Stretching the Truth to Find Love Online


For Scott Birnbaum, finding Tracy Podell was akin to solving a complex math problem.

Mr. Birnbaum, a data-mad web executive looking for love, found himself taking deep dives into the algorithms and user behaviors that drive some of the largest dating websites. He emerged with a solution for gaming the system to his advantage, creating a profile that attracted Ms. Podell, even if it wasn’t entirely accurate.

Mr. Birnbaum, now 39, considers himself to be “a first-adopter” and a life hacker, whose pursuit of an efficient existence through apps and other gizmos can sometimes infect him with paralysis by analysis. “It took me six months to switch phone plans because I was like, which one is the best?” he said.

He readily admits that his initial forays into online dating were lackluster. While living in Seattle, he found that his friends were getting a lot more hits than he was. So he investigated how he could improve his profile and began tinkering with multiple accounts.

“I started noticing that everybody said the same thing in their bio,” he said. “And I was like, well, I’m not going to stand out very much if I do that. I should write profiles that — while they, you know, weren’t necessarily lying — accentuated different parts of things I was interested in.”
This led him to experiment with various personalities on In one account, he was a “geek,” selling his interest in computers and reading. In another he was a “hipster,” playing off his encyclopedic knowledge of film and indie rock music.

For another profile, he wondered: “What if I just put out there that I’m like the most successful I’ve ever been? Would I attract a real Type A person?”

“I thought it was a great idea and encouraged it,” said Michael Blend, with whom Mr. Birnbaum had been working at Demand Media, and for whom he now works as a vice president for operations at OpenMail, an email data company in Los Angeles. “Our shared colleague had a saying: ‘Sometimes the best strategy is all strategies.’”

And still, when it came to increasing his page views and dates — whether on or sites he used to a much lesser degree, like eHarmony and JDate — he remained relatively unsuccessful. But he kept at it.

Mr. Birnbaum, who stands 5 feet 5 inches tall, ultimately determined that the key issue was his height.

“I was working at this company that at its core was all about S.E.O. — search engine optimization,” said Mr. Birnbaum, a native of Austin, Tex. “Thinking about online dating from a search perspective, I’m like, ‘What are people searching for and why am I not showing up in their searches?’ And so one of the filters was this height thing. Women generally want a guy that is taller than them in heels,” he said. “I was getting weeded out by that.”

Inch by inch, he began raising his stature in his profiles until he discovered that 5 feet 8 inches was the search parameter under which even the shortest women were reluctant to dip their glass slippers.
So Mr. Birnbaum continued tweaking his profile on OkCupid, figuring that the height increase was so minimal that people would give him the benefit of the doubt. Of the handful of dates he had using his false stats, he said he never was called out.
As his fake body grew, so did Mr. Birnbaum’s page views. “Fundamentally, people exaggerate all of the time,” he said, “and they present an idealized version of what they think they are.”

That’s when Ms. Podell, an online content marketer and sometime actress in Los Angeles, who is 4 feet 11 inches, reached out to him in 2012 on OkCupid, ostensibly wanting restaurant suggestions for a trip she had planned.

Ms. Podell, now 32, sensed Mr. Birnbaum was different. For one, she liked his profile.

“He had longish hair at that point, so there was this lovely combination of like, ‘I have a great job and also I look a little bit like I’d be at a concert with you,’” she said. Of his thoughtfully rendered reply and its spot-on restaurant picks, she said, “I was like, ‘ahhmazing.’ He did it the way I do. I have my New York restaurant email that I send to people.”

Mr. Birnbaum said, “I probably overwhelmed her because that’s just sort of my nature.”

A first date soon followed at the Churchill, a gastropub in Los Angeles. Mr. Birnbaum was sitting on a bar stool and stood up to greet Ms. Podell when she walked in. Even from her diminutive perspective, she was quite sure Mr. Birnbaum was shorter than advertised, but she waited until a couple of dates later to press him on the topic. She focused instead on his personality.

Scanning the menu, she said: “He was like, ‘All right, I would have this, this, this, this, this. Which ones do you want? And I was like, ‘Fantastic — someone who’s decisive.’”

Considering the misses she had experienced in her own extensive online dating, Ms. Podell had the capacity to be forgiving with Mr. Birnbaum. She recalled how one of her online dates had made a wayward joke about Asperger’s Syndrome after learning that one of her sisters had it, and another went off to Spain for a couple of months after spending a blissful time with her, and she never heard from him again.

On their third date, Mr. Birnbaum invited her for a swim at the Hollywood Hills bachelor pad he shared with a bunch of guys. Unbeknown to her, it was his birthday.

At one point she teasingly asked him, “You’re not 5-foot- 8, are you?”

He got quiet, and then came clean.

She let it go. “I think I just enjoyed making him squirm a little bit,” said Ms. Podell, a native of Short Hills, N.J., and an N.Y.U. graduate who had moved to Los Angeles in 2010 to pursue acting.

For her, the height requirement she had set on OkCupid represented nothing more than her desire to be with someone taller. “Many of the guys I had dated prior were rather tall,” she said. “My two-year ex out of college was 6-foot-5.”

As for Mr. Birnbaum’s own tall tale, she said: “I understood the reasoning and I thought it was funny. It’s not like he was doing something bad or wrong. If anything, it probably made me more attracted to him, because it was smart and it worked. It showed he was pretty capable.”
For Ms. Podell, a child of musical theater who studied at an early age under Juilliard graduates, inhabiting other personalities is not a foreign concept. “When I was 9, my favorite musical was ‘Falsettos,’” she said. “I saw ‘Rent’ on my 13th birthday, in previews, and then I saw it like 12 times.”
“Having had to lie about my age for acting for so many years, and understanding what it means to hustle and to work every angle, I don’t think there’s anything immoral about it,” she said, referring to Mr. Birnbaum’s conceit.

Later that afternoon in the pool, they shared their first kiss.

As Ms. Podell transitioned from acting to becoming a marketing director at the streaming network Pluto TV, she and Mr. Birnbaum bonded over digital culture. They discovered a mutual affinity for podcasts like “WTF With Marc Maron” and “99% Invisible,” and the comedians Amy Schumer and Louis C.K. They like to travel, venturing to Nicaragua and Cuba, with a honeymoon planned in South Africa and Botswana.

