Mergers and Acquisitions

Along with the crossword puzzle, the Wedding and Celebrations section justifies the hefty price of the Sunday NY Times.  Back in the 1960s, I used to peruse this section in the remote possibility of recognizing a name.  Beyond that, there was always plenty of snickering at the east coast WASP elite that was featured, with ridiculous inverted names and crazy nicknames with Roman numeral appendages.  With a shriek of delight you might find that Goddard (God) Bruce IV had married Bleeker Cate.  The wedding announcement of yore would then go into excruciating detail on God and Bleek’s attendants, the wedding dress, what they ate, and then with a great flourish a recitation of their impeccable blood lines.

Now, some 40 years later I have returned to the wedding announcements, and things have changed.  Gone is the East Coast preppy St. Grottlesex aristocracy, replaced with something more akin to a nationwide meritocracy based on the NY Times’ closely guarded decisions regarding who’s in and who’s out.  Ancestry is sometimes included, but in this era it smacks of gratuitous name-dropping.  Once recent announcement featured a nice looking young man named Teddy Roosevelt V – well okay maybe we will give him a break since he can’t help but name drop, but how about the bride who claims she is a direct descendent of Peter Stuyvestant, the last governor of the colony of New York who died in 1672?  Seems to me that 337 years is way too long to dine out on his name, which is now more recognizable as one of NY most historic slums.  Then there is Sage Lehman who feels compelled to say that she is the great-great granddaughter of Meyer Lehman, the founder of Lehman Brothers.  This name might have lost its cachet with the tattered collapse of this venerable institution.  Tatiana Papanicolaou just has to let us to know that she is related to the developer of the Pap smear. 

I would imagine the wedding beat is a lowly editorial post (but I’d do it for free).  Does the fresh scrubbed journalist appreciate the power of picking and choosing among the competing nuptial applicants?  Did Tatiana (perhaps Tati Pap to her homeys) get selected for the Times based on her kinship to a Pap smear?  Personally, I think that her lineage would only be relevant if she had the great good fortune to marry Vitto Chlamydiolo instead of the rather staid Thorne Perkin.  But the bigger question is who wants their wedding announcement published in the first place?  Is it the status conscious mother-in-law whose family has an unbroken record of making the grade since the Great War (the Civil War, that is)?  Or maybe couples legitimately seeking the cachet of a Times wedding announcement due to accomplishments, or triumph over adversity?  Or is it simply the result of a wee-hours bar room bet?

The wedding section always profiles one couple in depth including several color pictures.  This must be a real coup, although I can’t figure out what sort of status it might confer.  Often, a wooing storyline involves a saga of multiple lost opportunities with sparks flying at random meetings over the years, but either the couple is geographically challenged or hooked up with someone else.  Another typical storyline is a “meet cute” anecdote, illustrating the wonderful coincidences that can turn life on an absolute dime.  I was excited to read about a couple who randomly met squished together on a rush hour subway; she was instantly besotted to see him reading the book “History of Philosophy, Volume IX.”  Romance blossomed and voila! here are Dixie and Jeffrey in full color in the NY Times.  The profile improbably included a close up picture of the bride’s back, featuring some sort of complicated straps that only partially covered up her tattoos, one of which memorialized a “Buster.”  Whoa, momma – the old gray lady of journalism must be shuddering at the thought of a bondaged bride brazenly displaying her tats.

The rest of the wedding announcements are all carefully scripted per instructions of the NY Times, who insist that, “Those posing for pictures should be neatly dressed, and should have their eyebrows at the same level.”  And it appears that everyone follows these instructions to a tee – in some pictures the couple’s heads are so aligned that it appears that they are affixed with a jumbo staple gun.   The black and white picture is then followed by about three inches of text, all of which could be considered mind-numbingly boring to the casual reader. However, I have found that with a little imagination, you can turn this into a marvelous sociology exercise; the trick is to imagine that the sparse text is the initial concept of a Hollywood script and your job is to supply the back story. 

In the first paragraph you learn who married the couple, which would seem to be of minimal interest, except that occasionally you get interfaith marriages where you can sense a hint of a contentious tug-of-war over the ritual, “ the service was performed by Rabbi Berman, who incorporated Lakota traditions…”  Meredith and Gareth apparently nixed the religious part of the ritual and were married by Barry, “a Humanist celebrant.”  Maybe I could qualify for that role – according to the website you just need to be a dues paying member for one year (  But if you are looking for something quick and dirty I would recommend becoming a universal life minister ( which requires no cost and no faith.  Next the announcement will let you know what colleges were attended (still mostly Ivy league) and even whether or not the blessed couple graduated magna or summa cum laude.  And the fact checkers must really be on their toes; once I spotted a correction in which a summa got downgraded to a magna.  Probably some jilted suitor called that one in.   And then you can ponder the potential marital stress if the wife graduated magna and the husband was only cum. 

