broke down and told them why I had gotten silent in the car. They were enthusiastic about helping me. I just had to ask for help.
We found the perfect charm necklace with two charms: love and Alexandra (my formal name) and did a photo shoot outside the gas station in front of a red and yellow sign for “Premium Gasoline.” I was engaged, and it was just my style, spontaneous. Kind of like eloping with myself—and three friends.
Getting over my cold feet
Nine months later I got married in Buenos Aires. My Colombian friend Alexandra helped me plan the event. I very much needed her as wedding planner to move the process along. I was starting to procrastinate. Ale and I chose a date, June 15, and a place, the Japanese Gardens in Buenos Aires. The guest list: short. Me, Ale and our close friend Nele. (We all met through a seminar called psicotango, which is all about finding yourself through tango.)
The night before Ale came over to help me pick out the outfit. The forecast predicted cool and drizzle. I didn’t want to be cold at my own self-wedding. We settled on my favorite red pants, a blue tank top and black sweater with a lace back. Red pants make me feel like a superhero. A necklace that belonged to the woman I was subletting from—something borrowed! The shoes and tank top: something blue.
“It’s your last night as a single woman,” Ale told me, as she put on her jacket to leave. “Take a bath, light candles, pamper yourself.” I took a bath by candlelight after she left, something I had never done in my life. It’s hard to describe the happiness of that night. It was a little like being a kid on Christmas Eve, the feeling that something very special was going to happen the next day.
When Ale showed up at my apartment the next morning we both felt giddy. We walked over together to meet Nele.
On the way to the Japanese Gardens
My plan for the ritual was simple. I would say something, ask each of my friends to offer a reflection, and then read my vows. Thus began the ceremony, up on the balcony of the sushi restaurant next to the Japanese Gardens so we would be away from the crowds.
“Today I am here with two of my best friends in the world to marry myself.” I explained at the beginning of my ceremony at noon on the balcony of a sushi restaurant so we would be away from the crowds. “By marrying myself, I marry my light and my dark. I bring together all parts of myself, including the parts I do not find easy: my insecurities, anger, and moodiness.”
Ale spoke, “The decision to marry yourself is to become conscious of who you are and accept yourself. When I married myself, I had a symbol, and I want you to have a symbol too. I bought this ring for you a long time ago. I liked it so much I thought I might keep it. I didn’t imagine that I would give it to you as a symbol from one woman who married herself to another.”
Ale handed me a black, brown and red ring she had bought in Colombia. I almost cried. We had unexpectedly created a new ritual: a self-married woman giving another woman a ring.
Putting on the ring
I read my vows. There were 18 of them. I’ve never particularly had the ability to edit myself when I get going. Here were three of them: “I vow to create intimacy in my life by making myself vulnerable, revealing how I really feel.” “I vow to fall in love with others’ imperfections as I fall in love with my own.” “I vow to see myself as beautiful.”
Post-wedding photos with Nele and Ale
Here is the video where you can see my ceremony:
As we walked home, Ale said, “Your ceremony reminded me of how I felt when I married myself, a happy place, Que lindo, How nice, I don’t have to be with a man to make myself happy.” I could tell Ale and Nele got a sympathetic high from my own ritual.
She also joked, “I’ve already forgotten my anniversary, but that’s okay. Self-marriage is like marriage, you forget your anniversary, you lose your ring. But the important thing is we know we are married.”
How is the marriage going? Are we happy together?
A lot of people will comment “how sad” when they encounter self-marriage. I suppose they are saying: “How sad these women have not found men to marry.” Or society is breaking down. Maybe they are thinking we are narcissistic, or any of the other knee-jerk responses people have to self-marriage. Do I sometimes feel sad because I’m single? Sometimes. Do I feel sad about having married myself? Never. My self-wedding was one of the best days of my life.
What difference does it make that I’ve married myself? It’s now been three years so I have plenty of time to reflect on whether this made any difference in my life. First the truth. I didn’t go on a honeymoon. I lost my wedding ring and the engagement necklace. I do not have wedding photos of myself splattered around my apartment.