The couple discovered that they have overlaps in their family histories; both come from Jewish families with Texas roots.

Upon hearing about Mr. Birnbaum, Ms. Podell’s mother, Patricia Podell, a Dallas native now living with her husband in Morristown, N.J., immediately called her Texas cousins and said: “Tracy met this guy and this is his name and he’s from Austin. And my first cousin said: ‘Oh no, the Birnbaums aren’t from Austin, they’re from San Antonio. I know all of them. They were in my fraternity at the University of Texas and this and that.’ He goes on and on.”

Both Ms. Podell and Mr. Birnbaum consider the same moment in 2013, about seven months into their relationship, a defining point in their development, but for different reasons.

They attended a concert at the Hollywood Palladium celebrating the release of Dave Grohl’s “Sound City” documentary. Mr. Birnbaum, a die-hard music fan with a Pitchfork sensibility, discovered to his dismay that Ms. Podell had never heard of one of the night’s performers, John Fogerty, nor his former band, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Ms. Podell remembered this disconnect leading to an argument shortly before they left the venue. “In the middle of fighting, he was like, ‘You know I love you, right?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I love you, too.’” It was then that Mr. Birnbaum had an epiphany: his future wife didn’t need to share his appetite for music.

They moved in together six months later.

This past Valentine’s Day, they congregated under a canopy in front of the Barr Mansion, an old Victorian house on the northeastern outskirts of Austin, where, per Jewish tradition, Ms. Podell approached Mr. Birnbaum and circled him.

Jeffrey Yoskowitz, Ms. Podell’s childhood friend who became a Universal Life minister for the occasion, welcomed the “small and loyal clan of Texas Jews” and performed what the bride described as a “Jew-ish” ceremony.

During the ceremony he acknowledged that Ms. Podell, his theater-loving friend, had taught him “more about ‘Rent’ than any middle schoolboy should know.” He then touched upon the humility of the bride and the groom, conceding, “You even joke together about being short.”
Later that evening, Mr. Birnbaum and Ms. Podell participated in the hora, seated for a moment high above everyone else during the dance.

The groom’s father, Robert Birnbaum, a lawyer in San Antonio, explained their matrimony like this: “It took creative marketing on my son’s part in order to get there. But you’ve got to get them in the door to make the sale.”


Source New York Times


From a ‘Dating Fast’ to a Quick Proposal


Serena Powery did not know that Joseph Tillman was fasting when they met as youth ministry volunteers on a church retreat in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York in August 2014.

“We talked for hours that first day, and though I had been dating someone else at the time, I was immediately attracted to him,” said Ms. Powery, a 24-year-old social worker in the Bronx.

“I’m really good at being able to tell if someone likes me, but I never got that vibe from Joseph,” she said. “There was never an underlying tone of flirtation, and he made it clear from the start that we were never going to be anything more than just friends.”

Mr. Tillman, a 31-year-old associate at a Manhattan law firm, clearly liked what he saw in Ms. Powery. “She had a great sense of humor and was wise beyond her years,” he said. But having had some bad luck on the dating scene, including a tumultuous breakup earlier that year, he refused to view her, or any other woman, through romantic eyes.

“I had been dating a person I thought I knew very well, but after two months, the whole thing just crashed and burned,” he said. “I was completely thrown for a loop, and I kept asking myself, ‘Why do certain relationships fail?’ I needed to take some time to reassess things.”
Mr. Tillman consulted with his pastor at the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church.

Pastor Craig Holliday had suggested a fast, though not from food but rather from romance. It is advice he has given others in the church.

“It all depends on the individual situation and what’s going on,” Mr. Holliday said. “When it came to Joseph, there were a number of things that had gone on in his social life that he and I had discussed. I recommended the dating fast as a way to clear his head. I said, ‘Don’t date anyone for the rest of the year and let’s talk around the beginning of the New Year.’”

Mr. Tillman took the recommendation to heart.

“It was a time in my life when I had asked God to give me some clarity in terms of what I was looking for in a woman,” he said.

But it was clear that Ms. Powery was everything he was looking for in a friend.

“She was so much fun to be around,” he said, “and we had so much in common.”

They grew up in California, she in San Jose and he in Perris, and each stayed in-state to receive a bachelor of arts degree, she in psychology at U.S.C., and he in finance at California State University San Bernardino.

Mr. Tillman moved to New York in 2009 to study for a law degree at N.Y.U. In 2012, he became a volunteer member of the young adult ministry of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church. Ms. Powery, who arrived in New York in 2013 to study for a master’s degree in social work from Columbia, joined the church a year later and volunteered in the same ministry.

They made the California connection at the church retreat, after a quick introduction on a soccer field.

After an evening sermon that night, Mr. Tillman was walking back to his cabin when he spotted Ms. Powery sitting alone on a bench around midnight, gazing at the stars. They began a conversation that lasted until 5 a.m., wandering around their campsite and engaging in what Ms. Powery described as “a very deep, transparent conversation that set the tone for our friendship.”
“We talked openly about everything, including ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends, I mean everything,” said Ms. Powery, who sings with a smaller segment of the renowned Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir during Friday night church services. “We learned a lot about each other on that trip.”

Those free-spirited discussions, Mr. Tillman said, were the byproduct of the fasting advice.

“Since I wasn’t interested in dating Serena, I allowed myself to be more vulnerable in conversation than if I had approached her in a romantic way,” he said. “So we were able to be completely honest and nonjudgmental, and we just clicked and talked for hours and hours.”

They talked about continuing their education, and their lives, in New York. Ms. Powery was still studying for her master’s (which she earned in May 2015), while Mr. Tillman, who had already earned his law degree, was specializing in private equity fund formation at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, overseeing general fund structure and United States regulatory matters.

“The fact that Serena and Joseph were both from California was a definite factor in the two of them hitting it off,” said Juliana O’Brien, a lifelong friend of Ms. Powery from San Jose. “We’re a different breed out in California, much more relaxed and much warmer, and they found those qualities in each other.”

Three months into her friendship with Mr. Tillman, Ms. Powery broke up with her boyfriend. Her friendship with Mr. Tillman remained strong as they continued worshiping together and often going for long walks and talks around Manhattan, where Mr. Tillman lived.

But the dating fast continued. There were no romantic overtures.

“Just hanging out and telling jokes,” she said. “Not taking life too seriously.”

