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We meet again, New York Times. I will say this – their marriage announcements have actually gotten better in the recent months. But about once a month or so, they have a gem. A diamond in the rough. An announcement so hilariously and/or terribly written that it justifies a breakdown. This week, we were again graced with one of the most hipster marriage announcements you could possibly read, just like before.
For the Rock Star, Love Has Finally Landed
The rock star and the music lover met at a record store, fell in love and got married. There were only 16 years, a separate marriage, two continents and a slew of text messages in between.
Nothing like a beautiful, seamless start to a relationship that’s intended to last forever, am I right? I’ve always said, “A long-lasting marriage is built on a decade and a half of work, divorces, and texting.”
Their story began at Earwax Records in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 2000, as the neighborhood’s gentrification was just beginning to accelerate. She was Emily Bidwell, a Mayflower descendant with a degree in fine arts and sculpture from Hampshire College, who had headed to bohemia in search of cheap studio space. He was Matthew Caws, a New Yorker with a jangly rock band, Nada Surf, who was navigating the vertiginous trajectory of fame.
I don’t know what’s more hipster – a place named “Earwax Records” in Williamsburg or someone describing themselves as a descendant of the Mayflower. Her career trajectory sounds like a cable description on a Portlandia spinoff episode. The idea of her looking for a “cheap studio space” in Brooklyn with her degree in sculpture made me spit out my cold brew.
Mr. Caws began working at the record shop as he reeled from the early success of a single, “Popular,” which dominated MTV in the summer of 1996, and the bruising crash to reality that followed it. And though Ms. Bidwell was rock ’n’ roll reverent, and had spent her college years seeing live shows with a friend and fellow Earwax employee, Alex Holden, when she first saw Mr. Caws in the store, she did not know who he was.
As much as I already hate this couple, I am jealous that this dude got to fit “dominated MTV in the summer of 1996” into his profile. If I were single and on Bumble, that would without a doubt be my bio. But back to hating them, because that’s what the rest of this announcement is intended to do – portray these people as being everything that’s wrong with Brooklyn’s hip reputation.
“I had been buried in Williamsburg,” she said. “I didn’t have a television or anything. I had no idea that Matthew was famous.”
It’s like she opened The Hipster Speech Manual, went to page one of chapter one, and said, “Okay, this is what I’m supposed to say when someone asks me about a popular band.” Not having a television is the training wheels on living a hipster lifestyle.
Earwax was the type of enthusiast’s paradise where on any given day there might be no Clash records “yet a huge ambient noise section,” Mr. Caws remembered. (The year they met, the movie “High Fidelity” came out, about a record store run by curmudgeonly obscurantists, and posters advertising the film went up across the street from Earwax. “It was like we worked in that store,” Mr. Caws said.)
Man, when I’m going to a record store, the first thing I look for is a fresh and current ambient noise section. Everyone knows that if you’re going to build a business that just oozes revenue, your ambient noise section has to be off the hook.
There they bonded quickly, hanging out during shifts. Mr. Caws was taken by her kindness, even to those poor unfortunates who dared to come to the store looking for popular music. Ms. Bidwell was charmed when she put one of the rock-nerd’s Zen koans — “Beatles or Stones?” — to Mr. Caws, and he responded, “Can I say the Kinks?”
Calling anyone who seeks out popular music “unfortunates” is the most Williamsburg part of this entire announcement, which is saying a lot considering everything we’re about to fucking encounter. That last paragraph was two sentences long, and both sentences fell into the “punchable” category.
But Ms. Bidwell was involved with another Earwax employee, who would later become her first husband, and Mr. Caws was dating around. She nurtured an innocent crush — “It caught up to me. All of a sudden I realized: I’m acting funny around this person,” she said — but nothing came to pass. Record stores are transient spaces, especially for musicians with gigs to get to, as Mr. Caws was. In 2001, he moved on to pursue his career.
I don’t know how much money Earwax paid to get their name sprinkled throughout this insufferability, but this is either the worst or best possible press they could get. I’m truly not sure which one. Like, yeah, on the surface, getting mentioned in The New York Times is incredible. But when you’re being described as having a robust ambient noise selection in your transient space, you have to wince a little.
The following years were eventful for both. Mr. Caws and Nada Surf recorded and toured the world. Ms. Bidwell left the store, married her Earwax boyfriend and landed at Etsy, the online marketplace, as one of its earliest hires. She is now its senior merchandising specialist, curating assortments of Etsy goods and promoting Etsy to the wider world. She has appeared on “Good Morning America” and in the pages of The Wall Street Journal on behalf of the company, and once narrated an all-Etsy fashion show on Martha Stewart’s talk show.
