A reliable test of character and circumstance is how you spend Sunday morning. What do you do? Are you able to choose what you do? Or does necessity---for example, the need to earn money---drive you?
I am lucky. Unless I have a family emergency or my job has gone crazy, I am a free woman. Do I dance? Do I sing? Do I burn incense at the altar of false gods? No, I read the wedding and ceremony announcements in the Style Section of The New York Times. They are fun, and a profound social and cultural history.
Obviously, they show the newly respectable demographies of love. The couples represent a range of nations, races, ethnicities, and sexualities. Individually, men and women, be they in a two-sex or same-sex union, personify the social mobility of the United States. The parents of Ivy League law school graduates may have been truck drivers, or nurses' aides, or mechanics in a city transit system. Behind the smiles of the head shots must be story after story of ambition, energy, intelligence, determination, and the anxiety that mobility generates. The jobs these lovers hold---no matter what their class of origin---reflect the contemporary economy. Women are doctors, lawyers, company chiefs. Both men and women earn their money from the new technologies----developing software, designing web sites, selling Internet services.
For those of us who habitually study narrative, each of these announcement extends the marriage plot that is a staple of song and story. Two people meet, but one of them is involved in another romance, and so they part, only to meet years later accidentally or to have one person send an e-mail out to the other as a whim. And then this Cupid's shot in the dark hits, and the couple, reunited, are now announcing their marriage in the paper of record. Or, a young man and a woman, though educated in the United States, are raised in traditional families that believe in arranged marriages. One of them refuses to be go along with tradition, but then freely meets a soul mate from the same culture. Neither can believe their good fortune.
The most sophisticated renderings of the marriage plot balance romance and realism. So amidst the hope and happiness that these versions of the marriage plot radiate are dry statements of the number of previous marriages each partner has had, couplings that death or, more often divorce, have severed.
Read these announcements. I really do.
This is my last guest blog. People cling to the cliche that journalism is the first draft of history. Perhaps a blog is the first draft of an essay, but it is also an experiment in a conversation, here with strangers who have had the courtesy to listen to you. My thanks for the chance to be here.