In January 2015, Ms. Powery was aware that Mr. Tillman had begun dating again. Three months later, Ms. Powery told him that she had been accepted to the Peace Corps, in rural El Salvador.

“I didn’t mean it as if to say, ‘Well, if we’re not going to be together, I’m going to run off and join the Peace Corps,’” she said. “I was already resigned to the fact that Joseph was just going to be a good friend, but I was also of the mind-set that I was young and single, and I thought that if this is where God wants me to be, then why not pick up and leave?”

Mr. Tillman was shaken by her decision. “My head started spinning,” he said. “I was like: ‘Whoa, wait a minute. I need more details.’”

They discussed it the next day over lunch, during which Mr. Tillman made a confession.

“I told her that since she was leaving anyway, it couldn’t hurt to tell her that I remembered thinking after our first conversation that we had a great connection, but since I wasn’t dating anyone at that time, I just sort of ignored it. I told her that I did think something was there, and though I didn’t know if it was friendly or romantic, it was something I didn’t want to let go of.”

In recalling the moment, Ms. Powery offered a confession of her own.
“I’m sitting there pretending to be all cool,” she said. “Deep inside I’m shouting: Yes! Praise the Lord! We’re finally on the same page.”

In June 2015, Mr. Tillman officially began dating Ms. Powery, who was then living in Harlem and working in Brooklyn as a social worker at New York Therapeutic Communities.

In October 2015, she began working in the Bronx as a youth justice social worker for the Center for Court Innovation, seeking alternatives to prison for 16- and 17-year-olds who commit misdemeanor crimes.

Earlier that month, Mr. Tillman had gone back to the West Coast to cheer for Ms. Powery, who was participating in the Arthritis Foundation California Coast Classic Bike Tour, an eight-day 525-mile bike ride that began in San Francisco and ended in Los Angeles. Also riding were Ms. Powery’s parents, Maria Powery and Dwight Powery, and her sister, Evelyn Powery.

“We do it every year in memory of my younger sister who died from a more complicated disease, but she also had arthritis,” Ms. Powery said.

Soon after she rode across the finish line, Mr. Tillman, who had been waiting there, proposed.

“Serena knew all along that Joseph was the one,” said Maria Powery. “Everything has worked out perfectly for them.”

Including Ms. Powery’s commitment to the Peace Corps, which was scheduled to begin in March. Though she had intended to forgo her service, she received an email two months ago from the Peace Corps, and learned that the cohort that she was to be a part of had been canceled. “It was further confirmation that Joseph and I were meant to be together,” she said.
They were married Jan. 31 by their pastor, Mr. Holliday, at the Kirkpatrick Chapel on the campus of Rutgers in New Brunswick, N.J.

The groom waited and watched with 160 guests as the chapel’s center doors opened wide. There stood Mr. Tillman’s best friend, clutching a bouquet of white roses in her hands.

“In every home, there is a thermostat and a thermometer,” Mr. Holliday told them. “Joseph, you are the thermostat. You will regulate the spiritual temperature in your new home, and based on your actions, Serena, who is your thermometer, will let you know what the temperature is.”

Gail Tillman, the groom’s mother, with tears in her eyes, watched her son and his wife enjoy their first dance togetherto “At Last,” by Etta James. “They’re perfect soul mates,” she said at the reception, held at The Palace at Somerset Park in Somerset, N.J.

Mr. Tillman had, at last, found in Ms. Powery the answer to a question he need no longer ask.

“The moment I slipped that ring on her finger, I knew why so many relationships fail,” he said. “A true relationship can only last if it begins with an honest, solid friendship, like the one Serena and I have had from Day 1.”

Stopping Dating to Understand Love

Mr. Tillman was inspired to go on his “dating fast” by Pastor Craig Holliday, a minister of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church in Brooklyn, where the groom is a congregant. Pastor Holliday discussed what inspires him to sometimes advise men and women in his church to take a break from romance.
Q: Have you given this advice to anyone else in the church?

A: Yes, on occasion. It’s important because unless you begin to identify the areas in your own life that you need help in, by God’s grace, then all you will do is jump from one bad relationship to the next because you have brought these problems with you. And that is what I didn’t want Joseph to do. He had been going through some bad relationships over a two- to three-year period, so finally I just said, “Stop, it’s time to look at your own life and ask yourself ‘What is it about me that needs to change?’” Because ultimately, the common denominator of every relationship he got himself into was himself. So now you have to step back and say, “These things aren’t working out.” You need to take the time to ask yourself, “What am I bringing to the table?”

Q: Do you recommend a dating fast to women as well as men?

A: I have advised both men and women, who have sought my counsel, to go on dating fasts. I currently have a couple of young ladies within the church who are in that kind of holding pattern when it comes to dating.

Q: What kind of feedback do you receive from people who have taken your advice?

A: I’ve never had anyone come back to me and say “I don’t think it was such a good thing.” I would say that every single person has come back to me and thanked me for encouraging them to do it, and all of them have said that it was a good way to help keep themselves accountable in relationships.

Q: Is there a timetable for these dating fasts?

A: It all depends on the individual and his or her situation. The shortest dating fast I ever recommended has been six months. You first have to get to a place of acknowledgment and then start working through certain issues, and I don’t think anyone can do that in 30 days. I currently have another young man on a dating fast for the past year, and though he has really grown during that time, he has told me that he will continue to fast because he still needs a lot of work.


Source New York Times

Jennifer Piro and Michael Balkin: A Match Backed by Experience and Data


Jennifer Beth Piro and Michael Golding Balkin were married Feb. 27 in Scarsdale, N.Y. The ceremony, at the Rowsley Estate, the headquarters of the Scarsdale Woman’s Club, was led by two friends of the couple who became Universal Life ministers for the event. Jessica H. Hirschey legally solemnized the couple’s New York City marriage certificate and led the couple in their exchange of rings; Jacob Condon led the couple in their vows.

The bride, 30, is taking her husband’s name. She is a manager of events and corporate membership in Manhattan for the Morgan Library & Museum. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts and received an M.B.A. from Baruch College.

She is the daughter of Jeanne Piro and Michael J. Piro of Pelham, N.Y. The bride’s father is the chief information officer at Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn. Her mother teaches English as a second language, and coordinates that program at Public School 119 in the Bronx.