Occupations make up the majority of the text, including both the couples’ jobs along with that of both sets of parents, and potentially step parents.  This is where your back story can get really interesting, because the NY Times will also cattily let you know if someone is unemployed.  A typical entry might read, “Until three months ago, Bleek Cate worked as a kindergarten teacher …”  Now when the wife is unemployed I see three possible story lines.  Perhaps Bleek has resigned her job to resolve some sort of geographic incompatibility, or perhaps she has simply lost her job, or most cynically, you can imagine that her job was only a stop-gap until she reached her goal of marriage.  Now she is ecstatic to wave good-bye to a regular paycheck and settle down to a life of undiluted wedded bliss.   But we all know that this is a potentially disastrous scenario – even the wedding section provides a glimpse of the financial sector woes.  Another entry might read, “Until recently Goddard Bruce was a vice president and financial analyst at Lehman Brothers.”  Who would want to subject themselves to this type of humiliation?  But then I realized that the wedding pages of the NY Times are just as good a place to network as any.  In two short lines and at no charge, you can inform the entire NY Times readership of your qualifications and immediate availability.  Some entries show how the financial collapse has ripped through entire families.  Melissa Frey is the stepdaughter of Caleb Koeppel who until last year was a partner in the Koeppel Companies, a real estate investment company (was he ousted by his relatives?), and granddaughter of Alan Greenburg who was chairman of Bear Sterns.  Ouch!   

Typically the wedding couple will have high profile jobs, but Elizabeth Rounds and Joel Pinkser are puzzlers.  Elizabeth is a marketing coordinator for a construction company assembling introductory packets for prospective clients. I’m sorry, honey, but this sounds like a glorified secretary.  Joel, 30, will begin working as a tour guide with CitySights at the end of the month.  As nice as they might be, you have to ask what qualified them for a coveted slot in the wedding announcements.  Perhaps it was Joel’s mother who was a well known writer of soap operas.  Ranging from Pap smears to soap operas, the Times editorial decisions keep me guessing.  I could definitely see a Law and Order episode involving a botched bribe to get into the wedding section. 

Lawyers and doctors seem to be overrepresented in the announcements, both among the married couples and their parents.  A common scenario is the wife who works as the office manager for her husband who is a doctor or dentist.  While this probably represents some cozy partnership extending beyond the home, your screenplay could just as easily suggest that the wife needs to keep a tight rein on her husband midst all the steadily younger and perkier nurses.  In general, the jobs of most the mothers tend to be stereotypically woman’s work – in education or the arts, or the mother might have some sort of kick-ass volunteer job, like a ballet board member, or a hobby that poses as a job.  Teddy Roosevelt’s V mother, for example, “is a free lance writer on the subject of endangered primates and eco-tourism.”  My interpretation is that the enduring Roosevelt wherewithal has permitted her to be world traveler, but this may come to an abrupt end – because now we all know that her husband Teddy IV is (or potentially will not be) an investment banker at Lehman Brothers. 

Some of the more touching announcements are professional couples with very humble origins, judging by the jobs of the parents.  Take the marriage of Linda Law and Jim Mui.  Linda’s father is an internist, her mother the practice manager.  In contrast, Jim’s mother is a seamstress at Lookout Sportswear while his father owns Cherry’s Chinese food.  Plenty of story lines here in this clash of culture and class – potentially a dysfunctional bridal dinner and other family events.  

The choice of one’s life partner is always an interesting story, but marriage of same sex couples still adds a frisson to the back story.  Phillip and Douglas met in 1967 and were finally married in 2008.  One can only imagine the trajectory of this relationship through the climate changes of the past 42 years, to the total glory of public recognition of their partnership through marriage and inclusion in the NY Times.  John and David live in Los Angeles, but John grew up as the son of a minister in rural North Dakota.  I just want to put my arms around them both in celebration of their triumph over a presumably tortured childhood.  But the best is perhaps Damon and Charles who participated in a double wedding.  Their marriage was immediately followed by marriage of Damon’s father to his gay partner of 16 years.  Bravo! In the movie parlance, that story line is optionable.

The missing words in the following poem are anagrams (i.e. share the same letters, like post, stop, and spot).  The number of asterisks indicates the number of letters.  One of the missing words will rhyme with either the preceding or following lines.  Your job is to solve hte missing words based on the above rules and the context of the poem.

The ******* NY Times has been the arbiter of class and culture throughout the ages,

 Selecting wedding announcements to be published in its Sunday pages.

The austere responsibility is left to the discretion of shadowy *******

Who must select the winners midst the clamoring nuptial competitors.

As * ****** through the listings, I saw no pattern that was clear,

Who knows, the tipping point might be kinship to Pap smears.







Answers:  storied, editors, I sorted

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