New York State of Nostalgia

It’s a confusing time to be a chap in his 30s in this city. We can’t really run, bare-chested, through Central Park at the moment, depriving us of some major physical release. Doing so in these temperatures would mean freezing and hypothermia, and also all sorts of shrinkage. (Exposed protuberances might fall off, but they’re pretty useless anyway.) We now have NBC’s late night TV back here properly (thank God), but can’t decry it as much because Fallon’s a good guy and one of us rather than a Baby Booming Bush Panderer who refused to retire, and so derailed Conan’s career. And now, to top it off, the New York Times has an especially confusing piece this weekend in the Magazine.

In an article that’s sure to set Jezebel aflame in a smouldering rage for suggesting that perhaps some of the things for which we’ve fought in the name of equality don’t always lead to unqualified good, Lori Gottlieb suggests that more equality is likely to lead to less intimacy in marriages. (The piece has about 800 comments as I write. Woody Allen’s letter of explanation has close to 2,500. As people, do we care more about the relations that other people are having – whether healthy or apparently illicit – than we do our own?)

The article is confusing both for the situation that it purports to illustrate and for the way in which it is written. With the rhetorical questions she asks – “I know what a 50-50 marriage should be like. But what is 50-50 sex supposed to be like?” “Is the trade-off of egalitarian marriage necessarily less sexual heat?” – Lori Gottlieb channels another doyenne of New York sex columns, Carrie Bradshaw. The women about whom Gottlieb writes are the women Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte once were, or wanted to be. (After all, the series began by talking about the death of love in New York City, and about how women had started using sex the way that men do.) Carrie left our screens about ten years ago, and I thought I’d never love another TV show again. Eventually How I Met Your Mother took its place in my heart and as a cultural barometer. It, too, is finishing soon. When the past is still so raw, and the present so confusing, what hope is there for the future?

If Saturday leaves us hopeless, in New York there’s always Sunday morning to raise our spirits. The wedding announcements on which I tend to come down hardest here are the clichés: the couple who met in college, share an ethnicity, income bracket, and postcode, and seem to marry for compatibility. Some young people in modern America, it would seem, have taken the advice of Indian parents to heart: first make sure there’s fit; then love will come. This is fine, of course, and I wish these couples happiness. It just seems so dull. (There was one piece last week in which a girl married a chap because he went to her dream school and spelt his name the ethnically acceptable way. Never so much have I wanted naked social climbing to result in a fall.) It doesn’t surprise me that the older women with whom Gottlieb speaks care more about sexual satisfaction and their own careers than pure compatibility. They know that settling doesn’t work, having seen their friends’ marriages for what they are. And, so, I’m thrilled when a couple in the Times seems to evince some genuine connection. So there’s this one. Yes, he has two Harvard degrees and somehow they were able to go to the London College of Needlework to get the dress made, and it’s not hard to see why he found her attractive. At the same time, any girl who’s willing to marry a man with three children when she’s left the fashion industry in Manhattan deserves props – or a straitjacket, I’m not sure which. (The kids do seem adorable, truth be told. I’m sure Mrs Fleiss will be very happy for many years.)

Then there’s the story of age differences not mattering a damn to a couple, even if it has taken them 27 years to get married. Rebecca Low and Marjory Swanson married last week, after they met at a singles party in Texas in 1986. Ms. Swanson would have been 60 when they met, and Ms Low, I suppose, in her 30s, but they’ve stuck it out, and now they’re married. This makes me happy. So does the story of Sara Slifka and Michael Shulman. In some ways it’s the story of a high achieving Yale graduate marrying a high achieving Princeton graduate via an “online dating site” (I’m guessing J-Date, but that may be a little stereotypical) at Essex House. And it is this. It’s also the story of a pharmaceuticals executive who’s marrying an actor despite her allergy to his dog. I’m a sucker for dogs.

The other announcements this week were either staid or unremarkable; it is winter, after all. But as long as widowers with children, lesbian octogenarians, and people with dogs get married, a life without Ted and Barney may be ok. And if you’re finding the Weddings section as lachrymose as I have been, lately, watch Anchorman 2. It makes New York in the early 1980s, with all of its hookers and crack dealers and “he-shes on the Bowery” seem like a slightly more glamorous, but perhaps no less ridiculous, place. And, as the best song on a stellar soundtrack underscores, perhaps the real test of love isn’t lucre or libido, but finding someone who’d really love to see you tonight. (For me, that’s SoulCycle. No Sunday is complete without it.)

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