The groom, 32, is a service manager in Manhattan for B. R. Guest Hospitality, a company that owns bars and restaurants. He graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I.

He is a son of Bridget Golding and Joseph Balkin, both of Manhattan. The groom’s mother is an instructor in English as a second language at Hunter College. His father retired as an associate professor of statistics and psychology at John Jay College.

Mr. Balkin met Ms. Piro in September 2007 on his first day of work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was hired to manage a cafe and a restaurant at the museum along with Ms. Piro, who had already been there two months.

“I remember walking into the office that we shared and seeing Jennifer for the first time,” Mr. Balkin said. “She was stunning and beautiful, and I was very excited that we would be working together.”

They soon struck up a friendship and began palling around at bars and Yankees games, and in Central Park, where they tossed Frisbees and basked in the sun.

“Although we were friends, I was definitely attracted to her,” he said. “I laid down a number of not-so-subtle hints to let her know that I was very interested.”

But Ms. Piro had not yet turned to that same romantic page.

“I had just finished college,” she said. “Though Michael was a great guy and someone I knew I could trust, I just wasn’t ready for anything more than a platonic relationship.”

By 2009, they began to spend less time together but would occasionally meet to catch up on each other’s lives.

“By that time, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we would never be more than friends,” he said. “But in the back of my mind, I never gave up hope.”

In January 2012, Ms. Piro signed up for eHarmony. After completing a lengthy questionnaire regarding the type of men she preferred, the site’s algorithm computed her best potential matches and steered her toward several profiles, the very first of which belonged to someone named Michael. “All it said was that Michael was 29, but there was no last name or photograph attached,” Ms. Piro said.

She clicked on the profile to read more, and soon realized that Michael was in fact her longtime buddy Mr. Balkin.

“I was shocked,” she said. “Of all the men in Manhattan, of all the men in the world, I found Michael again. I was like, ‘Whoa, this is crazy.’”

After deciding to “sit back and think on it for a while,” she told him about their computer connection in March 2013.

“I was in disbelief but very excited as well,” Mr. Balkin said. “I’m not big on superstition, but if there were ever a sign that we should be together, that was it.”

That month, they went on their first official date, to a restaurant in Manhattan.

“At that point, we had known each other so well and for so long,” she said. “We knew that there was no turning back, and that we were meant to be together forever.”


Source New York Times

What Women Find in Friends That They May Not Get From Love


SARA and I met as office drones in 1999. We became friends in a period of our lives when the demands of our jobs were just heating up, when the roots we were putting down in the city were just getting deep. In each other, we found respite, recognition, a shared eagerness to relax, take stock and talk about it all.

Many other women were doing the same things. Female friendship has been the bedrock of women’s lives for as long as there have been women. In earlier eras, when there was less chance that a marriage, entered often for economic reasons, would provide emotional or intellectual succor, female friends offered intimate ballast.

These days, marriages ideally offer far more in the way of soulful satisfaction. But they tend to begin later in life — today 20 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 are married, compared with nearly 60 percent in 1960; the median age of first marriage for women has risen to 27 — if they marry at all. The marriage rate hit a record low in 2015, and a 2014 Pew Research Center study showed a significant number of adults had never been married and predicted that a quarter of millennials might never marry.

As women live more of our adult lives unmarried, we become ourselves not necessarily in tandem with a man or within a traditional family structure, but instead alongside other women: our friends.

Among the largely unacknowledged truths of contemporary female life is that women’s foundational relationships are as likely to be with one another as they are with the romantic partners who, we’re told, are supposed to complete us.

My relationship with Sara had a low-slung thrum of beer, cigarettes and the kind of quotidian familiarity we think of as exclusive to long-term mates, or possibly siblings. We played cards and watched award shows and baseball and presidential debates together; we shared doctors and advised each other on office politics; we gossiped and kept each other company when the exterminator came to behead the mice. (Seriously: This was the exterminator we both used, and he beheaded mice.)

Together, Sara and I had a close network of four other friends with whom we vacationed, but also maintained separate relationships with our own circles. Without realizing it, we were recreating contemporary versions of very old webs of support. The historian Carroll Smith-Rosenberg has written about women’s relationships in the 19th century that “friends did not form isolated dyads but were normally part of highly integrated networks.”

Friendships provided the core of what I wanted from adulthood — connection, shared sensibilities, enjoyment. Unlike my few youthful romances, which had mostly depleted me, my female friendships were replenishing, and their salubrious effect expanded into other layers of my life: They made things I yearned for, like better work, fairer remuneration, increased self-assurance and even just fun, seem more attainable.

Female friendship was not a consolation prize, some romance also-ran. Women who find affinity with one another are not settling. In fact, they may be doing the opposite, finding something vital that is lacking in their romantic entanglements, and thus setting their standards healthily higher.

Four years after we first met, the man Sara had been seeing was offered a job in Boston. They dated long distance for a year. But then they had to make a decision; he was intent on staying in Boston, even though it was not a city that offered her much professional opportunity.

Watching Sara wrestle with her choices was painful. It was the kind of upheaval, in our late 20s, that was messy enough to make me consider whether early marriage might have been wise after all. When we’re young, after all, our lives are so much more pliant, can be joined without too much fuss. When we get older, the infrastructure of our adulthood takes shape, connects to other lives. The prospect of breaking it all apart and rebuilding it elsewhere becomes a far more daunting project than it might have been had we just married someone at 22, and done all that construction together.

The day Sara moved to Boston, after weeks of packing and giving away her stuff, a bunch of friends closed up the U-Haul and gave long hugs and shouted our goodbyes as she drove off. When she was gone and I was alone, I cried.

Make no mistake: I believed that Sara should go. I wanted her to be happy and I understood that what we wanted for ourselves and for each other was not only strong friendships and rewarding work, but also warm and functional relationships with romantic and sexual partners; both of us were clear on our desires for love, commitment, family. Yet at the time, I was so gutted that I wrote an article about her departure, “Girlfriends Are the New Husbands,” in which I contemplated the possibility that it’s our female friends who now play the role that spouses once did, perhaps better than the spouses did.

Historically, friendships between women provided them with attention, affection and an outlet for intellectual or political exchange in eras when marriage, still chiefly a fiscal and social necessity, wasn’t an institution from which many could be sure of gleaning sexual or companionate pleasure.

