Deciding to marry myself - Interiors - Column
I have a confession to make: As an educated, creative woman in my late twenties, I felt incomplete without a partner. I knew I shouldn't feel this way, but I wanted to be married. I yearned for a ceremony to mark this phase in my life.
A few years ago I left a long-term relationship. He wasn't a bad brother, but we had grown apart. Now it's one thing to talk about leaving and quite another to do it. I recall lying on my kitchen floor hollering in pain. That deep grieving marked the end of my childhood.
After I broke up with my boyfriend, I decided to be single and celibate for a year. Who would I be without a companion, sex partner or suitor? I didn't know. But I did know that, although friends and lovers are important, I'm the only person who is guaranteed to be around for my whole life, so it would be smart to get comfortable with myself.
During my year of celibacy, I made a list of the qualities I wanted in a partner, and when my year was up, I declared myself open to dating. But nobody showed up. Three months went by. Six months. Nine. Now I was getting upset. Two years passed. Not even so much as a date.
I forgot that you can start a process of celibacy, but only God can end it by placing someone in your life. Sure, I met people, but with all that quality time by myself, my standards had gone up. Eventually I dated a little, but the love of my life didn't show up. Instead I got accepted into a creative-writing program. God spoke through opportunities that were opening: "I'm not sending you a partner, I'm sending you to school."
I got nervous. What if it's too much? I asked myself. I was determined that a hectic schedule would not find me running from one thing to another, neglecting my body and my spirit. To juggle full-time work, school and self-care, I needed commitment in my life. So I decided, hey, I can't wait for someone to notice how fabulous I am. I'm going to marry myself.
I bought a silver band and wore it on my ring finger to symbolize my growing self-love. I told my friends that I was marrying myself, showing off my ring as proudly as I would an expensive diamond.
I had always wanted to be a June bride and get married on the beach. At first my plans were all about being a diva. Of course, I couldn't be just any old diva, I needed to be a spiritual diva. I called a sister who is a priestess in the Yoruba tradition. And God said "Now that you've called one of my people in, you'd better be prepared to work!"
In the Yoruban worldview, there is the concept of Ori, referring to the spiritual head. Among the Yoruba, a person's destiny is said to be located in the head; before birth we choose our destiny and then we come to earth and forget it. We have to work to realign ourselves with our destiny, and that requires a great deal of care and nurturing.
The priestess called me with a long list of things I needed to do for my Ori. Solitude and quiet were prominent. How much more alone can I get? I wondered. A voice in my head said "You have to let yourself be still." This self-marriage had seemed cute from a distance, but now that my spiritual process was demanding that I do some hard work, I was angry and resistant. In need of spiritual rescue, I dragged myself to church. I had to be around Black people who were excited about their relationship with God. All I can say about that night is that I walked in full of No! and came out full of Yes! Hallelujah! I was ready to get married.
For the wedding ceremony, I wore a plain white outfit. Surrounded by a few close friends and family members, I stood on the beach, and the priestess and I said prayers to the ancestors and to God. I vowed to surrender to Spirit and stop resisting my destiny. As we ended, I noticed that some folks were crying.
Afterward I changed into my diva wedding outfit and proceeded to give drama. I posed, gallivanted and frolicked. My cake said "Congratulations, Aya, you go, girl!" with a single Black bride on the top. Then my hostess, also a minister, pronounced me "a virgin," which some interpret as "a woman unto herself."
The next weekend I went on my honeymoon to a local amusement park. Though I love roller coasters, I had never gone on one alone. But, of course, that's what self-marriage is about: going where you want to go, or where Spirit tells you to go, even if you have to go alone, and finding joy in that solitude. Above all, marrying myself is knowing that, alone, I am whole.
Aya de Leon is a writer, youth worker and director of the Mothertongue institute for Creative Development in Oakland.
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