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Wedded Blitz! Eye of the Tiger

Love, Princeton-style. And the rest of the New York Times 'Vows' section explained.

It’s been a harrowing month for us ladies, right? We’ve had to deal with such indignities as the “first tablet for women,” the ePad Femme — if we thought the iPad sounded enough like a hygienic product, this one really delivers on that terrible premise — and the misguided notion of “The Feminist Housewife.” Some dumb jokes by dorky guys about dongles ignited a firestorm of discussion about technology and misogyny that tested the patience of even the most ardent opinionistas. And thanks to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg (and the legions of people who “reviewed” her new book without having read it), we’ve spent the past many weeks squabbling over whether women in the workplace should lean in or rise up or stand down. It’s enough to make you just want to bail out.

Oh yeah, and there was also this:

For most of you, the cornerstone of your future and happiness will be inextricably linked to the man you marry, and you will never again have this concentration of men who are worthy of you.

Here’s what nobody is telling you: Find a husband on campus before you graduate. Yes, I went there.

If it weren’t for the modern-day cadence of “Yes, I went there,” I’d brush off this advice as some relic of a bygone era — maybe a reprint of some famous Edith Wharton passage or some such. But no, this was a letter written in March of 2013 the year of our Lord to the Daily Princetonian by one Susan A. Patton, Class of 1977 as well as the mother of two Princeton boys.

“My older son had the good judgment and great fortune to marry a classmate of his,” Patton wrote, perhaps to explain her qualifications, “but he could have married anyone. My younger son is a junior and the universe of women he can marry is limitless.”

This isn’t the case for girls, she explained.

Here is another truth that you know, but nobody is talking about. As freshman women, you have four classes of men to choose from. Every year, you lose the men in the senior class, and you become older than the class of incoming freshman men. So, by the time you are a senior, you basically have only the men in your own class to choose from, and frankly, they now have four classes of women to choose from. Maybe you should have been a little nicer to these guys when you were freshmen?

If I had daughters, this is what I would be telling them.

If she had daughters, they’d probably have turned out goth, but that’s besides the point. The point being, Susan A. Patton might give kind of hilariously retrograde advice, but it’s advice worth listening to if you give a hoot about the probability of your wedding appearing in the holy grail of hitching up, the New York Times.

I know, young pretties of Princeton, thinking about these things seems like forever away. You busted your ass to get into this crazy school and now you just want to hang out in the TI basement playing Beirut and blasting the Outfield and eating croissants pilfered from the 3 a.m. kitchen delivery. I get it, I totally get it. That freaking basement is like Vegas, man, the way time just ceases to exist. But outside that dirty dungeon, time and marriageable men march on, and it’s up to you to get into lovelorn lockstep before it’s too late.

Some say you can’t put a price on the value of a Princeton education. Well, using our proprietary NUPTIALS algorithm, which was developed to try to make sense of the gilded chaos that is the Times wedding section, we can: three points. But that’s not all. If you marry a fellow Princetonian, you pick up three bonus points for marrying someone from the same school (the NYT loves that, because then it can use the “from which they graduated” construction it so adores) and two more if you met as undergrads. That’s 3+3+3+2 = 11 points before you’ve even started your first job! Susan A. Patton should probably take over writing this column.

Actually, that’s not a bad idea: What would Susan A. Patton have to say about some of this month’s most memorable weddings? After all, anyone getting their story into the Times must be doing something right. Let’s take a look.

The couple: Virginia Lam and Marc Abrams, who met on Match.com but didn’t tell her parents for a year. “To them, meeting people on the Internet was akin to finding the Craigslist killer.”
Susan sez? Susan can’t talk right now; she’s too busy breathing into a paper bag at the words “Match.com.”

The couple: Rachel Speisman and Lawrence Scheinert, who met when they were both bystanders while a car plowed into a café near the University of Florida. After rushing to the car — she to check on the driver’s well-being, he to make sure he didn’t bolt — the bride, then a 21-year-old student, “was on an adrenaline high” and slipped a note with her number to the groom, a second-year law student, that said: “If you ever want to get coffee or dodge cars, give me a call.”
Susan sez? This girl realized the import of snagging an older man and acted accordingly. She also married a man who, like her, is from Florida and Jewish. Susan would totally approve — although she’d probably work in some undermining comment about state schools while she was at it.

The couple: Elizabeth Bryan and Andrew Caswell, more University of Floridians, who also met while she was still an undergraduate. The pair are devout Florida Gators fans: “The team’s fight song is on his answering machine. And on the summit of the wedding cake were figurines of the team’s mascots, Albert and Alberta, he holding a football in a tuxedo and top hat and she in a white wedding dress holding a bouquet of orange and blue, the team’s colors.”
Susan sez? In a Q&A with New York Magazine’s Maureen O’Connor that took place after Patton’s letter went viral, Patton lamented marrying a man who “went to a school of almost no name recognition.” Her (now-ex) husband, she said, “had no respect for the hoopla, the traditions, the allegiance, the orange and black.” It’s a toss-up here: Either she’d shudder at the idea of a Florida that exists outside of Naples or Palm Beach, or she’d nod her head in curt approval at the likemindedness of it all. If her wedding cake had only been topped by two Princeton Tigers, things would have been different. Orange you sad?