Because these relationships played such a different role from marriage in a woman’s life, it was quite realistic for commitments between women to persist as emotionally central after the marriages of one or both of them. Even the happiest of married women found something in their associations with other women that they did not have with their husbands. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton, devotedly wed and mother of seven, once said of her activist partner, Susan B. Anthony, “So closely interwoven have been our lives, our purposes, and experiences” that when separated, “we have a feeling of incompleteness.”

SIX months after she moved to Boston, Sara came back.

She came back because the relationship she’d traveled to Boston for wasn’t fulfilling. More important, she came back because the life she’d left in New York — her work, her city, her friends — was fulfilling. She came back for herself. She says now that it was a New York job listing that was the beacon: “It was telling me to return to the life that fed me, my circle of friends, to return to myself.” I was sad that her relationship hadn’t worked out, but happy that she had built a life on her own that was satisfying and welcoming enough to provide her with an appealing alternative. And I was thrilled to have her back.
But divides can creep in between friends just as easily as they do in marriages. Maybe because she was nursing painful wounds as she rebuilt her New York life, and was resistant to simply falling back into her old patterns; maybe because, after the pain of having to say goodbye, I was gun-shy about giving myself over so completely, our friendship was never again quite as effortless as it had once been. “It was a rough re-entry,” she said recently of that time. “I knew of course that your life had continued while I was gone and that your circles of friends had expanded, but I was sad that we couldn’t slip right back into the space where we had left off.”
All of my close female friends were married at least by 23. I felt abandoned when they got married- particularly when they married men that…

I got married late. It came after many years of trying to get married. I thank G-d now nearly every day that it finally happened for me. My…

Okay, then just decide how you want to spend your time. But unfortunately, the day will remain 24 hours long. And the week is 7 days.With…

Then, a couple of years after her return, it was I who fell in love, I who suddenly couldn’t go out multiple nights a week with my girlfriends, because I had met a man with whom — for the first time in my life — I wanted to spend those nights.

When I met Darius, I was stunned by how much time I wanted with him, and also by the impossibility of living my social life as I had before. And once I took out the constancy of communication with my female friends, the dailiness and all-knowingness, the same-boatness, the primacy of our bonds began to dissipate.

We have no good blueprint for how to integrate the contemporary intimacies of female friendship and of marriage into one life. In this one small (but not insignificant) way, I think, 19th-century women were lucky, with their largely unsatisfying marriages and segregation into a subjugated and repressed gender caste. They had it easier on this one front: They could maintain an allegiance to their female friends, because there was a much smaller chance that their husbands were going to play a competitively absorbing role in their emotional and intellectual lives.

Sara says now that she was surprised to see me disappear so completely into a relationship, after having known me for years as the one who didn’t have (or need) a stable romantic partnership. I was the one who was far more into my work and my friends, the one who was so rarely in a relationship that I’d already begun planning to have a child on my own, the one who was familiar with the turning away of friends toward traditional relationships. Now hereI was, making that turn myself. “I was happy for you,” Sara told me. “But it felt like we’d switched roles; I woke up one morning as the independent feminist and you were the girl who was so into her boyfriend.”

The worrywarts of the early 20th century may have been right about the competitive draw of female friendship, about the possibility that it might inhibit or restrain a desire for marriage, especially bad marriages. But the real consequence of having friendships that are so fulfilling is that when you actually meet someone you like enough to clear the high bar your friendships have set, the chances are good that you’re going to really like him or her. That’s what happened to me.

For many women, friends are our primary partners through life; they are the ones who move us into new homes, out of bad relationships, through births and illnesses. Even for women who do marry, this is true at the beginning of our adult lives, and at the end — after divorce or the death of a spouse.

There aren’t any ceremonies to make this official. There aren’t weddings; there aren’t health benefits or domestic partnerships or familial recognition. There has not yet been any satisfying way to recognize the role that we play for one another. But, as so many millions of us stay unmarried for more years, maybe there should be.


Source New York Times

For Two Frequent Fliers, a Trip Down the Matrimonial Runway


Her life revolved around research institutes and fellowships. His moved along the edges of business and government. He traveled a lot. She moved often. There were planes to catch, seminars, grant proposals, a book to write, classes to teach, a whirlwind that rarely stopped. Rebecca MacKinnon and Bennett Freeman had known each other professionally for years, had sat in the same room for meetings, but cannot recall having a single conversation outside of work.

Everything changed when their paths crossed one day in Washington.

She was starting a fellowship with Open Society Foundations, a group dedicated to civil rights, democracy and government accountability. He walked into the group’s office building on his way to a meeting. They spotted each other, said hello and agreed to have a drink a few days later at Hank’s Oyster Bar.
It was supposed to be a business drink — short and sweet and to the point. The Global Network Initiative, a group dedicated to human rights, freedom of expression and privacy, which they both had a hand in starting, was up and running, and they wanted to compare notes.
At the time, his marriage was ending and the divorce settlement had just been determined. He had not even begun to think about dating.

“I had no intention of this becoming a date, let alone a relationship, let alone a marriage,” Mr. Freeman, 58, said. She was only going to be in town for six weeks. He lived in the capital but was getting ready to fly to the Persian Gulf.

“We were enjoying the conversation enough we decided to continue, order dinner at the bar,” Ms. MacKinnon, 46, said, “and at some point during the dinner it started to feel a little bit datey, and then as we were leaving he asked me out.”

The National Symphony Orchestra was playing Bela Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra the following weekend, he said to her.

“Without skipping a beat, she began to hum the melody,” said Mr. Freeman, who was amazed Ms. MacKinnon, who played violin in high school, was so familiar with one of his favorite classical pieces, especially from a composer not frequently hummed outside a bar, or anywhere for that matter.

That was early in 2009. They kept in touch as Ms. MacKinnon traveled for work at a frantic pace. She can tick off the countries, though she is not sure if they are in the right order.

“After that six weeks in D.C., I went back to China for a while,” she said. “And then I came back to D.C., and then I went back to Hong Kong. And then I went to Australia, and I went to Egypt, and I went to London. Or some sequence. I forget.”

They met in London that summer. She went to the Bahamas for her brother’s wedding. They spent some time near San Francisco, where Mr. Freeman grew up. By Thanksgiving, they were in London again.