Self-marriage is not legal. I don’t get any tax benefits from the state, and being married to myself doesn’t give me companionship: someone to have sex with, help me when I’m sick or talk to when I’m lonely.
Marrying myself also did not turn me into a Buddha who embodies perfect self-care and perpetual self-compassion.
Clearly, it’s not as if self-marriage is the end point.
But self-marriage has changed me. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. Marrying myself was a moment in time when I took a stand for my worthiness as a human being. When you marry yourself, you are saying, I am worthy of being married to—by myself or anyone else. The symbols from the ritual—the ring and engagement necklace—have consistently grounded me, especially in moments when I have felt shaky (like a break-up). Wearing my replacement ring gives me the same feeling of calm that the first one did. The self-marriage ring disrupts the idea that you can only be happy when you are married.
The ritual has affected me in many ways. The most profound has to do with the depth of relationship I’ve been able to have with another person. My boyfriend after the self-marriage was the first one who knew that I had a trauma of childhood sexual abuse–and that it still affected me as an adult. I was never able to even contemplate sharing that part of my life story with a partner before.
In the past when I would have reactions to conflict and criticism—some might say overreactions, and men would leave me. They would find me difficult. Ben was the first boyfriend who knew about my story, and therefore he could love and understand me. I had to be comfortable enough with sharing my story for that depth of connection to be possible. I had to work through that shame to get to self-acceptance. My self-marriage was a milestone in that process. When I told him my story I was upholding my vows to myself.
That man and I are no longer together, but it was the most loving relationship I have been in.
At the moment, I am dating. As I said, self-marriage, for me, was never about the commitment to be single. It’s about a commitment to self-love. I am infinitely aware that when I date and find someone that I like a lot of my shit comes up: my fears of abandonment, intimacy, commitment. The poet Adrienne Rich nails it here for me. Getting to love, and not infatuation, is no small thing: “An honorable human relationship … in which two people have the right to use the word ‘love’ is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.”
Love, actually, is not for the faint of heart. The act of laying ourselves bare to another human being, to be seen for all of who we are, lovely and not obviously lovely, tests us. We can have anxiety attacks, sabotage relationships, or give up. Self-marriage helps me hold my own heart. My ring is a reminder: Of course I am lovable, I love myself.
Sasha Cagen is the author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. She lives in Buenos Aires, where she sometimes help women marry themselves (remotely or in person) and teaches tango in 7-day tango holidays that bring together women and use tango as a metaphor for life and relationships. She is at work on a memoir called Wet, a journey of healing through sensuality in South America that goes even further deeper into these topics of shame, self-love, relationships and healing.
Self-marriage goes mainstream in this remarkable 7-minute documentary on Nightline/ABC. And as my friend Melissa Banigan said about this piece, “YES to women taking charge of the ways we define and love ourselves.”
I’ve been writing about self-marriage now for over a decade, since I first wrote about it in Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. I have observed the trend grow from a fringey thing only performance artists do to a meaningful ritual being practiced by women (and some men) who work in more mainstream occupations. It’s starting to take off. The cutting-edge of marriage is self-marriage.
The radical question we’re asking is, What if you were to make vows to honor and believe in yourself? In a world full of war and hatred, the planet definitely needs more love. In a world full of self-loathing of all kind, Americans need more self-love.
What would the world be like if our coming-of-age ritual involved committing to treat yourself well as an adult, whether you marry another person or not?
In this marvelous documentary, Nighline explores the concept with a depth that is rare for TV.
Nightline put seven minutes of attention on a woman taking herself seriously as a full human being, whether she has a husband or not–having fun with it at the same time!
There are so many incredible bits in this piece. My favorite part of me, personally, is the B-Roll. Producers tape B-Roll stuff of a person doing something, so they have more than boring talking head footage. They taped me walking around Columbus Circle in New York. It’s a bit awkward to be taped walking about, What should you be doing?