Hilarious. Hilarious not because she married a dude that she met at a place called “Earwax,” (well, that too), but hilarious because this hipster liberal arts girl who has a degree in sculpture but no television now works for an extremely popular and mainstream company where she’s done television appearances. Hipsters can only be hipsters until they sell out and realize how much money they can make in a world that’s not all record stores and gauge earrings.
Though they had largely fallen out of touch, she had not forgotten Mr. Caws, and in October 2012, Mr. Holden, who had stayed in touch with both, invited them to dinner as an Earwax reunion. Ms. Bidwell, whose first marriage had ended, assumed it was a setup — incorrectly, as it turns out. “It hadn’t even occurred to me,” Mr. Holden said.
It was a setup. We all know it was a setup.
Intentional or not, they laughed and caught up over dinner (Ms. Bidwell described swooning to a German-accented impression by Mr. Caws), and their mutual interest was reignited. “I was re-smitten, more smitten,” Mr. Caws said. “Some people just live in a happier place, and she seems to live in a very happy place. She had had a strong imprint in my mind; I always wondered about her.”
Can’t even fathom what this dinner was like. If the highlight of a dinner is a washed-up musician doing a German accent and having the table erupt in laughter, you know that’s a dinner for the books. Just hilarious knee-slapper after hilarious knee-slapper.
But Mr. Caws had fathered a son, Theodore, in 2004, in a brief relationship. Theodore and his mother lived in England, and Mr. Caws decided to move there to be closer to his son.
“Decided” to move there sounds like a stretch to me. I’m not saying there was a court involved in this decision, but I am saying that there’s some sketchy information being left out of this side of the story.
“I was so sure he was going to ask me out that night,” Ms. Bidwell said. “Instead, he told me he was leaving for Cambridge.”
Ouch. Burn. I’m not here to pass judgment on Ms. Bidwell (yes, I am), but how crossed are her signals where she thinks someone is going to ask her on a date only to find out that the dude is actually moving as far away from her as humanly possible?
Distance may have made Mr. Caws leery of forging a relationship, but it did not prevent him from asking her out on a subsequent trip back to New York. He devoted so much thought to the matter that he barely realized that it was nearly a year later by the time he actually did.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Or, in this case, these two still managed to not find anyone else so they decided, “Man, we’re getting kind of old and we’re both still single.”
On Sept. 2, 2013, Mr. Caws and Ms. Bidwell went on their first date, to Black Mountain Winehouse, a bar in Gowanus, Brooklyn, where she had moved. They talked for hours, then adjourned to a pair of Adirondack chairs on the terrace.
I just Googled “Black Mountain Winehouse” and it looks pretty much exactly what you’d expect it to look like. A farm-y, hipster establishment that will probably change with the trends despite likely being vocally against trends in general.
“I remember that first date — people say ‘brilliant’ in that English way, but in my memory it has so much light,” Ms. Bidwell said. “I think of his face, and it was bright and alive. We were really listening to each other and really curious about each other.”
She would describe it was “brilliant,” wouldn’t she? I’m sure these curiosities about each other were just taking turns discussing bands who no one has heard of while trying to one-up each other. They probably got to the point where they were naming bands that didn’t even exist yet, only to go home and make a Twitter page for them so the other would think they actually exist.
The next week, they went out again. They talked music and life; they adjourned to her apartment to watch episodes of “Geordie Shore,” England’s answer to “Jersey Shore.” (Mr. Caws’s father is English, and he holds dual citizenship.)
You know that he loves walking into parties and telling people that he’s English. And for two people who probably consider “Jersey Shore” to be garbage television, watching the British version and thinking it’s okay tells you everything you need to know about them.
“Ugh, that American television is so passé. But these people have British accents, so it’s classy and refined.”
When Mr. Caws returned to Cambridge, the two kept talking, mostly via text message, as Mr. Caws traveled around Europe to perform. (In addition to Nada Surf, he conceived a side project, Minor Alps, with the singer Juliana Hatfield.) It was an epistolary courtship not without side effects — “I’ve become someone who writes such long texts that I’ve forgotten it’s a faux pas,” Ms. Bidwell said — but it allowed them to share their lives and reveal themselves to each other slowly and deliberately.
We need to stop trying to leak Hillary’s emails and start trying to leak these text messages. I’d pay good money for an entire transcript of their communication and her long-winded try-hard iMessages. Just kidding, they probably use flip phones because Apple is too mainstream.
The distance was challenging and gave them pause, Mr. Caws especially. In May 2015, at a happy but uncertain point in their relationship, Ms. Bidwell told Mr. Caws she loved him. He hesitated in the moment, but realized on his way back to England that he couldn’t leave without telling her he loved her, too. He made his airport-bound taxi idle outside Ms. Bidwell’s office so he could say it back.