“I was really kind of circumnavigating the earth a couple of times,” Ms. MacKinnon said. “He likes to say I was an international bag lady, you know, kind of living out of suitcases.”

Mr. Freeman’s sister, Rachel Freeman, who was living in Africa, visited her brother in Washington shortly after the couple started seeing each other. She was supposed to meet her brother for lunch. He didn’t show up.
“I said, ‘Where are you?’” she said. “He said, ‘Rebecca, Rebecca.’ That was the beginning. It was clear, this was important.”

For Ms. MacKinnon, the same feelings were emerging. “He’s deeply enthusiastic about kind of everything, and just has a love for life and a love for people,” she said.

Mr. Freeman’s friends say that in high school, when everyone else talked about sports, he was interested in apartheid in South Africa. He has been known to talk about Chinese nationalism in the middle of a baseball game.

Larry Baer, a longtime friend of Mr. Freeman’s and now the president and chief executive of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, described the couple as “two whirling dervishes.”

“They say that opposites attract,” Mr. Baer said. “But in that world, whirling dervishes attract.”

Mr. Freeman studied history at the University of California in Berkeley, where he graduated with honors, and went on to study at Oxford. He campaigned for Walter F. Mondale’s presidential run, sleeping in Mr. Baer’s dorm room at Harvard and canvassing by day when the campaign swung through Massachusetts. He worked with the State Department during the Clinton administration and was a speechwriter for Secretary of State Warren Christopher. His work eventually led to a position with Calvert Investments, which he left in April 2015. He served on boards and committees that championed corporate responsibility and continues to do so.

Ms. MacKinnon grew up in India, Hong Kong, China and Tempe, Ariz. Her father was a professor of Chinese history at Arizona State University, her mother a writer and businesswoman. She went to Harvard and was a Fulbright scholar in Taiwan. She worked at CNN’s bureau in Beijing, eventually becoming bureau chief, and later Tokyo bureau chief.

She left CNN in 2004 and started to research Internet censorship and surveillance with fellowships at Harvard and Princeton, centers and foundations devoted to a free press in a rapidly changing world. She was a founder of Global Voices, and taught at the University of Hong Kong. She started writing a book, “Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom,” which led to a fellowship, a trip to Washington, the drink at Hank’s Oyster Bar and what would become a long-distance relationship.

“We’re two people who have struggled our entire adult lives with being hard driving, ambitious,” Mr. Freeman said. “Working day and night, nights, weekends. Neither of us has had a healthy balance between our professional and personal lives.”

They were both “high octane,” he said, together “combustible,” a perfect match, perhaps, but they lived in different cities.

Ms. MacKinnon kept writing, traveling and looking for grants and fellowships. She spoke before House and Senate subcommittees on human rights, and they saw each other while she was in Washington. She found a research organization, some funding and a place around the corner from Mr. Freeman. Other opportunities came, from Boston, the West Coast, Asia. She passed on them.
“What’s sort of amazing is that they were able to stay in one place long enough to fall in love,” said Ethan Zuckerman, director of the MIT Center for Civic Media and a longtime friend of the couple.

The couple were ready for a singular cloud-to-ground moment in their lives.

“Lightning struck, and there we were,” Mr. Freeman said. “And we’ve been together ever since.”

They took vacations, hiking in places where the pace of life is slower, the cell service weak and spotty. Iceland. Death Valley. The Canadian Rockies. Glacier National Park. The Swiss Alps.

The miles stacked up, and when Mr. Freeman became a member of United Airlines’ MileagePlus Million Miler program in the fall 2014, he asked her to share his designated Premier status. They were spending some time on the West Coast when he proposed, outside a Cowgirl Creamery near Point Reyes, Calif.

“He said something like, ‘Well, someday when we get married we can get a house out here,’” she said. He had made such comments before, but “this time for whatever reason I said, ‘You know, you never asked me.’”

So he did, and she said yes.

Their wedding celebration spilled across four cities in the course of a month: a party for 100 in Washington, the ceremony in Phoenix on Valentine’s Day, a gathering for about 50 in San Francisco the following weekend and another party for about 65 in London the weekend after that.

As they said their vows, standing before Rabbi Dean Shapiro and about 50 guests at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, quail chattered and choir music drifted in from another event at the outdoor space. After the ceremony, guests sipped craft beer and wine, and the classical guitarist Domingo DeGrazia played as evening came to the desert. One wedding. Four cities.

Before their party in San Francisco, their time on the West Coast was not spent sightseeing. Instead they were consumed with speaking engagements, meetings and phone calls, because the whirlwind rarely stops.

“We’re going to be busier than ever,” Mr. Freeman said, “but our pledge is to make more time for each other along the way.”


Source New York Times

For Some Men, Mark Zuckerberg Is a Lifestyle Guru


Anyone who has ever taken to social media to announce a self-improvement project knows that your “friends” cannot be relied upon to hold you accountable. Almost as soon as you proclaim your intention to learn French or cut out carbs, the world moves on, leaving you with only your empty promises and scone crumbs on your shirt.

It’s not so easy to slack if you’re Mark Zuckerberg. Each year, Mr. Zuckerberg, the Facebook co-founder and C.E.O., who is now 31, has made public pledges to improve himself. His efforts have been closely tracked by the press and by users of his globe-spanning social network who seem never to forget his promises despite the Internet’s ability to reset itself every morning in the manner of “Groundhog Day.”

In 2009, Mr. Zuckerberg decided to wear a tie every day. In 2010, he set himself the task of learning to speak Mandarin. In 2011, he vowed that when he ate meat, it would be only from animals he had slaughtered himself, a pledge seemingly confirmed by a leaked photo of him grinning while holding a chicken by its feet.

In 2013 he aimed to meet someone new every day. In 2014, he promised to write a daily handwritten (or emailed) thank-you note. Last year, he started his own book club, reading a new title every two weeks.

This year is no different. Even though Mr. Zuckerberg probably has his hands full with his company and a new baby, he has said he will run 365 miles over the course of the year and build an artificial intelligence butler for his home.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s efforts have made him the object of fascination and emulation among a subset of millennials in and around the tech industry. More than seeing Mr. Zuckerberg as merely an avatar of tech success and unfathomable wealth, they consider him a role model.

“I run three experiments each year inspired by Zuckerberg,” said Dave Fontenot, 22, a San Francisco resident who used to be an agent for engineers, but who said he is currently “focusing on myself.”

