My husband calls it the sports pages for women; a colleague named it the mergers and acquisitions report. It's the wedding pages of The New York Times Sunday Style Section, and I religiously read it.
I first start perusing that section nearly 15 years ago. It was easy to scan the pages and get the basic facts. The bride and groom went to school here, they now work there and this is what their parents do for a living. They were married by minister so and so, or the Rabbi from that synagogue and the bride will take her husband's last name.
Back then, when I was single, I felt just a little special for knowing someone in it.
"Is that the Jenny from sleep-away camp?" my mother once called to ask. Yes, it was, and now we all know where her new husband went to law school and even the name of the judge he clerked for. It was like the Where's Waldo of who you went to college with.
Then I got married, and my husband and I were in it. The picture was half decent, and all of the statistics were correct. Yes, I worked for a large magazine company and my husband was a management consultant. We both graduated from those schools. After reading about the details of what each of our parents did for a living, I felt a bit awkward.
As my husband and I began our new life together, one that was very uniquely ours, why did we feel the need to share these very formulaic facts with the rest of the world? And why did anyone care? It soon became apparent on our early morning flight to our honeymoon that at least one person did. We received a bottle of champagne with a clipping of our New York Times picture signed "Best Wishes from seat 5A."
I wondered how 5A lady had recognized us, still half asleep and in sweat pants, from the photograph of a perfectly-coiffed bride with a posed smile and groom in a jacket and tie with a somewhat blank stare on his face. When I look at the clip today, almost 14 years later, I see only minor resemblances to the couple we have become. My smile feels much more genuine now and his eyes a bit softer, both results of the life we have created for each other.
If I could go back to the New York Times reporter who wrote our "merger," I'd tell her that the most important thing about the schools that we went to are the friendships we've maintained and shared with each other. Yes, he still works for the same firm, and despite his sometimes-long work hours and crazy travel schedule, he manages to make it home for our son's basketball games. I left the big magazine company a long time ago to go to graduate school with him halfway across the country and to be more flexible for the sports-loving son and super-chatty daughter.
Those Sunday Style readers will never know about some of the loss in our lives -- ones that the young couple in the picture could never have imagined, and they will also never learn about all of the really happy times we have shared. They won't understand how a random text from him in the middle of the day can make me laugh out loud and how we are perfect museum and movie companions.
Of course, I will never know about the real lives of the couples that I've read about, but I continue to look and even to wonder.
"Perhaps his MBA adds balance to her degree in Art History or maybe their parents are friends?" I say to myself.
"After all, it seems that both sets of parents live or rather 'are of' the same town."
Somewhere in between the lines of all of the reported degrees and demographics is a real life just waiting to unfold. I hope it will be a happy one, and that the pearl-wearing bride and dimple-cheeked groom will grow together like my husband and I have. And if not, I'll just have to wait until next Sunday to find another couple.