Rebecca O'Neil | Tuesday, February 17, 2015
The second definition of cynic in the Oxford English Dictionary is “a member of a school of ancient Greek philosophers founded by Antisthenes, marked by an ostentatious contempt for ease and pleasure” as they distracted the quest for self-knowledge. I fancy I may be related to a member of Antisthenes’ school — a churlish protégée who eventually relocated to Ireland sometime during the Dark Ages. Down the line somewhere, clever and eloquent critiques became mute sardonic eye rolls, and then I was born.
My sister undoubtedly fertilized this tendency. She helped me fight budding insecurities in middle school by reminding me: “No one cares. They have other things to think about, Rebecca.” We share a deadpan humor, not to be followed without a comprehensive knowledge of current events and an affinity for irony. We set ourselves apart from the human race by surmising that we aren’t poor suckers — not for love, not for misinformation, not for any of it.
And yet, the New York Times’ Style section titled “Vows” has been a part of my weekly routine for a while now. I started reading it years ago after my sister and I watched a beautifully shot and scored short on a random couple featured on the Times’ website.
The nation’s divorce rate is around 50 percent and people still believe in marriage. Further, not only do they believe in marriage, but they also believe in the spectacle of, as the Times titles it, “Weddings and Celebrations: Stories of triumph, hope, loss and love.”
The stories shared are never quite the same, nor do they ever fit any one cliche. They make you feel like you’ve seen a romcom once about this particular couple, but only because the real deal is that good.
Recently, I’ve been struck most by the unions announced by older couples. Whether they’re divorcees or gays only just now able to take advantage of new laws, marriage means opportunity. It’s easy to become swept up in the beauty of overcoming obstacles, even time, to live presently.
“The Wedding Watchers” is another one of my favorite clips on the Times’ website. It shows a band of women (sometimes accompanied by husbands of their own) who come to Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn every Saturday to watch people take their wedding photos. Many of these women have been coming since the 1970s, and oddly enough, I want to join them.
I like to think I’ll always be a cynic. Those Sunday Style stories of love though.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.