Listen to Pitbull singing International Love when reading this week’s Weddings post. Please. Or listen to something else, or nothing at all.
Nelson Mandela, whom I’ve admired greatly for about as long as I can remember, died last week. This was the most important story of my news-cycle, but there are enough people writing about him elsewhere, so I don’t know that I need to say much more. The second most important story of my news cycle for the past week was the Gawker essay, “On Smarm“. It says a great many of the things I believe about the feigned “niceness” which seems to be the defining attribute of people who are deemed to be “good” by many people about my age.
As my earlier posts about the Times’ Weddings section ought to make clear, it would be hypocritical of me not tosay that snark can be a positive force. There’s a corollary to this, though. Snark merely for the purpose of being destructive, doesn’t do all that much good. It seems far better to use snark to pull down that which is inadequate, but still to laud the adequate and the good every once in a while, and to explain why these other things are adequate or good. So here are some weddings write-ups over the past two editions of the Sunday Times that I’ve actually liked, and why.
First, some international weddings that are likely to have made Madiba happy, for the way that they pay no heed to racial or religious barriers. Nikhil Suri, an IT manager, managed the dream of every introverted Indian boy with a degree from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University when he married a girl from Tennessee named Milena Marshall last week. (He gets bonus points for having met her at work, thereby minimising the need to be especially social.) I’m hazarding a guess that Zing Bai and Isaac Chao come from less culturally disparate backgrounds. They both speak the same recondite language that is used to draft commercial contracts, after all. Still, Miss Bai’s upbringing in China and two degrees from Hawaii Pacific University mark her out as someone with serious international chops. They, too, get bonus points for meeting at work. In today’s Manhattan, is there much that’s more romantic than sneaking into your sweetheart’s office to take your time over that night’s offerings from Seamless Web?
I adoredthe story of Carrie Lee and Ian Cohen. As well as a potential cultural divide (ameliorated, no doubt, by Miss Lee’s time at Tufts), Mr. Cohen had other hurdles to face before he married. Any private equity mogul with masters degrees from Wharton and SAIS is likely to put a great deal of thought into committing, given the many women likely to be flocking to him in Hong Kong. His parents’ jobs were unlikely to send him galloping down the aisle, either. Mr. Cohen’s mother “is the founder and president of DivorceSource, a business in New York that helps people manage the practical issues of divorce. His father, a divorce lawyer, is a partner in the New York law firm Cohen Clair Lans Greifer & Thorpe.” Despite having parents who have spent their lives helping people to separate (and have, themselves, obtained a divorce), Ian Cohen still married his sweetheart. I’m impressed. (I hope they have a musically inclined daughter. They sound like they’d raise a better adjusted young woman than the character from Glee with similarly named parents.)
I’m impressed by Amanda Weinberger, who married Christopher Wagner, a policeman, last week. She implies that she did this despite perhaps having a history on the wrong side of law enforcement officials. Before their first date, Wagner pulled up in a police car. Weinberger’s first reaction was to start wondering “Oh, great, what did I do now” and start reaching for her license and registration. Her fear of the police didn’t stop her from marrying him almost four years later. Then there’s the wonderfully named Kay WalkingStick, who married Dirk Bach last week. Even more wonderfully, Miss WalkingStick attended an educational institution named Beaver College.
On the subject of colleges, we have the Natalia Berry/Eric Twerdahl Jr. power-pairing. She has degrees from Harvard, Cambridge, and Dartmouth (twice). He attended the US Naval Academy, Oxford, and Harvard. (I’m already frightened for their children’s classmates at school.) In addition, this week featured Frances Black and Matthew Strauss, who met at Yale. Usually I’d mock a weddings announcement which so blatantly and nakedly seems to have been crafted to promote the bride’s many professional accomplishments. These achievements include directing an arts service organisation, producing on and off Broadway (the announcement adumbrates her shows), and sitting on the board of the Ice Theater of New York. I’m giving this one a pass for two reasons. First, Mrs. Strauss is a 31 year-old holder of a masters degree in theatre management, so she needs to rejoice in whatever work she can get. Secondly, she’s Canadian. She probably doesn’t know any better.
Finally from this fortnight are two stories about people finding love later in life. Jean Buettner met William Dolan III, who she married last week, through his (fairy?) godmother. His godmother, Mrs. Duff, was her neighbour. The couple met when they were both married to other people. If this premise doesn’t pull at your heartstrings enough, perhaps Ms. Buettner’s vocation might. She is a violinist, who often played for Mrs. Duff. Mrs. Duff died last June, after telling the couple that her parting gift to them was each other. Today’s Cupids clearly come in the form of elderly women.
No less lovely is the story of two high school classmates who reconnected after several years apart this week. They worked on the yearbook together and felt a spark, and then went on to lead rather different lives. One became a “driven and accomplished” doctor, while the other went off to “create an interesting life” and “seemed very comfortable with who she was.” There’s a twist to this slightly clichéd story of two people leaving high school and taking paths that veered apart before meeting again, though. The sweethearts are women, Christine Newman and Eileen Bruns, and have in fact been together for almost 25 years. It’s only as a result of recent law changes that they were able to marry this year.
Nelson Mandela understood the importance of companionship and marriage in his own life. Like the last two couples I’ve mentioned, he married for a third time when advanced in years. In this, he was different from Gandhi, who put himself through all sorts of tests of purity and self-abnegation to test his own will. The cross-cultural weddings I’ve highlighted here – between people of Indian and European origin, and between people of East Asian and European origin – would have been impossible in the country of Mandela’s birth when he was born. His work changed that, making interracial marriage possible in today’s South Africa, and more acceptable all over the world. Like Amanda Weinberger, he was no stranger to problems with law enforcement, but earned the respect and admiration of his jailers (and even invited them to his inauguration ceremony). He understood, too, the value of education, calling it “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” I am sure that he would be as much in awe of the many-lettered couples here as I am. He also understood the importance of gay rights, correctly seeing them as the next important focal point for civil rights movements the world over. I’m sure he would have been as uplifted by the story of Miss Newman and Miss Bruns as the rest of us ought to be.
Nelson Mandela was once an angry, perhaps snarky, young man. He died a figure who epitomised the power of love for your fellow man all over the world. For all of my snark about individual announcements, I do love the Weddings section. At its best, it highlights our ability to be unselfish, to relinquish our own desires because we love that other person so much more than we love ourselves. I doubt that Mandela had much time to keep abreast of the romantic lives of Manhattan socialites. I hope that he now has time at least to glance through the announcements that came out on the Sundays before and after his death. If he does, he’ll see how profoundly and poignantly its stories of people of all ages, races, religions, backgrounds, and genders who love one another reinforce his life’s work.