Loving to Hate Love

My obsession with the Vows column

I will never be in the New York Times Sunday Styles section. It’s a realization I’m slowly coming to accept, although it does not come without a great deal of sadness. I don’t mind that I’ll never be in one of those “Cute is The New Pretty, Dirty is the New Clean” trend articles on the cover. The upsetting part is the knowledge that I’ll never make the second-to-last page spread—the wedding section.

My relationship with the wedding section began early. I remember sleeping over at a friend’s house in middle school, and over breakfast the next morning, awkwardly dividing the paper with her father, a federal judge. I asked for the wedding announcements and he immediately replied, “Oh, you mean the Mergers and Acquisitions section.”

“That’s what we call it at my house too!” I cried. Like me, the judge was one of the Wedding Mockers—people who play games like Spot the Reason, in which players try to find the reason the couple is listed, whether it be a connection to a corporate scion, a famous author or a Sulzberger. (The last group are shoo-ins.)

My father, the family cynic, was the one who introduced me to the sport, as well as to the strange people who populate the wedding section. They are, generally speaking, a WASPy bunch, most of them Ivy League graduates. For these people,  adventure means buying a non-rent-controlled apartment or arriving to visit friends in Connecticut at five a.m. They’re known to break with tradition in daring ways. “Pamela is the family rebel,” a family friend said of one bride I read about. “Everybody in the Holmes family has to go to Harvard. Pamela actually applied to Yale. She ended up going to Harvard, but she showed spunk.” The audacity!

These pod people tend to value mates who share their love of outdoor leisure sports. One bride issued the ultimatum: “For me, whoever I dated had to ski. No ski, no me.” Another said, “Growing up, my sister and I always said we'd never marry anyone who couldn’t beat us in tennis.” In the best part of the section, Lois Smith Brady’s “Vows” column, grooms’ polo-playing abilities are regularly vaunted beyond belief.

I’ll admit that some of the matches are kind of sweet. In one “Vows” column, an heiress fell in love with a man who led foraging tours in Central Park, instructing people which wild plants were and weren’t edible. Asked if he ate the dandelion roots served at their wedding, the heiress’s father quipped, “Listen, I worry about the salad at Le Cirque, never mind what comes out of my own lawn.”

Others just induce a gag reflex—who wouldn’t want to strangle the bride who told the reporter: “We sat together at dinner and talked about Pop-Tarts—we both love Pop-Tarts”? Clearly, a key part of Wedding Mockery is the fervent hope that these relationships will crash and burn within weeks.

I’ve been reading the section faithfully since age nine, but it was only recently that my Wedding Mockery became a blood sport. Perhaps some background is necessary here. I’m from Yonkers, New York, which one eloquent Urban Dictionary contributor correctly defined as a “shithole north of NYC.” Sometimes referred to as the “sixth borough” or the “backyard of the Bronx,” the city suffers from a severe inferiority complex. I think where I live is pretty nice, but I realize the place has a bad reputation. Much like Detroit or Kabul, it’s not a locale that has tourists flocking.

After doing time in our notoriously awful public schools (eight years inside), I won a scholarship and became a day student at a boarding school called The Masters School some distance from where I lived.

Suddenly, I was playing field hockey on sprinkler-fed fields tended by legions of gardeners. I went to sleepovers in mansions, and attended sweet-sixteen parties that would have given Caligula a run for his money. Instead of getting chased around the schoolyard by pit bulls, I spent my afternoons at meetings for the various clubs I’d joined, or reading quietly beside one of the stained-glass windows. I graduated in a white gown, holding a basket of red roses.

It was at Masters that I developed my fascination with the upper class, with people like the ones in wedding announcements. It’s not that I want to be one of those people, it’s more that I want the chance to be one of them—and then I want to turn it down, preferably in a really sarcastic way. I have no interest in being part of a club that would accept me as a member. But I still want to be asked to join.

Last semester I was chatting with my creative writing teacher about our backgrounds. (She too, hails from a crappy neighborhood, but in London.) She asked me why all my stories were about rich people from Connecticut when I obviously, well…wasn’t one. It was a question I’d asked myself before. I’m obviously never going to marry someone named Reeves Callaway, let alone hold the ceremony on his private island. And I wouldn’t want to.

Well, sort of. At the same time that I despise these marriages with every ounce of my being, it’s kind of—I can barely get the words out—nice to think of loving someone that much, of a relationship lasting more than a night or a drunken half-hour. My love of the Styles section is more than nostalgia for New York, although that’s part of it. (I still read Page Six online and can be found lamenting the dearth of black-and-white cookies in the Boston area). It’s also a tenuous belief in true love. I don’t really think about getting married myself—that seems so far away—but if I did, it would have to be to someone who shares my love of endlessly dissecting Mergers and Acquisitions, who would respond to my outraged, “She’s 25 and he’s 73!” with a measured, “But he’s a CFO. And a Kennedy.”

That, and my passion for Pop-Tarts.

Véronique E. Hyland is a Visual and Enviromental Studies concentrator in Leverett House. She talks a good game, but she would marry Reeves Callaway any day.