Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On getting through the day

Today's off to a fine start - I got all kinds of paperwork in order, but somehow neglected to notice that the visa office only accepts said paperwork between 9 and 10 am, at which point my main concern was that the oatmeal not stick to the pot. A demain, alors.

As for this... I'm confused. (I get confused easily.) Conor asks whether newspapers should portray the world as it is or as it should be. But the Weddings and Celebrations section - like any of the various Style sections - is always "sugar-coated." I mean, are most marriages in the country, or even in the NY area, between high-achieving, photogenic young professionals who've spent their formative years in euphemistic Boston? The Vows are designed to provoke envy among not-quite-so-highly-achieving, not-quite-so-photogenic, not-quite-so-coupled-off. This week's column strayed from the norm, because it went the regular Style-section route - seemingly celebrating but between-the-lines (by allowing comments, say) mocking the frivolous rich. I guess the paper was trying to shake things up, to see if readers prefer self-hatred or smugness on their Sunday mornings. Either way, though, I can't imagine any part of that section telling it like it is.

8 comments:

Vance Ricks said...

Hello -- this does all re-raise (or as some people say, "re-beg") the question of what the Vows section is FOR these days. I mean besides serving as an envy generator and/or a schadenfreude generator.

Anyway, maybe this particular couple would have been better off submitting their tale to the Modern Love column.

PG said...

I think the Vows section has occasionally been generating neither envy nor schadenfreude. This column, for example. And if the couple currently under fire had been more like this (no one married, no kids yet), even a story that begins with one party already in a relationship with someone else is OK.

Vows frequently covers people who are not the super-resumed; the resume marriages are usually covered in the brief announcements, because (and I say this knowing several people who have been in those announcements) their stories are boring. "The couple met at Harvard college." "The couple met at Columbia Law." The only person I know who's been in the Vows column is doing public interest law while her husband sells mismatched socks.

Phoebe said...

PG,

Point taken about the difference between the Vows and the accompanying announcements. I've known announcement-couples, never any Vows ones, and I'd have to look closer to confirm how typical the non-Ivy Vows stories are.

As for stories that begin with breakups... I think there's a huge difference between a breakup where there's no marriage or kids and a a divorce with kids involved. Not to go Dan Savage-crazy here, but "every relationship fails until one doesn't" is spot-on. It's overall a good thing that the first person with whom one feels some mutual attraction doesn't have to be one's partner for life. However, in these columns, it often doesn't sit right when exes are mentioned, whether it was a first date someone abandoned or a spouse (although the spouse situation is obviously worse), because it's treating a third party as though they exist only as means to an end, as though their convenient lack of charm sealed Fate for the other two. It's not that it's wrong to bring a date to a party and find someone better once you get there, it's that it's iffy to involve the third party (unless, as apparently happens, they remain a friend and agree to be mentioned) in the announcement. It just falls into the category of that which doesn't need to be known - like details of the couple's sex life, or their past breakups with each other.

PG said...

I think by having a Vows column done on you, you are pretty much announcing not only your nuptials, but your desire to have the world know about how you got there. Then again, I'm so thin-skinned I refused to have any announcement because in the Internet era, even if the newspaper doesn't allow comments, a blog that does (ahem, Above the Law) can link and tell its readers to open fire. The fact of one's marriage is a matter of public record, but nothing else about it need be.

Vance Ricks said...

Hello, PG,

As a Wire fan, I thank you for that first counterexample of Andrews and Boyd, which I hadn't seen or heard about before.

That does still leave the "why does this column exist?" question intact, even if my proposed answers are weak. Is it so that the well-pedigreed and/or famous -- or the connected to the well-pedigreed or famous (as is true of the Boyd/Andrews case) -- can, as you wrote, act on their "desire to have the world know about how you got there"? I don't begrudge people that desire, but I'm confused about why the Times would volunteer to enable it.

PG said...

The column exists because people will read it. We, especially women, like to read love stories. It's been a favored story in Western civilization since the Norman Conquest: two people fall in love and get married (as opposed to, say, my parents' story, which is that two people's elders decide they would make a good match and tell them they're going to marry each other sight unseen).

People are infuriated at the Times for printing this latest Vows column because they are uncomfortable with a love story that involves destroying two existing marriages. This is a bad man and a bad woman who don't deserve love, which is why so many are predicting their marriage will break up.

PG said...

The Letters to the Editor responding to the Vows column are, I think, evidence for my comment above. Phoebe may especially appreciate the letter from a woman whose own Vows story mentioned previous relationships.

Phoebe said...

Vance Ricks,

Wedding columns have been in newspapers since forever. Part of my dissertation involves combing through ones from the 1840s. The interest, then as now, comes from the same place as the need to weave a love story into every movie or TV show, regardless of the overall plot. Or, what PG said. Re: Westernness - it's interesting that these love stories made headlines at times when couples in the West were arranged.

PG,

"I think by having a Vows column done on you, you are pretty much announcing not only your nuptials, but your desire to have the world know about how you got there."

Well yes, but it's assumed that couples put their best feet forward, and ignore not-family-or-boss-friendly details (how drunk they were when they met, how they slept together within 10 minutes of meeting, etc.). There's some wiggle-room (mentioning meeting on a dating site may have once been taboo, but is now nothing unusual), but so, so much is left out. Self-deprecation is fine, self-condemnation is not.