The couple: Speaking of interesting cakes, Sara Schechner and Kenneth Launie had a fun one of their own that “celebrates their celestial ties.” The two middle-aged divorcés met when she, the “David P. Wheatland curator of Harvard’s Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments,” called him, “an amateur collector and restorer of telescopes” who “had twice cleaned the 168-year-old lens of Harvard’s Great Refractor telescope in his spare time.” She needed his help restoring an 18th-century telescope, and he totally nerded out when she told him about the lenses he’d get to encounter. “You mean I get to touch them?”: That’s What He Said.
Susan sez? Susan would probably be blind to the fact that an announcement like this — a lovely, loving story about two souls who have devoted their lives to their biggest fascinations, and in doing so managed to find their most kindred of spirits — flies in the face of her advice that people should attach themselves to a lifelong partner when they’re 19 years old. Instead, Susan would probably tsk-tsk that Dr. Schechner should’ve locked it down while she was at Harvard. I can hear it now. “You’ll never find this concentration of self-important and slightly condescending overachievers again.”

The couple: Sage Mehta and Michael Robinson, the patron saints of Wedded Blitz.
Susan sez? Sage and Michael weren’t married in March, but boy, oh boy what I would give to see a throwdown between Susan A. Patton and our favorite bride, Sage — who did not, in fact, marry a Princeton man but did meet her Yale husband at a party thrown by “three very popular Princeton girls.” Hey, maybe those are Susan’s fictional daughters! On the other hand, Susan would likely nod her head in brisk approval that when the two first met, it was at a high school summer program in Paris. Either way, I want to hear one of them tell the other to “Buck up!”

The couple: Claire Lieberman and Nicholas Keefe, a former ballerina and her boarding-school beau, who have been together since meeting at Milton Academy their senior years. “We would go to get ice cream, drive around listening to Jack Johnson and Ben Harper, and just talk,” the bride recalled. “Falling in love was an unspoken thing.” Great, now I can’t get #@()%*#@ “Bubble Toes” out of my head.
Susan sez? Susan just kidnapped Claire Lieberman.

Congratulations to this month’s most upstanding young couple, Leah Sullivan and Joshua Pollack, who have collectively piled up degrees from Princeton, Georgetown, Stanford, Wharton, and Harvard. (The bride was also a Fulbright fellow in Thailand, studying gender and development.) The bride’s father formerly worked at the World Bank, the groom’s mom is a nurse in Bethesda, and the wedding took place at the Georgetown chapel. She works at McKinsey, and he is “a special assistant to the president.” This is the most D.C. wedding in quite some time. (Thanks, as always, to Friend of Grantland Alex Morrison for his lovely Society Scorecard.)

In other wedding-related thoughts that Susan A. Patton didn’t quite get to in her mid-century manifesto …

• Ah, doesn’t this make you pine for the days when people just scattered disposable cameras on the tables and hoped for the best? Once you got the developed photos back from your neighborhood supermarket (having ordered “doubles,” of course), you could trace the timeline of the night by tracking the relative concentration of dick pix. It was a wonderful era.

• This month’s finest sentence: “The bride’s father is a rabbi in Lafayette, where he also runs Rocky Mountain Hai, a spiritual group, of which her mother is the administrator.” And the top back-to-back sentences: “He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a master’s and Ph.D. in computer science from Columbia. He was an extra in the film ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.'”

I have so many questions about this announcement. Do people actually use Facebook in such a manner? And what is going on with the sealed envelope? As I understand it, they had brunch for the first time and then he mailed himself a pep talk written on the back of a receipt because “he wanted tangible evidence of his initial, and overwhelming, feelings for Ms. Fefferman”? Is this guy suffering from the Memento virus or something? If not, he knows that the postal service takes, like, two days tops, right? And what did he do with that unopened envelope-to-himself for that interim year? Was there ever a time when he and his brunch-lady-love got in a big fight and she stormed out and he went and propped up the envelope on his living room table and sat there in an undershirt and sweatpants, unshaven and nursing a glass of gin, and fiddled menacingly with a Zippo lighter while eyeing the envelope and blasting “Cry Me a River” on repeat for a few hours? But then he fell asleep and when he woke up he found his phone buried in the couch cushions and he had 16 texts and eight missed calls saying sorry and then he wasn’t mad anymore? Anyway, yeah, um, those were just a few of the questions.