This year, Mr. Fontenot aims to improve his posture, meditate and spend more time alone. He also trained himself to send thank-you notes, either handwritten or as voice recordings via text, inspired by Mr. Zuckerberg. “For a period of time, I wasn’t thanking people at all, but then, for one of the most powerful person in the world to do it, I was like, wow,” Mr. Fontenot said.

In 2012, Mr. Fontenot was invited to Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., after winning a hackathon at the University of Michigan. There, he had a chance to see Mr. Zuckerberg up close.

Mr. Fontenot remembered a moment when Mr. Zuckerberg spotted someone juggling and expressed a desire to try it. “In 20 minutes, he kind of learned it,” Mr. Fontenot said.

Lukas Biewald, a co-founder and the C.E.O. of CrowdFlower, a crowdsourcing company in San Francisco, sees Mr. Zuckerberg’s efforts at self-betterment, maybe even including juggling, as emblematic of the tech industry as a whole. “I think taking on self-improvement projects outside of work is part of the zeitgeist of Silicon Valley,” said Mr. Biewald, 34. “People expect you to have things that you care about outside of work.”


Source New York Times

How to Stay Sane on a Business Trip


A specific condition afflicts business travelers: Call it hotel gloom, an amorphous melancholy that seems to thrive in the perfectly serviceable hotel rooms of the $200-a-night-and-under variety. Al Jackson has experienced it many times.

Mr. Jackson, 38, a stand-up comedian who has been touring for more than a decade, has stayed in Red Roof Inns and Wyndham hotels across this land. Inserting his key card can be like a gateway to existential dread. “When you open the door, there’s that rush of air, always that same kind of stale smell,” he said. “Sometimes the door shuts behind you. You’re in this semidark room. You drag your bag to where everyone sets their bag and it’s, ‘How did I get here again?’”
The hospitality industry tries its best to counteract this adult version of homesickness. Everything about the guest experience, from the smooth jazz playing in the lobby to the earth-tone décor, is designed to create a veneer of contentment and belonging. But hotel gloom has recently slipped into the cultural conversation nonetheless.

First there was “Hotels of North America,” a novel published last fall by Rick Moody told in the form of online lodging reviews. Then came “Anomalisa,” the Oscar-nominated animated film written and co-directed by Charlie Kaufman, which centers on a businessman’s stay in an upscale Cincinnati hotel that Tad Friend, writing about the movie in The New Yorker, described as “oppressively functional.” (Picture the best Hampton Inn you’ve ever stayed in.)

Curiously, both the novel and the movie center on drifting middle-aged motivational speakers. They use the hotel stay as a metaphor for emotional estrangement and societal disconnectedness. It’s a dark night of the soul rendered through free continental breakfasts and nightly turndown service.

“I used to stay in this Radisson in New London, Conn.,” Mr. Moody said. “I still have nightmares about the Edward Hopper-esque loneliness.”

He spoke of the “dread of the key being demagnetized” and the “mounting anxiety” that “whatever little shred of home or idea of home that you can carry into that room” will be lost. In this way, Mr. Moody, 54, resembles his novel’s narrator, who, while staying at a La Quinta Inn in Tuscaloosa, Ala., undergoes a “profound personality change” brought on by the hotel’s “nauseating pastels” and “faux-Mexican décor.”

Perhaps the artistic temperament is not suited to hotel life. The cartoonist Charles M. Schulz told his biographer: “Just the mention of a hotel makes me turn cold. When I’m in a hotel room alone, I worry about getting so depressed I might jump out of a window.”

‘The Movement Stops’

Carol Margolis, 56, has spent 30 years fighting off hotel gloom. She traveled frequently as a consultant for large corporations, once spending so much time on the road that she had a permanent room at a Marriott Residence Inn in Cleveland. Now she advises companies about business travel.

For her, Rule No. 1: Never let the gloom gain a foothold. “I was afraid that if it happened once, it would keep happening,” she said. “It’s kind of like one drink and you fall off the wagon.”

For Ms. Margolis, who is married and lives in Florida, the problem is not the travel itself. She loves to walk down the jet bridge and board a plane, and the feeling of touching down on a runway a thousand miles from home promises new experiences, new adventures. The challenge comes later in the journey.

“When you get to the hotel, the movement stops,” she said. “I’m picturing myself standing in the middle of the room, walking in circles asking, ‘What do I do now?’”

In recent years, the better chains have upgraded their designs, adding amenities like spas and fitness centers and making an effort to create a consistent experience across their properties. Yet, paradoxically, the quasi luxury may add to the sense of emptiness.

Mr. Jackson sees the midprice chain hotel as a social leveler. Although he is grateful that he doesn’t have to go back to the ratty motels he experienced early in his career, he said he wonders how far he has really come when he finds himself in yet another taupe-carpeted room.

“You fly first class, you’re blue chip at the rental car counter, you go through the platinum rewards member line at the hotel, but you’re still in that same lonely hotel room,” Mr. Jackson said. “No matter how ordered you try to make it, you have chosen a seminomadic lifestyle.”

Say No to Room Service

How do seasoned business travelers fight it off? Bill McGowan, 55, the founder and chief executive of Clarity Media Group, a New York-based firm that specializes in media training, said he minimizes the amount of time spent in the room, cutting it down to unpacking, showering and sleeping.

Room service is out; instead, he uses the Open Table app to find a restaurant with a lively bar where he can sit and have dinner, and eats there again on successive business trips.

Routine can breed comfort, he added. He is on the road eight to 10 days a month and books the same hotels in the same cities. In Silicon Valley, it’s the Westin in Palo Alto, Calif. “It’s so familiar, it’s almost like a home away from home,” Mr. McGowan said. “I don’t really have that horrible realization when I open the door.”

Ms. Margolis is also a believer in cutting down on the time spent in the room. Soon after check-in, she seeks a spot where she can work or relax. “I recently stayed at a Marriott Courtyard,” she said, “and they have these bistro lobbies with a fireplace and chairs. Oh, my gosh, I was right there.”

Sarah Cloninger, 35, a corporate trainer who writes a travel blog called Road Warriorette, said that fighting the gloom starts with the trip planning. She arranges to be away from her husband and three small children the least amount of time possible. And she tries to book a hotel downtown, within walking distance of shops and restaurants. “It’s easier to feel bummed when you’re in a Hampton Inn in the middle of nowhere,” she said.

