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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Divorce announcements

Every Sunday the New York Times carries a long-than-usual wedding announcement, which incorporates a story about how the couple met and when they were initially attracted to each other, etc. These stories are inevitably reported in a sort of breathless tone.

An excerpt from Sunday's designated romance story, about Elizabeth and Reid Simon: Just Friends with Places to Go, in italics (my comments in parentheses):

“In the brief time that we spoke, I found her to be smart, sassy and very confident,” Mr. Simon said.

They soon realized that they lived a floor apart in the same dormitory. “It wasn’t really where the cool kids were,” Mr. Simon said. They became fast friends.

“He was very kind and very smart, creative and inclusive,” Ms. Walsh said. “He had all the qualities you would want in a friend, especially when you’re trying to make other friends.”

In July 2009, he flew to visit her at her family’s home in Baton Rouge, where he stayed for three days, leading their families to “start becoming skeptical about our so-called friendship,” as Mr. Simon put it.

“I distinctly remember my mom being suspicious,” she said. “Moms just know.”

When she returned the favor by visiting his family for Thanksgiving, “nobody believed that we were just friends anymore,” Mr. Simon said.

By December, they were dating steadily, and were still dating in January 2011, when Ms. Walsh, now in her junior year, went on a five-month study-abroad program to Cape Town. In March, Mr. Simon boarded a plane for Cape Town.

“Getting together in South Africa was a sign of our deep commitment,” he said. “We were both very ambitious and very driven people who, by that time, felt very comfortable around each other.”

After graduation, both landed jobs in Washington, and last October, he proposed on a frigid, blustery day at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, where they went hiking. As they began their descent in the face of fierce, cold winds, Mr. Simon suddenly dropped to one knee and pulled out an engagement ring.

“He was so nervous about dropping the ring that he was not willing to let it out of his hands,” she said, laughing. “I had to kind of fight him for it, and I finally managed to take it away and slip it on my finger.”

Both Elizabeth and Reid are probably decent enough people. And falling in love is supposed to release oxytocin into your system, which causes euphoria. But there's something about the cloying way the Times describes young love that inevitably releases bile into mine.

How exactly does the Times expect us to react to these stories? ("Oh! That's so cool! That's so precious! True love is so moving!")

Are Elizabeth and Reid and every other couple featured thusly in the Times headed for the eternal bliss that seems to be the only possible outcome of such a perfect love match, at least as depicted in these articles?

For many couples, once the honeymoon is over, many of the adjectives they initially use to describe each other (kind, smart, creative, inclusive) tend to gradually devolve into other adjectives (selfish, stupid, lazy, conceited).

I'm not saying this is the case with Elizabeth and Reid; but marriages do tend to sour. Roughly half end in divorce. Given which, wouldn't it be more interesting -- and gratifying -- if, along with the wedding announcements, they had divorce announcements?

Honest ones, with full explanations for the split. From both parties.

The relevant information might include which party cheated first, and how they got caught. ("That little whore cheated on me with her last boyfriend from the minute we got married, though I didn't realize it until a few years later."/"That pig never had any intention of remaining faithful to me, I was just the little wifey to cook and clean for him, he always had something on the side.")

Also, what the money arguments were like. ("That bitch just couldn't stop spending money, even though she didn't bring a penny to the table herself."/"That cheap prick wouldn't even spring for a new Beamer for me, even though he drives around in a Mercedes.")

And an opinion about each other's intelligence. ("She's a fucking retard, I mean it, the only thing she's got going for her is she's good-looking. Or used to be."/"That dumbass thinks he's smart, but all he ever does is repeat other people's opinions and then look pleased with himself, like he came up with them himself.")

And if either party had an identifiable personality syndrome. ("She was so hot and cold I think she was bipolar. I really do."/"He's a sociopath. I swear.")

Also, odious personal habits. ("She'd leave used tampons in the bathroom waste can, where I could see them."/"Half the time when he'd take a dump he wouldn't even flush the toilet. And he'd fart all night long.")

And, what each was like in bed. ("You know, I never got head from her even once, during the entire marriage."/"All he'd do is stick it in and then roll off after a minute or so. He had no idea how to give a woman an orgasm. No fucking clue.")

And, finally, the fate they wish for each other. ("I hope she ends up in a mental ward. That's where she belongs."/"Burning in hell would be too good for that bastard. It really would.")

Now, wouldn't that be a lot more entertaining to read than those sappy wedding stories?


Anonymous said...

I think I'd prefer reading the sappy wedding announcements more than the ugly divorce announcements.


John Craig said...

Birdie --
You're a nicer person than me.

Steven said...

