* Editor’s note: Marion is on vacation. This column first ran in slightly different form in 2004.
One of the few pleasures of spending time in New York City caring for my disabled father and seriously ill stepmother is reading the New York Times.
Yes, I know I could get the New York Times delivered in Davis, but it’s just not the same as holding the newspaper in your hands in its home town.
Early one Sunday, bored and the only one awake in my father’s apartment, I delved for the first time into the wedding page.
I discovered fascinating tidbits of information. Soon I was trying to read between the lines.
Take, for example, Pamela Paul, 33, and Michael Stern, 33, whose announcement drew my attention because, unlike the others, the photograph showed only the bride. The camera-shy groom is a financial analyst, his bride an “author.”
The announcement elaborates.
“Ms. Paul said she was reluctant to tell Mr. Stern she had written a book about failed marriages when they met on a blind date last year. Not only would she not tell him what the book was about, but she would also not give him her last name, her telephone number or her email address.”
The groom, who graduated magna cum laude from Harvard, was not deterred by this lack of data.
“I went to Amazon and looked at the top 10 books published by people named Pamela,” he said, but none seemed to match the woman he had just met. I guess his Harvard education prevented him from looking lower on the list, where he would have found “The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony,” a book that got some media play because of the term “starter marriage.”
The wedding announcement concludes with Mr. Stern’s statement that he finds Ms. Paul “fascinating.” The Times does not offer an adjective to describe her feelings for him.
(Addendum 2013: I googled the couple before reprinting this column. Ms. Paul is no slacker. She has new books about pornography and parenting. This year she was selected as editor of the New York Times Book Review.)
Looking beyond this couple, I noticed other arresting details.
The edition I perused (Aug. 15) covered 30 marriages. Seventeen involved at least one partner who graduated from an Ivy League college. Nine of these marriages included one or more graduates of Harvard. Eighteen people reported that they graduated cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude.
Thirteen couples will have to struggle along without an Ivy League graduate, but several have at least one partner from places like Stanford, Carnegie Mellon or MIT.
Not a UC Davis alum in the bunch.
How do they pick people for this page anyway? I took a moment to investigate on the New York Times website and learned that you need to apply. Since 2002 gay couples are welcome, too. Is the competition vicious? The Web page demurs, saying only that “space is limited.”
Why is the Davis Enterprise so lax? To think that the only qualification for being on the wedding page in this town is getting married.
A typical couple in the New York Times were Moriah Campbell-Holt, a 26-year-old banker and Christopher Musto, a 33-year-old company vice president who graduated cum laude from Yale, where his father teaches child psychiatry.
According to the detailed account of how they met, Mr. Musto at first refused to date Ms. Campbell-Holt because she worked for him.
This must have caused some frustration to the young woman, a graduate of Wellesley College. The newspaper reports that she campaigned to overcome his scruples after her mother remarked that there were “centuries and centuries of examples of love prevailing over good judgment.”
Another couple who like risk are a dark-haired man, Stephen Carter, and a blond woman, Kathryn Simons, who met in a warming hut at 17,000 feet in Nepal. She found him charming while he saw, according to her family, “a dirty fur ball.”
Ms. Simons was afraid they wouldn’t click when they met again, filthless in Seattle, but love prevailed.
I never expected the stodgy old New York Times to be telling love stories, although I note that love stories between people with top tier educations are definitely preferred.
(The dirty fur ball graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania and got her master’s degree from Harvard.)
I read all 30 announcements, thought about them, and read some again. On rereading, I noticed that the Times, a stickler for detail, notes whether or not the groom is “the son” of Mr. and Ms. Big Shot or “a son” of Mr. and Ms. Big Shot, which definitely sounds a step lower, because he has siblings.
The Times solemnly informs us, in certain cases, that the groom or bride’s previous marriage ended in divorce.
Towards noon I realized that I had devoted the better part of my morning to a close analysis of the wedding page — the most optimistic part of any newspaper — right down to the “a’s” and the “the’s.”
This is what I found to do on a Sunday morning, sitting in a New York apartment, watching the old folks breathe.
— Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org