Every so often, a featured “Vows” column comes along that changes the way you look at not only weddings but also, in no particular order, at the New York Times, modern furniture, bodies of water, love, camp counselors, and Facebook. This is that time. The Platonic ideal of a Times wedding announcement was reached the first weekend of June, and it is nothing less than transcendent.
Oh, make no mistake: Over the course of the the month, there were certainly challengers. We had the free-spirited Letty Brown and Jan Novak, who “have teamed up to run the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco in matching tutus and used flashlights to look for the endangered California red-legged frog in the East Bay hills.” (Novak also commits a biking-related fashion faux pas that’s on par with Bridget Jones in the bunny suit.) There was Aurora Stokowski and Anthony Mazzei, who teamed up to open “a Fair Folks & a Goat cafe in New Orleans (the name, they say, comes from a painting with a mythological theme; Ms. Stokowski added in an e-mail, ‘It also happened to have great Googleability’).”
But in the end, it was impossible to eclipse one of the most perfect “Vows” columns ever committed to print, a graduate-level seminar on exactly what it takes to be the most laudable married couple in all the land. Sage Mehta and Michael Robinson, I want to point out right now, are probably wonderful people. If I knew them, I’m sure I would love them. I do not wish to rain upon their happy day. They probably have the power and status to destroy me with the careless wave of a hand.
But I also have a job to do, and that job — as outlined in the introductory manifesto to the Wedded Blitz series, is “to celebrate the institutional absurdities of the Times and its announcements in general.” And few have come along that are as remarkably Times-tastic as this one. I have no choice but to essentially read it out loud, the way thousands most likely did over brunch back on June 1, and react to it, piece by high-cheekboned piece. I’m both excited and incredibly scared.
Let’s begin at the beginning.
ALEXANDRA SAGE MEHTA and Michael Robinson do not seem to belong to the Facebook generation that expresses itself in sentence fragments.
That’s the very first sentence! Writer Lois Smith Brady really comes out with guns a-blazin’ right off the bat, doesn’t she? This is the equivalent of a flight attendant crisply shutting the curtain to first class in the opening seconds of a cross-country flight. Or, to put it in parlance more easily grasped by you uneducated Zuckerbergian drones: U SUCK. These are Brady’s words, though, not those of the couple, so they are not quite as insufferable as the most memorable line from what had previously been my very favorite “Vows” column, a 2010 piece (also by Brady) on Alexandra Lammers and Eric Hoyle that described the bride’s mother as being “so Old World that she recently said: ‘I do not have a computer. I much prefer having a butler.'” (Miss you, Ask Jeeves.)
Both are writers and care deeply about words as well as opera, cooking, stick-shift cars, modern design and swimming in cold water.
This is classic Brady-ist writing: Beware of giving this lady a list of your various interests. In that 2010 article she wrote that “[b]y age 12, Alexandra Victoria Lammers knew how to bake bread from scratch, braid a horse’s mane, pin a kilt and set a dinner table correctly. She grew up in a big stone house in Villanova, Pa., in a refined environment full of opera, formal teas and trips to Europe.” There’s a reason opera is one of the “Identifiers” in the NUPTIALS scoring system, folks.
Ms. Mehta, 27, who grew up on the Upper East Side, is working on a memoir and a novel, and is not easily typecast. She prefers writing in the darkest corner of the quietest library she can find, yet she’s also social and vivacious … She is slightly built, graceful and soft-spoken. Yet she has also been known, when cross-country skiing with friends who are falling behind, to shout, “Buck up!”
An Ivy League graduate who grew up in the city and is working on a book is a rare bird indeed. Also, I call “not it” on those winter adventures. To continue the airline metaphors from earlier (I’ve spent a lot of time on planes the last few weeks, I don’t know), shouting at a struggling cross-country skier to “buck up” is quite possibly the one thing more likely to incite a murderous rage than a gate agent telling someone whose flight just got canceled to “calm down.”
Mr. Robinson, 31, grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., loving cars and French literature. He manages real estate investments for a family in New York and is writing a biography of Robert Cordier, a French filmmaker and theater director. He likes modern chairs and couches, partly because they are often uncomfortable and keep him from falling asleep while reading.
The chairs and couches are all, “Buck up!”
The two met in Paris in the summer of 2001. She was on a summer-abroad program for high school students; he was a counselor. For her, he was an anomaly: a boy she could talk to, for hours.
Counselor-camper love was a big thing this June. If I had wed the summer-abroad counselor I had a crush on, I’d currently be the wife of a dirty tweaker-slash-SCUBA instructor named Shane from New Zealand who always offered to rub sunscreen on my back with his middle-aged hands. Love is a mysterious thing.
By November 2009, both were living in Manhattan. They ran into each other at a “huge party given by three very popular Princeton girls,” she said. He recalls thinking that Ms. Mehta had grown up to be astoundingly beautiful, tall and lithe in a bright orange dress.
We’re going to set aside the line about “three very popular Princeton girls” — that’s the kind of status-obsessive thing I’d say to my mom if I came home hungover to butter her up — and instead focus on Lois Smith Brady’s bizarre fixation on the female body. In that aforementioned 2010 piece on Alexandra Lammers, she calls her “a Size 2 beauty who loves fashion magazines.” And in this 2011 article about Megan Fairchild she writes: “The wedding was like an anatomical lesson. The bride walked down the aisle in a gown with a long tulle skirt and a low back, showing off her shoulder blades and back muscles, which moved like the interior of a clock as she walked.” I’m pretty sure Lois Smith Brady hates fat people. (Just read this column on Nancy Coffey and poor Timothy Nagler to see what I mean.)
