When the Wedding Announcements Reveal Too Much

The New Vows

What is the deal with the New York Times wedding announcements?

Loyal readers of the section will observe that the listings–formerly a crisp exposition of a bride and groom’s respective age, alma mater, occupation and forebears–now include a nice little story about how they met. It’s kind of like a consolation prize for not making Lois Smith Brady’s Vows column–the de facto Wedding of the Week, which carries photos from the ceremony and sound bites from the guests.

Some people find the change jarring. “I don’t like it as much,” said Suzanne Immerman, 27, director of the Principal for a Day program, who’s such a fan of the section that it’s the first–sometimes the only–part of the Sunday paper she reads. “A lot of them aren’t even that interesting and it’s like they don’t merit that much detail.”

” The Times has always been good to me, so I really don’t want to comment,” said mores expert Letitia Baldrige, sounding as if she wanted to, desperately. “I wish I could–please. I just can’t criticize The Times. I just can’t say what I feel.”

The longer pieces, which are unsigned, first appeared on Feb. 13; some hoped they were merely a Valentine’s Day aberration, but as the weeks go by the charming narratives appear to be encroaching on the old-school, curriculum vitae style of announcement.

“It’s just to put more emphasis on the people,” said Times spokesman Nancy Nielsen, to whom society news editor Robert Woletz deflected calls. “Fleshing it out so that the people become more real to our readers.”

She refused to name the pieces’ author.

The stories are not necessarily the height of romance. In the April 2 Sunday Times , for example, our mystery reporter revealed that Lev Grossman courted Heather O’Donnell by scrawling her a love note on the stall of a Yale unisexer, while Sharon Katz and Jason Cooper met while answering on-line notices on http://www.jewishpersonals.com.

“I feel like it’s more information than I really need to know about these people,” said Ms. Immerman.

“It’s sort of like the Oprah-fication of The New York Times, ” remarked Pamela Paul, 29, who works in communications at CNN and is currently circulating a book proposal on marriage and Generation X. “It’s become much more revelatory. Before there was an element of ‘How the hell did those people meet?,’ or there was, like, the opposite scenario–where you were like Oh, God, I’m sure they met at some kind of New York Public Library fundraiser .”

Which raises another, more delicate issue: While it is certainly commendable that The Times is striving to be more multicultural and less sexist–now frequently featuring couples of different ages and races photographed together, grinning broadly, rather than the formal picture of yore (bride solo, sporting single strand of pearls and grimace)–this social progress comes at the expense of a certain voyeurism. Real WASP’s, as the rest of us know from The Preppy Handbook , only appear in the paper upon birth, marriage and death. If the New York Times wedding announcements become tacky , an undesirable place to be, that’s one less chance for the rest of us to learn about this fascinating species.

A single, male 28-year-old Ivy League lawyer who didn’t want to admit he reads the pages had an additional complaint. “I did very well with the straight credential thing,” he said, “and now I would have to do well with this additional set of specs? You’re going to have to come up with some little anecdote if you want to be in there? It’s going to have to be witty? I feel like it sort of adds to the pressure.”

–Alexandra Jacobs

Please Stop Saying…

Whaaazzzup?

Can I pick your brain?

Don’t even go there

No worries

That was Gay Talese!

Let’s flesh this out

Lay off my rocks, man!

Aaargh!

You wanna get lunch?

Too Much Perspective

Alan Posklensky was sitting at the bar at the West Side Tavern, on West 23rd Street. It was 2 A.M. on a Monday night. He was drinking a pint of light beer, eating a slice of pizza and watching the Yankees on a TV reflected in the mirror behind the bar.

Mr. Posklensky has had a tough couple of years. Two years ago he had a good job as an executive at a major media corporation, when in the midst of a corporate crisis he came down with a bad case of burnout. “I’m bipolar,” he said. “You know what bipolar is?” Since then, he’s been on paid medical leave, drawing a $100,000 salary for doing nothing. He spends most days sleeping in his West 23rd Street apartment.

“If I wake up by 4 in the afternoon tomorrow I’ll be happy with myself,” he said. “But the anxiety wakes you up all night. Today I got up at 7 in the evening, but it’s not like I’m lazy. I worked too hard in school and at work for anyone to call me lazy. But a lot of people tell me, ‘Buck up, get your act together, wake up at 8 in the morning and get some coffee.’

“That’s the thing about mental illness. People don’t understand it. They think you’re gonna push someone in front of a train or kill yourself. There are days like today: I woke up at 7 at night, watched some basketball, came here, ate some pizza and had a drink. Big deal, right? Then I go home, and it’s like, ‘What do I do now?’ Either I sleep 12 hours or I don’t sleep at all. It’s purgatory. I don’t have any incentive to work. I’m being paid to do nothing. People say, well, why don’t you volunteer for something? Well, if I could volunteer I could work. Anyway I don’t want to stand around licking stamps.”

The bartender, who was an old neighborhood friend of his, came by with a free round of shots–Black Haus blackberry schnapps–for Mr. Posklensky and a couple of other guys at the bar. Everyone clinked glasses, drank up and made their shot faces.

Mr. Posklensky grew up in Brooklyn. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School when he was 16 (he skipped the eighth and 12th grades.) By 22, Mr. Posklensky had both a college degree and an M.B.A. from Cornell University. He spent the next 18 years working his way up through the media corporation that is still paying him, which is why he didn’t want to have it named in the newspaper. It was the only job he ever had.

“It’s hard to see all kinds of friends of mine succeed,” he said. “Jay Walker, the guy who started Priceline, was a friend of mine. He’s doing real well. That’s one of the really hard things: when you run into old friends from school and they ask you, ‘What do you do?’ Do you lie, do you tell the truth? It’s really hard for me to watch ESPN–or Fox Sports actually now–and see Keith Olbermann. He was one of my best friends. He was my roommate. I mean, I see him on Hollywood Squares, and I’m sitting at home tending the cats. I also know Christopher Reeve a little bit. He was at Cornell. He was a couple years ahead of me. I see how much even he does, despite what’s happened to him. He does more stuff in one week than I do in six months.”

He’d barely touched his beer. His second slice of pizza had gone cold.

“All my friends are my old girlfriends,” he said. “One of them wants me to come live with her in Colorado, just to get out of Manhattan for a while. But I’d go crazy if I left New York.”

–Nick Paumgarten