Old People Get Married, Run Really Sweet Wedding Announcement

This is the story of a genteel (yes, I said “genteel,” deal with it) courtship that began as a friendship and slowly shifted into something else.

Jan 29, 2013 at 3:30pm | Leave a comment

(Possibly) Unpopular opinion: I hate “Modern Love.”

But I love, in a strange way, the weddings and celebrations section of the “New York Times.” No idea why, because these sorts of things don’t appeal to me personally as a thing I want to do, but I really do like reading about them -- even though they provide a pretty narrow subset of the American experience, given the kind of people who end up having their weddings covered in the Times.

Technically, anyone can submit a wedding announcement, but obviously the publication has neither the space nor the inclination to run them all. I am also deeply intrigued by the mandate that “Couples posing for pictures [to be run with an announcement] should arrange themselves with their eyebrows on the same level.” Is there perhaps somewhere an archive of eyebrow pictures that didn’t meet the dreaded eyebrow test? Should someone start a Tumblr of rejected New York Times wedding photo submissions? I’m sorry, I’m getting distracted.

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Where are their eyebrows?!

Photo credit: Andrew Morrell

But within that subset of announcements chosen for publication, there really is such an intriguing range, and sometimes the stories within are fascinating and delightful -- or provocative, as we may recall from the insistence on telling us who is taking which name like this is somehow both pressing and fascinating news.

RECOMMENDED READING: TALES OF UNUSUAL WEDDINGS

This week, a rather sweet column has been making the rounds: the wedding announcement for Ada Laurie Bryant (97) and Robert Mitchell Haire (86), who met each other after Mr. Haire commissioned a portrait from Bryant of his deceased and much-beloved first wife. When the project was finished, he asked her to help him pick a frame, and, well, that led to a teashop date.

And we all know teashop dates are serious business.

What follows is the story of a genteel (yes, I said “genteel,” deal with it) courtship that began as a friendship and slowly shifted into something else. He wrote her sonnets, slipping them under her door because he was too shy to give them to her in person. He offered her a loose sapphire to mount in an engagement ring and she initially declined, but said she’d be happy to accept his friendship.

Eventually, they professed their love, but she was still hesitant to marry, worried about their age difference and the limited number of years she had left. In August, though, she decided to accept his offer of marriage.

I think many of us conceive of aging as a lonely, loveless time, watching your friends die off and fearing the eventual death of your partner; we are surrounded by stories of sad older adults with no one left in their lives. Stories like this one aren’t just sweet because they’re a narrative of a slowly-blooming love, they’re also a reminder that, hey, love and life don’t end when you’re old, for whatever value of “old” you want to use, and, I mean, 97 is seriously old.

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These two definitely wouldn't pass NYT photo muster.

Photo credit: Matt W

In a good way, I mean. Ms. Bryant must have seen and heard and done amazing things with 97 years of life to do them in, and it’s amazing and awesome and cool that at 97 she’s finding love again (her first husband passed over 10 years ago).

And their story puts paid to the idea that retirement communities have to be grim places filled with old people shuffling by in ill-fitting Bermuda shorts. They can instead be lively places where people are having sex and making art and going on tea dates and creating new lives and loves for themselves; the community created in such environments can become an incubator instead of a soul-killer. And members of that community can support each other instead of living in isolation.

Their marriage may be brief (although who knows, it could go on for a decade, or more!), but I think it’s going to be a happy one -- not because they feel forced to treasure the limited time they have together, but because they genuinely appear to have a deep connection with each other.