Like many business travelers, Ms. Cloninger tends to stay in midprice chain hotels because they are company approved, and because she gets reward points. (She prefers Hilton chains.) But on the rare occasion when she is booked at a five-star hotel, like the time her company held a meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay in Northern California, the gloom magically disappears.

“The bathroom had marble floors and gorgeous amenities and a separate bathtub,” she said. “I was not sad when I walked into that hotel room.”

Mr. Jackson, the comedian, sees an upside in the near silence of those midprice hotels with carpeted hallways and tinted windows that don’t open. “I want my hotel to be kind of sad,” he said. “I can get some work done.”

And given his vivid memories of the rundown places he once stayed in, he will take bourgeois melancholy any day.

“It was a motel in Vero Beach, Fla.,” he said. “I walked into the room, and there was a gunshot through the window and ants all over the floor. I called the front desk and told them about the ants. The guy goes, ‘You can come down here and pick up some spray.’”

There is gloom, and then there is gloom.


Source New York Times

Why a $15,950 Tourbillon Watch Is Considered a Steal


With a price tag of $15,950, the new Carrera Heuer-02T wristwatch from TAG Heuer — a brand often associated with “starter” Swiss luxury watches under $3,000 — may strike budget-minded consumers as “mind boggling,” as one watch site, Monochrome, put it; perhaps even “incredible,” in the words of another, Hodinkee.

An entry-level timepiece for the price of a factory-fresh Japanese subcompact? I’ll take the Honda.

To the watch cultists who inhabit sites like these, however, the new TAG is not an egregious example of price gouging but rather a steal, a timepiece so jaw-droppingly underpriced that there must be, according to the site aBlogtoWatch, some sort of sorcery involved.

What the wizards at TAG have done is conjure a tourbillon — an intricate, gyroscope-like mechanism long considered a holy grail for watch enthusiasts — at the luxury-watch equivalent of a Kmart bluelight price.

Up to now, a (ahem) “cheap” tourbillon timepiece was the Montblanc 4810 ExoTourbillon Slim, for $34,500. At the G.D.P.-of-a-small-country end of the spectrum, the Greubel-Forsey Quadruple Tourbillon (which, yes, contains four of them) retails for $815,000.
TAG, in other words, has seemingly enabled buyers to take that Honda budget and snag a Bentley.

But is it worth it? You don’t have to explain to anyone why a Bentley costs so much. But a tourbillon? How could a feather’s weight of metal increase the value of an already expensive watch by a factor of 10?

For starters, a tourbillon promises at least a theoretical improvement in performance. To put things in watch-geek-ese, the tourbillon, which was pioneered by Abraham-Louis Breguet at the end of the 18th century, mounts the watch’s escapement, balance spring and balance wheel inside a tiny rotating cage, to fight the effects of gravity, and in theory even out minor deviations in timekeeping (phew).

It is widely debated whether tourbillons actually deliver better time; generally, they are considered a symbol of watchmaking virtuosity. But at least a tourbillon bestows undeniable marketing value, according to Hyla Bauer, the editor of Watch Journal.

“It is the ultimate complication for achieving accuracy in mechanical timekeeping,” Ms. Bauer said, “and many collectors who are obsessed with accuracy are willing, and indeed expect, to pay a handsome premium for this slight improvement in accuracy. In this case, seconds do count.”

Even marginal gains would hardly seem to represent bang for the buck in an era when you can summon atomic-clock accuracy with an iPhone app.

But as with any precious commodity, scarcity adds to the allure. Tourbillons are extremely difficult to engineer and manufacture, said Jack Forster, the managing editor of Hodinkee, meaning they have always been rare. “Before the late 1990s,” he said, “there were probably only a few hundred made since their inventor patented the idea in 1801.”

The talismanic appeal of the tourbillon is evident at the NoLIta offices of Hodinkee, where 3D-printed models of tourbillons are displayed with reverence, as if they are original Giacomettis.

No wonder. To the horologically minded, who fetishize engineering for engineering’s sake, the tourbillon is a form of kinetic art.

As Ms. Bauer said: “They are constantly in motion and are an endless source of visual stimulation. They are mesmerizing to watch, bordering on hypnotizing.”

Even so, the idea of spending a year’s apartment rent for a mechanism of negligible practical value and almost zero cachet to the general public (unlike, say, a Bentley, or even a Giacometti) would seem to defy logic.

And it does, said Adam Craniotes, the founder of RedBar Group, an international network of watch lovers. That is the point.

“If we accept that a mechanical watch is obsolete technology, which it is,” Mr. Craniotes said, “then an intricate escapement designed to address a problem that existed on an even more obsolete example of the genre, the pocket watch, is quite possibly the best way that we, as collectors, can telegraph to ourselves and others the permanence of watchmaking as a craft, particularly in the face of cheap, mass-produced and ultimately disposable tech.”

The tourbillon, he said, “is a testament to our ability to celebrate, and indeed cherish, obsolescence as art.”


Source New York Times

Oscars’ Best Dressed Men? Common, Eddie Redmayne and Jacob Tremblay


According to the tacit protocols of gala dressing, women, and not men, are meant to shine. Thus — whether by instinct or because that is what their Svengali stylists taught them — the best-dressed men at the 88th annual Academy Awards ceremony evinced faith in the simplicity of proper evening clothes, with the result that this was among the most stylish Oscars ceremonies in recent years.

Asked on the red carpet if he was going to any of the post-Oscars parties, Liev Schreiber said, “I’m so exhausted from tying my own bow tie, I’m not sure we’ll make it out,” underscoring an unvarying truth about the tuxedo and all that goes with it: Guys fear and despise the thing.

That is a pity because, as a uniform for formal dressing, it is hard to improve on a centuries-old formula constituted of four essential elements. While women confront a daunting array of choices when embarking on such an evening, men have it easy.

Imagine having to worry about whether to bare one’s shoulders or arms or back, or submit to torso waxing in order to allow for diamond peekaboo abdominal cutouts or décolletage. Think about how much can be concealed by a garment that leaves only head and hands unconcealed. Even the Spanx worn by a surprising number of men are easy to hide beneath a suit.


Source New York Times