Reader, she married him

As wedding season churns on (and celebrities' marriages rip open), the New York Times offers a mini-instruction manual on connubial bliss.

Published July 7, 2008 2:30PM (EDT)

If you haven't logged time at a buffet in a banquet hall eating dainty hors d'oeuvres and considering the centerpieces, well, chances are you will be soon. (Try the bacon-wrapped asparagus. It's delicious.) We're in the thick of wedding season. And as our tabloids buzz with the salacious details of high-profile divorces (A-Rod's wife recently filed) -- Sunday's New York Times offered three instruction manuals on that slipperiest of ideals: the happy marriage.

Whom not to marry. Maureen Dowd, possibly tipping back mojitos at some glorious destination wedding as you read this, devoted the majority of her weekly spot to advice dispensed by a 79-year-old Catholic priest. The column, called "An Ideal Husband," shot to the top of the site's most-e-mailed list and features excerpts from the priest's lecture, titled "Whom Not to Marry." (Possible answers to that question: Madonna, Peter Cook.) The column is tailored for high school seniors, "mostly girls because they’re more interested," and includes such tips as "Never marry a man who has no friends" and "Does he use money responsibly?" It's common-sense stuff, though it's surprising how many of us (men and women) lose our common sense when pierced by Cupid's little dart.

How not to marry. I steer clear of the "Vows" section of the Times; like fashion magazines, "Vows" does little but underscore all the fabulousness my life currently lacks. It's a paean to a culture of money and privilege I'm not terribly interested in, but then some stories are just too annoying to ignore. Case in point: the tale of "Nanny Diaries" co-author Nicola Kraus and her husband, David Wheir, which reads like an elaborate eff-you to their exes. In addition to a cringe-inducing amount of "you complete me" romanticizing and Tibetan soul-searching, the write-up dwells uncomfortably on the couple's past relationships. Kraus refers to her exes as "toxic freak shows," while a good deal of the narrative concerns Wheir's efforts to leave his "combustive" and "self-destructive" former relationship. Tacky, tacky! I'm a romantic at heart, but even I tasted my breakfast again upon reading the last line: "When their bodies entwined, it was not so much a kiss, as a melding -- a complete embrace of happiness and hope." Good luck with that, folks!

And if all else fails… Is it OK to marry your pet? Well, my cat would be right pissed if I made him suffer through a ceremony, never mind the tuxedo. But let's face it -- romance can be terrifically disappointing, and some humans (like Leona Helmsley, who famously left $8 billion to her dog) seem better suited to animal companionship than human. A Times story called "Sit. Stay. Love." explores this dynamic and also brings us news of a site called ("Don't let your pet live in sin!"). It's a joke. Or is it?

By Sarah Hepola

Sarah Hepola is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir, "Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget."

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