I smirked when I read that and I'm not denying it would be entertaining but I've read several things from you about how terrible and bitter marriages inevitably turn out. I'm pretty sure there are some happy couples, even after years. Or deeply committed couples. Or couples who like and respect each other and are not so harshly judgmental, even if it doesn't work out. am I naive? You're like a harbinger of doom, shitting on my dreams. thanks a lot

Steve ;-)

p.s I'm only joking of course. I don't have any dreams. Not after reading your blog. haha

mark said...

What is it with the term inclusive? Is that referring to how many people were in the bed? Kind, creative, smart not particularly masculine traits but when inclusive came up I immediately read lefty. I cannot conceive of my sister bringing a man to our family house for a day but especially 3 days an saying that he was just a friend. The mom smoked it out but I'm a thousand miles away and I smoked it out too. Sometimes, the meet cute stories have the seeds of the divorce column in them but I am withholding judgement on their story.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Maybe that's what I should call this blog, the Give Up All Hope blog.

John Craig said...

Mark --
I honestly did not mean this post to be a criticism of the young couple, but rather of the Times' way of describing then an every other young couple they write a cloying feature article about each Sunday. I'm sure the couple are perfectly fine people.

That said, what you point out about the story is true: were they or were they not a couple when he visited her house for three days? The article doesn't make it clear; I thought that maybe the whole point of that part of the story was that they actually were not a couple at that point, but then him visiting her that way would be a little strange. I didn't know what to make of that.

Anonymous said...

(forgive me, o Mister Craig, for (if not putting words in your mouth) offering an interpretation of your utterance without first seeking permission)

I am thinking that your basic point is not that nasty comments are more fun than nice ones, but rather, to really appreciate the pathos and meaning of human sentiments fully, they should be taken in the round, or, curated for both sweet and sour...when you only have the happytalk without the crushing grief, both the the happytalk and the grief lose their beauty and force...

naturally, all the happy-married-announcements would give anyone the feeling of the kid at the state fair who ATE TOO MUCH COTTON CANDY...cotton candy is nice but not exclusively

(anyways, if my interpretation of your utterance is abusive, please accept my apology)

John Craig said...

Anon --
Your interpretation isn't abusive in the least, in fact you said what I was trying to say, but much better.

(Your implication that I'm the sort of who takes offense easily, was, however, mildly abusive -- but that's a small price to pay for your flowery language.)

Runner Katy said...

Although I wouldn't really want to read all the nitty gritty details of the divorce announcements, I can understand your thoughts on how it would be nice to have a balance of the sappy sweet marriage announcements with divorce ones....but hey, you can always move on to the Obit section if you want more balance? ;) I admit I do like to read the marriage announcements, and they make me feel happy for those in the paragraphs, but sometimes the write up can be pretty ridiculous, such as when it's either over the top or too show boatish. Your examples were pretty hilarious!

Anonymous said...

What I really want to know is if Elizabeth and Reid are fans of the Allman Brothers Band.

John Craig said...

Runner Katy --
You have a much more balanced, well-adjusted attitude about these newspaper sections. I suppose I read the wedding announcements because I like seeing my theories about human nature confirmed (in terms of who marries whom, etc.). And, like you, I read the obits too, mostly because, and sorry in advance for resorting to this tired cliche, they give a sense of perspective.

I'm definitely not as nice as you or Birdie. I generally am happy when people I like do well, and when those I dislike do poorly. As far as the people I know nothing about whose marriage announcements I read about, I'm utterly indifferent.

John Craig said...

Anon --
You'll have to explain that one.

Anonymous said...

John, I'll give you a hint: What is the name of ABB's signature instrumental song?

John Craig said...

Anon --
Sorry, I'm a little slow. Never was an Allman Brothers fan, so just looked up their top ten hit and the only instrumentals I could see were "Jessica" and "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed." Is the second one what you're referring to?

LBD said...

I think the reason why one is tempted to mock the wedding story is that it shouldn't be in the newspaper in the first place. It 's typical of the narcissistic oversharing which is nearly impossible to avoid in our world today. The details of a couple's courtship are of interest only to themselves and their nearest friends and relations.

I wish that instead of trying so hard to be "original", people would return to the traditional standards of etiquette, which would include a brief wedding announcement (perhaps preceded by a briefer engagement announcement). That would give us plenty of information to draw our conclusions regarding assortive mating, social class, etc.

It used to be said that a LADY's name should appear in the public press only three times in her lifetime: when she is born, when she marries, and when she dies.

John Craig said...

LBD --
Well said. I'm familiar with that expression, though I can't recall ever seeing a birth announcement in the papers.

I have to admit, I like looking at the photographs, because that's where the most interesting information is contained.

Unknown said...


Yup, "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed."

I couldn't help myself :)

Anonymous said...

Robert Griffin had a funny fictional obituary in one of his short pieces some time ago. It's pretty good.

John Craig said...

Anon --
That's great. Realistic obituaries would be far more fun (and informative) to read.