They talked about writing, bicycles and their fathers. Her father is Ved Mehta, the prolific, blind Indian writer who lives in New York; his father, E. Steven Robinson, owns a commodities trading company in Michigan.
Again, a similarity to the Lammers column, where they “often [took] long walks and [discussed] 18th-century Chinese porcelain (she collects it), sailing (he loves it), Philadelphia architecture and hunting (both love it).” I’m not going to say anything about the dad(s) because (a) that’s pretty cool, and (b) quite frankly, I’m too afraid of being the subject of a scathing letter to the editor like the one Mr. Mehta wrote in 2005 to the Sunday Times Magazine in London after they published what was supposed to be a positive piece about him and his daughter. Seriously, go here and scroll down, and try not to quake.
At one point during dinner, she asked him if he enjoyed swimming in very cold water. Growing up, Ms. Mehta spent summers at her family’s house on an island off Maine and swam in the frigid sea every day. “I was really asking if he jumped into things,” she said. “It’s about bravery to me. Unconsciously, I was asking him if he’d jump into a relationship with me, whether he’d just go for something.”
You mean like this?
A few days later, he e-mailed her and asked, “Do you want to have dinner Monday or Tuesday?” She wrote back, “Both!”
I actually love that. That’s really sweet.1 (See, I’m not a monster!)
She moved into his tiny studio on the Lower East Side, which at that time had three pieces of furniture: a large desk with a glass top, an uncomfortable modern chair and an uncomfortable bed. Yet she was perfectly comfortable there. “He has the most amazing, joyful way of going through life,” she said. “He sings and dances and laughs and runs the shower too long before he gets in.”
“He has the most amazing, joyful way of going through life,” she said. “He sings and dances and laughs and only eats a quarter of the food on his plate and throws the rest out. He also has an incredible collection of working aerosol cans.”
One of those friends, Eliza Gray, an assistant editor at The New Republic magazine, said: “You can always count on them to talk about something interesting, whether it’s yoga or an artist or something in history or a place or a song or even politics. They’re never dull. They’re both unique.”
Mickey Kaus once wrote that it is a “journalistic iron law” that “every time a reporter says a person is funny and gives an example, the example won’t be funny.” Judging from the above passage, I think the theory may hold true for the word “interesting” as well.
“I have never been so sure about anything in my life as wanting to marry Michael,” the bride said in a short speech before the 215 guests. “It is rare in life to be sure. Most of my feelings are the opposite, little inklings that with proper care and attention grow into more definite emotions and desires.”
Hey, whatever happened to those Tamagotchi pet keychains? Meanwhile, at the weddings of us common Facebook Generation proles, people are only able to voice concepts like “I <3 him :)" while they change their relationship status to "Married" via their iPhones. (Sixteen people "Liked" this.) I really hope she picked up, caressed, and tried to make out with a small bread roll as a proxy for her little inklings as she spoke, the way Tommy Boy did when describing his sales. Tommy Boy was pre–Facebook Generation, you know.
Ms. Mehta and Mr. Robinson have read and reread all the epic love stories in literature, yet their own view of love and marriage is pretty simple.
ALL the epic love stories. All of them. Every one. I imagine a smug New York Times fact-checker arriving at the spartan Lower East Side love headquarters, canonical list in hand, ready to bust them on this outrageous claim, only to emerge disheveled and muttering hours later with every item crossed off and a giant NPR tote bag filled with obscure French love lit to brush up on. From high above, Michael and Sage lean regally out the window, their croissant crumbs falling on the poor fact-checker’s head. “Buck up!” he can hear them calling as he trudges down Delancey Street, shivering and defeated. “Buck up.”
Wanna know something crazy? Sage and Michael didn’t even rank no. 1 on the Society Scorecard as per our proprietary NUPTIALS algorithm; that honor went to Carolyn Sussman and Will Blodgett based in part on the strength of their education and mostly on the fact that, boy oh boy, do her parents keep themselves busy.
In other various news from the upward of 200 weddings that were held and reported during the hot month of June …
I‘ve been hoarding this information for months, because I kind of view it as my own little secret garden of passive-aggressive wit and whimsy, and sometimes a girl just needs her safe space, but whatever, you all deserve it after getting through this roundup: Did you know that every single wedding announcement, no matter how boring, has a secret one-sentence capsule summary, each one better than the last? You can find them all here.
Some are strictly utilitarian and straight to the point, like a meddling mother who leaves you a voice mail that simply says “He’s a doctor.” (“The couple met at Harvard, from which they graduated” is a common example.) Others have a twinkle in their eye, like they’ve been written by some saucy auntie: “Both are involved in cosmetics: the bride is a recruitment manager for Estée Lauder and the bridegroom specializes in paintless dent repair.” Some rudely ignore one half of the happy couple: “The bridegroom was a law clerk to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the Supreme Court,” this one says,4 with the poor bride — a doctor!! — left out altogether.
There are those that sound like failed Dharma & Greg spinoffs, or the punch lines to “what’s the difference between … ?”-style jokes: “The bride is a performance artist. The bridegroom is a lawyer.”5 And, of course, there are some containing creeping notes of mild, smiling judgment: “The couple are to be married at the bumper car pavilion of an amusement park.” (Whatever, I’d totally crash that wedding — oh cripes, no pun intended, I swear.)
My favorite one of the month, though, is this: “A pairing as right as wine and cheese: the bride has studied climate change in vineyards; the bridegroom works for a Web site and magazine dedicated to cheese.” In case you’re wondering, the name of the publication is Culture: the Word on Cheese. I love life.