I imagine it would be difficult for a fish to describe the feeling of being wet. Assessing your own culture is a lot like that. We live in it, and it always feels like it has always felt.
I also once heard that if you put frogs in water on your stove, they will stay there as the water slowly heats to a boil, and they die, never noticing the deadly change around them. Assessing your own culture is also a lot like that. Because we are constantly adjusting to our surroundings, we are prone to missing dramatic change until it is too late.
Now, enter a woman from Houston who manages to be both a fish and frog from whom the rest of us can learn a lot.
Yasmin Eleby, a 40 year old single woman, made matrimonial headlines when she married herself on January 3rd of this year. Her commitment ceremony, to herself, came as the fulfillment of a promise to marry herself if she did not find Mr. Right by the time she turned 40.
While I think the cultural commentary surrounding this event points to something serious (e.g. a looming cultural inability to define marriage in any meaningful way, the sad result of an offensophobic culture, etc.), I cannot help but notice that the newly “Mrs.” Eleby is a caricature of most people who pursue marriage today.
Consider her story. Here is a woman who determined that she would marry herself if she could not find anyone suitable for that honor. Then, not too surprisingly, she failed to find the person worthy of her matrimony. Now, she has married the only person worthy of her affections: herself.
Tim Keller described Western culture’s current view of marriage as the “Me Marriage”. Keller defines the me marriage as one in which a person chooses a spouse primarily based upon the likelihood of their own wants and needs being met by a particular potential spouse. People in our culture are not looking for someone whom they can marry, they are looking for someone who can marry them. When our culture idealizes marriage, the focus is ultimately self-centered, which is why I love the story of Yasmin Eleby.
For the rest of us fish, swimming along, completely unaware of our cultural surroundings, Mrs. Eleby just jumps right out of the water, all on her own, to teach us something about ourselves. Lots of people marry with only their wants and needs in mind; this lady – literally – skipped the middle man, and just married herself. She is a caricature of the hidden motivations pushing many people into marriage. Satisfy me. Love me. Accept me. Be there for me, when approved by me, and don’t expect me to anything other than me.
Thank you Mrs. Eleby for showing us ourselves.