Posted by: Amelia | May 28, 2007

I do?

A pint of Sam Adams cherry wheat beer and the Sunday New York Times. I can think of worse ways to spend an hour and a half waiting for the plane at Logan. I had the taxi come a little too early, it seems. About an hour before I left my apartment, I looked around and realized I literally had nothing to do. My bags were packed, and everything else was boxed up. All items on my to-do list were checked off. It’s a strange and unsettling feeling to have nothing at all to do.

I’ll admit it: I used to buy the Sunday Times almost exclusively for the crossword puzzle. Now I try to actually, you know, inform myself by reading the articles. Why be a nerd, when I can also be a wonk? Yet, I still have a secret shame. I love the “Weddings/Celebrations” section. Sometimes the couples make me snicker, as when Ms. Snooty Von Heiress marries Mr. Bryllcremed McInvestmentBanker III. Sometimes they make me nervous, like when the bride is 24. And with the exception of the feature article, the listings are not compelling journalism. They’re more like box scores: Harvard marries Brown, Cornell marries MIT, Yale marries Princeton. But somehow, getting these grainy little snapshots of other people’s romantic lives is totally addictive (maybe it’s hereditary – my mother reads them too).

Very often, the listings make note of whether the bride is keeping her name or becoming Mrs. Him. Among these educated, mostly upper-middle-class women, I would estimate that about half change their names, while the other half keep their names or “will continue to use her name professionally,” whatever that means (does anyone really use a different name at home than they do at work?).

As an indicator of feminist progress, the name thing is probably overplayed. There are more important battles. Still, I can’t help but get a little riled when the subject comes up. People – myself included – take the debate personally.

My mother kept her name, which is also MY last name (my dad’s name is my middle name). I don’t begrudge the name-changers their decision, but I do take issue with some of the arguments for it. “Ultimately, I changed my name so that the future kiddies wouldn’t live a confusing life,” said one woman in a Salon article from a few years ago. Who ever heard of a kid being confused because his parents had different names? Trust me, he will ascertain who mommy and daddy are long before he can pronounce their last names. As for skepticism from peers, I’ve found it to be a complete non-issue. The “doing it for the kids” argument is just plain weak.

Then again, there really are bigger battles – even on the marriage front. I’ve finished with the weddings section and moved onto the magazine, where an article about marriage practices in Germany’s Turkish migrant population piques my interest. “Marriage is not just an aspect of the immigration problem in Germany; to a growing extent, it is the immigration problem.” Foreign Turks, mostly women, are gaining German citizenship by marrying into Germany’s naturalized Turkish population. It sounds fine on the surface, but there seems to be an unhealthy level of forced marriage, cousin marriage, and so on. The new arrivals are often linguistically and socially ill-equipped to have much independence in their new marriage. Domestic violence is high, the article states. Being a divorce lawyer for the Turkish population is dangerous work; the female lawyer interviewed was shot and beaten on separate occasions.

Marriage is one of humanity’s primary methods of cultural reproduction, which is probably why we have such a fascination with it. It arouses passions, and not just among newlyweds. It’s certainly not the only area of other people’s lives where we feel we can pass judgment, but it is a biggie. Sorry, Adam and Steve, your union may have zero impact on our life, but we’re going to liken gay marriage to 9/11 and your lifestyle to bestiality. Right. Then again, is it hypocritical of me to condemn Santorum for quotes like that while still fretting over marriage practices among Germany’s Turks? I hope the answer is no, but it’s a sticky situation.

Maybe I’ll stop snickering at Mr. and Mrs. McInvestmentBanker, though. They’re probably very lovely people and very much in love. For real.


  1. And what about women who keep their maiden name, and then decide to give their name in addition to their husband’s to their children? They you end up with ridiculous names like Girard-Bond.

    Oh and thanks for the link!

  2. Someone once equated the NYT Marriage Announcements section to the “sports page for women” in my presence. I assured him that it was very much not that. Although, I do get riled up when I read those listings. And did you ever notice how often the people look like they could be related. Maybe it’s a throwback to the time when royalty and gentry married within their own families to “maintain the bloodline,” not that I think people really do that now. Well, except for Turkish immigrants in Germany, apparently.

  3. […] Witty observations about the Sunday NYT’s style section wedding/engagement announcements by the aptly named Smart Tart, formerly of DC, in a post called: I do? […]

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