Obsession Confession – Vows, November 10, 2013

I have been a colossal fan of The New York Times’ weddings section since before I came to New York. I am not alone in this. There are Grantland and Above The Law posts dedicated to rundowns on a regular basis. Occasionally even the great Caity Weaver gets in on the act. Just this past weekend, Big New York Person Laurie Tisch confessed that she starts her Sunday with the Vows, too. (Like me, she also goes to spin classes on a Sunday afternoon. I may in fact be a 62 year old female multi-millionaire trapped in the body of a 30 year old man.)

I can see why the section holds such fascination for so many of us. The Vows are pretty accurate at telling you what’s happening and when it’s happening in this city. What sort of ceremonies are in vogue? What season is it? (Generally the weddings in the Fall and Winter are lower-key.) Are people being honest about marrying their mistresses (or paramours), or couching things in other terms? There are also subtle codes in the announcements. When you crack them, it’s almost more satisfying than hammering a really good crossword. (Hammering crosswords is usually dissatisfying, by the way. Normally you hammer with a nail, and that tears the flimsy newsprint. It’s not recommended.) In a city where it’s a truism that any gathering of single women will devolve quickly into a discussion of the men in their lives, the Vows demarcate success. Not only has a putative Carrie found her Big or Caroline her city, but the folks at the Grey Lady have deemed that she’s also won the holy grail of being worthy. They often also signal much more than this, too.

For example, it’s a big week for Columbia Law School in the weddings this week. Among others, there’s the groom in this one. So many people in “private practice” trumpet the names of their law firms. Mr Glickman, instead, casually brushes off the shoulders of his tuxedo jacket when he tells you that he was director for international economic affairs in the Obama administration for a bit. Why would the name of his firm matter after that?

Then, proving that Philip Bobbitt isn’t the only Columbia Law Professor who has his dating defibrillator ready and pumping, 87 year old Professor Ira Millstein (who has a centre named after him at Columbia Lawmarried at the Metropolitan Club on Saturday evening. (I had a drink at the Metropolitan Club on Thursday night, for the first time. I recommend the Manhattan. Both as a drink and a city.) Salient facts: Millstein is a legend and brilliant; he was introduced to Ms Frame by his daughter; the new Mrs Millstein does yoga. “When I get up in the morning, I have to have someone to talk to or else I’ll do something crazy during the day,” Professor Millstein said. I wonder how this makes people who took his classes feel.

For more standard, self-absorbed, weddings section fare, there’s “An Acquaintance Gets Into The Act.”  The couple tries to make it seem weird that a girl who was a friend of a friend in both cases “meddled”. I have a few problems with this description. First, it seems ungrateful. The friend-of-a-friend must have known something (if only that these were two people desperate not to be single when their perceived biological clocks were running out) if they’ve wound up getting married. Second, is it much more random to be introduced by someone two degrees apart from you than by some of the other ways that people find love in this town? (“I met him in my bodega.” And, even less probably, “she was at the table next to me at a stag party when I was dragged to a gentleman’s club.”)

Finally, the bride clearly acquiesced in this. She followed up when the chap didn’t call three weeks after the introduction was made. Apparently there’s nothing at all unusual about Miss Birmingham’s eagerness to meet the prey … err, her future husband, but the well-wisher was peculiar? (She would have been about 26 at the time, but the bashful bride still had enough experience to know that asking “do you know someone” was the right way to go about getting fixed up. Is this paranoid? I’ll leave you to judge. Clearly I already have.) In good news for everyone, except perhaps their well-meaning matchmaker whose name they decline to mention, Miss Birmingham is now married at age 28. Happily, she has now won the one-horse race that she calls her life. No doubt her worries and not-at-all unusual freak-out when a chap doesn’t call can be passed on to the next generation. Her youth means that there’s plenty of time for her to raise it properly.

And, to finish this week with the academic theme with which we started, there’s the sweet story of a lawyer who married a filmmaker in Los Angeles. Neither husband nor wife seems particularly concerned with academic credentials. No, the academic aspect to the union comes from the bride’s parents, who are both Professors at Penn State. They’re not just professors, though, since the announcement carefully mentions that they won Guggenheim Fellowships in successive years. I’m not offering any prizes for guessing whether the couple, his parents, or her parents sent this announcement into the Times. (Here’s a hint: it was almost certainly her parents. Congratulations on your Guggenheims, Professor Kroll and Professor Rosenbaum! And as a sidelight, to your daughter! Michael seems very nice. I bet the research facilities at UCLA are even nicer.)

Happy wedding, everyone. (Is wedding even a verb?) I remain in a rather committed relationship with New York – where, on the Upper East Side, it’s a handicap not to be a nice Jewish boy – for now. I know, too, that it’s Remembrance Day in New York. At some point today I plan to watch Four Weddings and a Funeral. Unlike some self-serving and historically revisionist announcements (and believe it or not, there are occasionally some in the Times), good wedding movies are truly unforgettable.

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