A guy selling honey in the farmer’s market in Columbus Circle started making jokes with me so you can see me laughing with him. . . the interaction with the honey salesman feels like joy. They also show a moment from my own self-marriage three years ago in the Japanese Gardens in Buenos Aires where I kiss my hands after the vows, and that feels like joy also. Erika Anderson, a woman who married herself, who is the star also exemplifies the joy. This whole segment is so joyful. It’s a deep, meaningful thing to do to commit to value yourself–and self-marriage can be a lot of fun!
The realness and vulnerability of Petra Hanson sharing her intention to marry herself with her friends is also wonderful. This is not, ahem, an easy thing to do.
Helping a woman marry herself is just about one of my favorite things to do. It’s creative. It’s deep. It’s meaningful. It will change your life.
I get lifted up each time I’m in the presence of a woman who has married herself too. When one person marries herself it definitely lifts everyone else up too.
The haters will hate, of course. There will be people who will confuse self-marriage with a commitment to being alone or a barrier to marriage with another person, or the people who will call us insane and narcissistic.
When I started to share the story of my self-marriage, I knew that some people would think I was crazy.
I didn’t share the story immediately. It took me three years to work up to that point because I needed to let the experience bake into the cells of my being before I was ready to go public.
Choosing to take a radical stand means there will be misunderstanding and backlash.
But in all honesty, I can hardly take their criticisms of narcissism and selfishness seriously.
Over on twitter, some dude writes me:
@sashacagen are u high? It’s creative? By the way selfishness, self love & narcissism are at an all time high & the u.s is @ #1.
@sashacagen only thing u accomplished with that is making yourself look like a narcissistic insane woman. Single is great but not special!
I’m so glad he wrote these tweets–because they help me to clarify the true meaning of self-marriage.
How you treat yourself is always a reflection of how you treat others.
If you are relentlessly critical of yourself, you will also be critical of others.
If you treat yourself with compassion and respect, you will treat others with compassion and respect.
Therefore, the most generous thing you can do is commit to love yourself.
It will make you a better partner, a devoted friend, a more caring family member, and more compassionate to others.
My self-marriage vows were all about the theme of accepting all of me, even the parts I don’t like.
I vowed to love even the dark parts I reject, even those nasty, critical, vengeful parts of me.
When you marry yourself, you marry the whole world.
Vowing to love all parts of me, even the parts I don’t like, helps me receive these nasty hateful tweets and say, Ha, it’s OK. I know that nasty, critical part of me too, and I also love them.
You haters, don’t worry. I love you too.
My self-marriage has affected me in many ways. I’m working on an essay (this is just a hastily dashed off blog post) about the whole experience, how it’s affected me, what I’ve learned, and how I now help others to take this step of self-respect. If you’re a magazine or newspaper editor and you want that essay, contact me. I’m in so deep working on my memoir I don’t have the time or energy to pitch my work. But I really want to publish this piece, so if you are interested, contact me and I would love to work with a visionary editor on it!
If you are feeling like it might be time for you to marry yourself, and you want some support and guidance, you should contact me too.
Hi! I’m Sasha
I'm a women's empowerment coach. I talk to women about their lives and help them get unstuck and create the present and future that they want. My books Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics (Harper SanFrancisco) and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us (Simon & Schuster) have been featured in 100+ media outlets, including the New York Times, CNN, and NPR.
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Sasha Cagen is the author of the cult favorite Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics and To-Do List: From Buying Milk to Finding a Soul Mate, What Our Lists Reveal About Us. Her work as an author, life coach for women and entrepreneur has been featured everywhere from NPR and the New York Times to CNN and Vogue.
In her well-loved newsletter going to thousands of women and men who identify with "quirkyalone," Sasha is the voice for people who don't want to settle--in any area of life.
In her coaching practice, Sasha helps smart, successful women (and sensitive, self-aware men) get clear on what they really want and then to achieve their goals while always helping her clients focus on core issues such as self-worth.