• Of course the nude male model featured in this very funny piece on a new kind of bachelorette party played lax in college, and of course his player page lists Dave Matthews as his favorite band. (I can see him now, noodle-dancing around Jones Beach and shouting “PLAY ‘SATELLITE’!”)

• If Argo, Good Will Hunting, and one of Ben Affleck’s random rom-coms were put in a Venn diagram, this wedding story would potentially be the result. (Affleck would totally cast himself as Alfred Boll.)

• The grandson of Alfred A. Knopf of Alfred A. Knopf Publishers is also, with his new husband, the former first-prize winner in “the professional-amateur division in the American Smooth and American Rhythm categories at the April Follies Same-Sex Dancesport Classic, a ballroom competition in Oakland, Calif.” Silver Spoon Playbook?

These sweaters. I want to live in their sweater wonderland and sit on cable-knit couches and ask her, “Is that merino?” and she’d be all, “Actually, [lowers voice to a conspiratorial whisper] it’s cashmere. Can you believe it? A gal like me? But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 60s it’s that it’s really just worth it, you know?” And then he’d come in and bellow, “Who ordered hot toddies?” and then we’d play pin the tail on the donkey except instead of a blindfold it’d be the sleeves of a sweater.

• If you haven’t read Pamela Colloff’s Texas Monthly two-part feature on “The Innocent Man,” Michael Morton, who was convicted in 1986 of murdering his wife, I highly recommend it. (It was recently nominated for a National Magazine Award.) Once you have, this announcement makes for a satisfying coda.

• Some of the finest announcements are also the most succinct; this one, for example, has a particularly high density of points-worthy items. When a bride named CeCe who works at an interior design firm named Bunny Williams marries a Harvard graduate and both he and the officiating Episcopal priest have III’s in their names, you don’t need too much filler. Oh yeah, handbags are also involved.

This is such an awkward correction! Although it’s got nothing on the completely awesome anecdote shared at the end of this column about a self-described opera “diva” marrying a drummer classmate:

Nightie Night The groom’s grandmother gave Ms. Christopher a negligee she wore on her own wedding night, with a note that said: “I hope you wear it longer than I did … you have to beat 2 minutes.”

• Ready for some romance? “He was initially more interested in me than I was in him but as the weekend went on I became more intrigued,” recalled one bride. Hey, it happens! At least she remained nonspecific: When it came to another ultimately happy couple’s first meeting, “[he] remembers her ‘drop-dead looks and bubbly personality,’ but [she] recalls his unfortunate Hawaiian shirt and Justin Timberlake dance moves.” Ouch. But on the other hand, note to the ladies: This is exactly what happens if you don’t find a guy in college!!!

• While it’s a rare month when two Yeshiva grads wouldn’t earn Chosen Couple status, it’s not every March that you get Toba Gittel Goldfein (the daughter of a rabbi) and Yossi Goldstein (the grandson of a rabbi) tying the knot. Mazel tov!

Some couples fight about which way to put the utensils in the dishwasher, others over their children’s hemlines and/or tuition, and then there are those who know exactly which buttons to push, like this pair of grooms, all of whose fights undoubtedly end the same cruel way. Can’t you just see the “descendant of William Bradford, a governor of Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts” wickedly reminding the “descendant of Samuel Magruder, a member of the Colonial-era House of Burgesses in Maryland” that only one of their antecedents has a Wikipedia page?

But at least those two are partners. The cattiest wedding-related competition (that takes place in my head) always comes when a couple whose announcement includes a remarkable detail that in any other situation would be a major distinguishing feature ends up having to share that feature with someone else.

It happens from time to time: You get a Carnegie great-great-great-granddaughter’s wedding taking place the same weekend as a Vanderbilt’s (robber baron one-upmanship is the worst, though also historically accurate), or two fathers-of-brides who are chiefs of neurology at competing Boston-area hospitals, or two grooms who have played dead dudes on Law & Order, etc. Whenever it does, I like to imagine the bride reacting like a child who finds out that there’s another kid at school bringing cupcakes and getting to wear a paper crown for his birthday. But it’s MY grandmother who has part ownership of a Major League Baseball team. MINE!

Anyway, in this case, it’s ambassadors. One bride’s father is “an ambassador [and] the state chief of protocol to President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria.” Not bad, not bad, except that this bride’s parents “are both retired ambassadors, the bride’s father having been India’s ambassador to Italy until last year and her mother having been until 2010 the ambassador to Slovakia.” You hear that? BOTH. So many ceremonial curtsies and delicious state dinners and tinted limousine windows and menacingly firm handshakes tied up in that BOTH.

But the game doesn’t end there. In this case, the first couple owns the crucial tiebreaker. “The bride’s maternal grandfather, Wole Soyinka, the Nigerian playwright and poet, received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature.” Ah, the trump Nobel Prize, a brilliant move indeed. And all the rest of us, as usual, are forced to fold.

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Katie Baker is a staff writer at Grantland.

Archive @ katiebakes

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