The New York Times is probably this nation’s greatest newspaper, with world class investigative journalism, phenomenal writing, and a fantastic opinion page. But it’s much much more than that. The Times is a status symbol and, for a certain type of person, it is as important to be seen in public reading the Times as it is to actually read the Times. Times ownership is aware of this and has managed to stay afloat in our era of dying print journalism* by masterfully tapping into the vast wellspring of liberal guilt, which is kinda like Catholic guilt, only instead of feeling guilty every time you have a sexual thought, you feel guilty for eating non-organic food, or for using too many napkins, or for watching TV instead of reading a book, or, heck, for just breathing because that leaves a carbon footprint.
*Like all newspapers, the Times must be creative in the digital age. Everyone gets 20 free online articles per month (since reduced to 10), and then you pay a small fee to keep reading. Yet the Times intentionally left in loopholes. Even after your 10 freebies, you can still read free articles if you click on a Times link from another webpage, like from Google or Twitter. Also, deleting your browsing history gives you a free start over, too. But—get this!—the policy is working, because, yup, liberal guilt. For a cosmopolitan New Yorker, the Times is like church and they feel as if subscribing is a civic duty they must make to keep the grand ole Grey Lady afloat. (As for me, I’m deleting my browsing history as I type.)
To finance its Pulitzer caliber reporting in places like Syria and Afghanistan and Iraq, the Times caters all of its life and styles type sections to the ever present liberal guilt of wealthy hipster-ish New Yorkers. If you read the Times, you know exactly the type of person I’m talking about. If not, it’s hard to explain, so I’ll just present to you the archetypal Times lifestyle article, the “how-we-met” wedding announcement. Look at this one from June 1, for Alexandra Sage Mehta and Michael Robinson, or what I like to call the New York Timesiest of New York Times wedding stories.** I’m not sure if the Times is giving its audience what they want or making fun of them (I hope it’s the later):
“ALEXANDRA SAGE MEHTA and Michael Robinson do not seem to belong to the Facebook generation that expresses itself in sentence fragments. In conversation, their sentences are grammatical and lovely and often sound as if previously written, if not rewritten. Both are writers and care deeply about words as well as opera, cooking, stick-shift cars, modern design and swimming in cold water.”
Gah, that makes me want to throw up. It also gave me the best laugh I’ve had in days. Nice play, Times. Let’s continue.
“Ms. Mehta, 27, who grew up on the Upper East Side, is working on a memoir and a novel, and is not easily typecast. She prefers writing in the darkest corner of the quietest library she can find, yet she’s also social and vivacious.”
An Upper East Side aspiring writer is not easily typecast? Dude, she’s a walking stereotype. How ‘bout her beau?
“Mr. Robinson, 31, grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., loving cars and French literature… He likes modern chairs and couches, partly because they are often uncomfortable and keep him from falling asleep while reading.”
He’s not one of those fall-asleep-in-bed readers.
“The two met in Paris in the summer of 2001…For her, he was an anomaly: a boy she could talk to, for hours.”
But, no, it wasn’t love at first sight.
“Years passed. She graduated from Princeton, then lived in Mumbai, India, studying yoga and writing. He graduated from Yale, then got a master’s degree in modern and medieval languages at Cambridge University, then moved to Paris to write.”
In a bad romantic comedy, this would segue into the sad musical montage while they think wistfully of the love that got away. Until…
“By November 2009, both were living in Manhattan. They ran into each other… He recalls thinking that Ms. Mehta had grown up to be astoundingly beautiful, tall and lithe in a bright orange dress… They met at Lucien, a French restaurant downtown. He arrived on a black Bianchi bicycle, and this time she felt sparks. They talked about writing, bicycles and their fathers… She soon bought her own bicycle, a black one with orange wheels (Princeton colors), and they began taking long rides around the city… Ms. Mehta and Mr. Robinson have read and reread all the epic love stories in literature.”
It was happily ever after!
“You can always count on them to talk about something interesting, whether it’s yoga or an artist or something in history or a place or a song or even politics. They’re never dull. They’re both unique.”
Of course they are. They’re precious snowflakes, because in Manhattan it’s so hard to find bicycle riding, book writing, Yoga practicing, Ivy League grads.
Update: Read this too, from Cheek and Bluster.