Sunday, August 03, 2003

Appearance versus reality

Ever since the New York Times started running same-sex committment announcements, I've glanced over the listings every week to see who is family. I realize now that the Times wedding pages have been about sexual ambiguity longer than I knew.

I mostly read the Times online, which lists the announcements as pairs of names, like this one that ran today: "Marvin Schofer, James Rosenthal." Clear enough: Messrs. Schofer and Rosenthal were married in Toronto last week.

But the names sometimes remind me of a kind of androgyny that, I'm guessing, has long manifested itself in Times wedding pages. The basis of that androgyny: wealth.

What I'm saying is, I sometimes have to click these links in order to determine whether the couple is, in fact, same sex. In a few cases, that's because the names are foreign to me--Asian or African names, for example.

In other cases, though, the names are--well, foreign to me, because they originate in Waspy American wealth, and wealthy, Waspy Americans have the habit of giving their children what are called, I believe, family names. Family naming, as it were, often seems to involve giving a newborn a forename that is a significant family surname. For that reason, family names are cheerfully unisex, and it seems that the type of families that give their children family names are disproportionately represented in the New York Times wedding announcements.

All of which is to say, I had to click to figure out whether this headline in today's paper represented a same-sex couple: "Brooks Orrick, Burney Dawkins."

Turns out they're straight.

As far as we know.

Brooks is the woman.

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