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The Perfect Match : What do you do if your relationships keep failing? Marry yourself. That's right. Anne Thompson did it a year ago and she's been inspiring women ever since.

September 05, 1994|SUSAN G. HAUSER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

PORTLAND, Ore. — Where does the time go? A year ago Sunday, Anne Thompson married herself and already she and herself have a first wedding anniversary to celebrate.

Thompson, 29, is getting sentimental. She's been pawing through the cardboard box that still holds her wedding gifts: the Ken doll in its original box, the hair net and curlers, and the sexy lingerie from a thrift shop, price tag attached.

Unfortunately, she neglected to save any of her wedding cake, so munching on year-old crumbs with her spouse will be one tradition she'll have to forgo. But then, it would be a stretch to say anything about this blissful newlywed is traditional.

She married herself because . . . well, why not? It seemed perfectly logical to Thompson who, after a succession of failed relationships, realized that there was really only one person who would be utterly honest and faithful to her.

"It was like, I might as well just stick with myself," says Thompson, a petite and pretty artist who lives in her studio next to the Willamette River.

"I seem to have better luck. After all, you can only be sincerely honest with yourself."

OK, OK. There was one other compelling reason to tie the knot. A week after her wedding, Thompson was due to attend her 10-year high school reunion in Elgin, Ill. If she didn't do something fast, she feared she'd be the only one of her old friends who wasn't hitched.

Her classmates' response to her blithe announcement--"This is my one-week wedding anniversary. I married myself"--is a story in itself.

But what has Thompson still shaking her head in amazement one year after the ceremony is the abiding national interest in her union. After the story broke in Blue Stocking, a local feminist newspaper, and then hit the pages of the Oregonian, it proceeded to Glamour magazine and from there to a slew of radio talk shows around the country.

She instantly became a patron saint to disenfranchised, displaced and disappointed women everywhere. A Glamour magazine reader happily informed the editor that Thompson's story had inspired her to pick up and go on a 500-mile solo bike ride after her divorce.

And occasionally, women will come to the art supply store where Thompson works as a clerk, hug her fiercely and thank her for being an inspiration for their rekindled self-esteem and their commitment to themselves.

"I thought it was really interesting to get a dialogue going for people to talk about their views on marriage and relationships," Thompson says. "They talk about their feelings about themselves, their need to have a mate, that they're not complete without someone else, and that sense of dependence that people develop after being together with someone for a long time so that they can't imagine taking care of themselves."

To be honest, Thompson never expected people to take her so seriously. Before moving to Portland two years ago, she had lived in Phoenix five years, making part of her living from performance art. Her shows were funny, ironic views of social issues. For example, in the finale of her piece on how women willingly alter their appearance to please men, she ended up with whipped cream, chocolate and a cherry mounded on top of her head.

The wedding to herself, she thought, would be a fresh opportunity for her performance art, a chance to make a humorous statement that had a serious edge to it. So she photocopied a pile of pink invitations and sent them off to about 50 of her closest friends.

"This day I will marry my friend, the one I laugh with, live for, dream with, love," she wrote. "I, Anne Thompson, request the honor of your presence at the marriage of myself to myself. . . . Bring your own drinks and hors d'oeuvres."

Thompson says the whole point of her self-wedding was that she has always been so committed to herself and to her own ideals, that the ebb and flow of public opinion has never much mattered.

"I feel good about myself and about what I'm doing," says Thompson, who kept her maiden name. "But it tends to go against what's traditional and normal."

She doesn't even care that people are whispering about her adulterous affair. Yes, it's true. She's cheating on herself with a man--the same man who yelled at the close of her wedding, "It will never work!"

But she claims her spouse is understanding and supportive. Now that she has a devoted boyfriend and a spouse who is true-blue, Thompson figures she has the best of both worlds.

But would she ever ditch her spouse for this guy or maybe even become a bigamist?

Thompson thinks not, but her best friend, Gretchen Osterhout, is not ready to rule out a real-live marriage for her pal.

But, cautioned Osterhout, "If she were ever married, I'm sure it wouldn't be in the traditional sense."

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