When Deb­o­rah takes a closer look at a news­pa­per’s wed­ding an­nounce­ments, she’s sur­prised at what she dis­cov­ers

NEXT (New Zealand) - - At A Glance - By Deb­o­rah Hill Cone

Dear New York Times, Kia ora from a sub­scriber in Auck­land. I was prompted to write to you be­cause I’m con­fused. You keep prompt­ing me to read sto­ries that don’t have proper head­lines, just two names: Faith and James, Con­stance and Gor­don, Can­dida and Justin. Six of the 10 news sto­ries rec­om­mended for me to­day – for­get Syria and Face­book data breaches – turn out to be wed­ding an­nounce­ments. What the?

I’m a di­vorced 50-year-old sin­gle mother fem­i­nist. What would make you think I want to read wed­ding sto­ries? Sure, I have been mar­ried once. On my wed­ding day, I had a hang­over. In the morn­ing I bought a pale blue chif­fon dress from Karen Walker. (It was on sale; it didn’t quite fit). Then we went to the registry of­fice. We asked a nurse and a man that worked at PlaceMak­ers to be our wit­nesses. I’m not sure this qual­i­fies me as some­one that swoons over wed­dings. Could you please amend your al­go­rithm. Yours sin­cerely etc.

PS. PlaceMak­ers is a hard­ware store, not an up­mar­ket event plan­ning busi­ness.

I didn’t hear back from the New York Times. I seethed a lit­tle. But then, maybe it was be­cause of the Royal Wed­ding or some­thing, but I felt cu­ri­ous to go and read the wed­ding col­umn after all. I ex­pected it would be in­ter­est­ing in an an­thro­po­log­i­cal kind of way. It would be full of snobby high-

achiev­ers with good hair and white teeth who went to Ivy League schools.

The first few were the kind of cul­tural arte­facts I was ex­pect­ing. There were a lot of sta­tus-sig­nalling chron­i­cles and top qual­ity canapés. Man­hat­tan ad­man Jake Musiker, 29, never both­ered to check Face­book mes­sages be­cause most of them “were washed-up ac­quain­tances from high school invit­ing me to some kind of night­club”, so he missed out on a mes­sage from his fu­ture wife Tara Blackman, who had spot­ted him on a beach in the Hamp­tons. But “smit­ten by his charisma and good looks”, she per­se­vered and even­tu­ally they con­nected, which led to a Brook­lyn wed­ding. Tara was a bit “Anna Win­tour”, the groom said. “This is what Tara al­ways wanted, and Tara is the kind of girl who gets what she wants,” said the bride’s fa­ther. “Tara and Jake are the most lov­ing and good and in­nately kind peo­ple you will ever meet,” said Jake’s fa­ther. I guess none of the washed-up ac­quain­tances got in­vited to the wed­ding.

Sissy de­Maria, 54, a well main­tained blonde PR chick, had only been sep­a­rated for four months when she met dishy on­col­o­gist Guen­ther Koehne, 60, on an in­ter­na­tional flight. They felt an in­stant con­nec­tion and started dat­ing. She loves horses, jog­ging, ten­nis and golf. He loves opera and is a glider pi­lot. She noted “he does 150 push-ups a day and has the body of a 20-year-old”. He said she was “el­e­gant and sees things like a lit­tle girl” and said as a worka­holic he re­alised he “needed more of a pri­vate life”. At their wed­ding, guests ate filet mignon and baked stuff shrimp served on spe­cial china which was a gift to the cou­ple. The cake was fon­dant vanilla rum.

For­mer ma­rine Greg was de­scribed as a mil­lion­aire play­boy broad­cast jour­nal­ist who was a fighter pi­lot and “a rock-solid, re­spectable young man”. His new wife Ju­dith was “beau­ti­ful, amaz­ing and multi-tal­ented”. The bride wore a cou­ture gown, and Pres­i­dent Trump’s ex­ec­u­tive as­sis­tant was one of the guests. But not all the sto­ries were like this. Danya Skolkin and Josh Til­lis’ wed­ding in Hous­ton was washed out by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, so in­stead of hav­ing a glam­orous event they handed out their three-course meal to 100 dis­placed lo­cal res­i­dents at a shel­ter. “It brought tears to our eyes,” Danya said after she and Josh re­alised how their post­poned wed­ding plans would be able to help their com­mu­nity in need.

Gertrude Mokotoff and Alvin Mann were in­tro­duced eight years ago at a gym in New York where they still work out twice a week. She’s 98. He’s 94. “A mu­tual friend said to me ‘I’d like you to meet a very nice young lady’,” Alvin re­called. They be­came an item quickly. “I kept get­ting teased about dat­ing a cougar,” Alvin said. Eight years later, Gertrude asked Alvin to marry her. “I was tired of chas­ing after him.” Alvin re­ceived a bach­e­lor’s de­gree in his­tory last year, said age doesn’t mean “a damn thing” to him or Gert. “We don’t see it as a bar­rier. We still do what we want to do in life.” Just be­fore din­ner, the bride raised the roof, and the groom’s eye­brows, when she sat in a chair and hiked up her wed­ding dress above her knee to re­veal that she was wear­ing a garter. “Very nice,” the groom said, his cheeks turn­ing red.

Death brought Pa­ley El­li­son, 47, and Chodo Camp­bell, 64, to­gether. They’re zen Bud­dhist monks and founders of the New York Zen Cen­tre for Con­tem­pla­tive Care, a non-profit cen­tre they set up to teach peo­ple to care for the ill and dy­ing us­ing prac­tices like med­i­ta­tion. The cou­ple met at a zen med­i­ta­tion cen­tre in 1990. Nei­ther for­got the other, al­though they didn’t meet again for an­other 12 years. In 2007 they were un­of­fi­cially wed at a zen com­mit­ment cer­e­mony in Man­hat­tan. In­stead of ac­cept­ing wed­ding gifts they asked for do­na­tions to cre­ate the cen­tre. It be­gan op­er­at­ing a few months later and has grad­u­ated more than 400 stu­dents who have gone on to care for more than 90,000 peo­ple at their bed­sides. “They’re two funny monks who changed the world by help­ing peo­ple who are dy­ing,” said a long­time friend. They marked their 10-year an­niver­sary by hav­ing an of­fi­cial wed­ding.

I think that might have been the best story I’ve read all week. I wish I could take back my whinge­ing let­ter to the New York Times. Maybe al­go­rithms do know us bet­ter than we know our­selves?


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