I can just imagine the cab driver on his phone talking to someone about how pissed he was while waiting for these two. “These two aging scenesters think they’re in You’ve Got fuckin’ Mail or somethin’, man,” he probably said. “Some people gotta work.”
Autumn de Wilde, a photographer and friend of Mr. Caws, saw a complementary quality in Ms. Bidwell. “Matthew floats just above the earth,” she said. “I think that he needs someone like Emily to help bring him down to earth and make the ground less punishing.”
Isn’t that how all hipsters view themselves, though? Floating above the earth? Being pretentious and “above” everything?
The couple began to take trips together (to Ibiza, Spain; to Joshua Tree Park in California; to Mr. Caws’s family’s home in France). She would join him for a few days on the road during tours, and they always reconnected when Mr. Caws returned to New York.
Ah, okay, okay. It all makes sense now. They can live this weird lifestyle because they both have money in the bank from other facets of their life. Family home in France? Dual citizenship? Dude’s loaded. I get it now.
“Matthew always says to me when he sees me, ‘Oh my God, you’re real!’” Ms. Bidwell said with a laugh.
Saying that isn’t even that bad, but I dislike these two so much at this point that even reading that made me sick to my stomach.
In January, when he was back in New York, Ms. Bidwell expressed willingness to relocate to Cambridge to help their relationship grow. He was overjoyed at the idea but told her, quietly, he would want to be “M-A-R-R-I-E-D” before that happened. Given that it took a year for him to ask her out, she did not expect a proposal any time soon.
The second a girl publicly admits that she wants to get M-A-R-R-I-E-D, you better give her a R-I-N-G because it’s all you’re going to hear about until it happens.
Mr. Caws was preparing once again to head back to England. He did not want to wait this time. Two days later, after securing her mother’s blessing, he asked Ms. Bidwell to meet him after work at Black Mountain Winehouse. They had dinner and adjourned, as usual, to the Adirondack chairs, even though the temperature hovered in the 20s. She was stunned when he quickly dropped to one knee.
I bet she was so pissed when he pitched the idea of going to the Adirondack chairs. If there’s one thing girls hate, it’s being cold. So you know there was some hesitation there.
“I feel so present with her,” he said. “I’m always interested. There’s always more to learn. It just makes everything brighter. You already think the world’s in color, and then it’s really in color. You already think you’re a loving person, and then you feel like your heart doubles in size. If the world seemed full of possibility before, the horizon just moved farther away.”
You feel present with her? Bro, you moved to England when this girl wanted you to ask her out. “Present” is probably one of the worst ways to describe how you are with her. Don’t spew this mushy stuff after you’ve just been gallivanting and swinging it all over Europe on tour while she’s been schlepping away at Etsy.
This time he flew home an engaged man. Though it was a surprise to some in their lives — “A lot of people didn’t even know that I had a boyfriend,” Ms. Bidwell said — they began planning a low-key wedding.
He describes himself as “present” and she follows it up with saying that a lot of people didn’t even know he existed. Classic.
And a low-key wedding? There are three constants in life – death, taxes, and people claiming they want “low-key weddings” when they actually want extravagant weddings. I mean, you don’t submit your marriage to The New York Times if you’re looking to be low-key. That’s just a fact.
On Aug. 27 Mr. Caws, now 49, and Ms. Bidwell, 42, were married before about 130 friends and family as Ms. de Wilde, who became a Universal Life minister for the occasion, officiated at Saipua, a floral design studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn. During the wedding, Mr. Caws and a friend, Dan Wilson, performed a song, “Rushing,” that they had written. The song, about his working up the nerve to ask her out, appears on Nada Surf’s most recent album, “You Know Who You Are,” which came out in March.
“We’re really struggling to sell records here,” Mr. Caws said to his bandmate. “Think I can drum up a really shitty marriage announcement where we mention the band and our new album? Think that’ll move some records and make people remember that we exist?”
Fabio Roberti, the owner of Earwax Records and a guest at the wedding, saw the connection early on. “She’s a really sweet and intelligent woman,” he said. “And he still has a lot of the charm of a young man who’s wanting to be a rock star, which he is.”
You know who are rockstars? The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and I guess The Kinks. But Nada Surf? Nah.
At the reception, Ira Elliot, the drummer of Nada Surf, jokingly said that he worried whether marital happiness would ruin Mr. Caws’s typically melancholic songwriting forever.
Doesn’t Ira know that people become miserable when they’re married?
The couple will split their time between Cambridge and New York, with Ms. Bidwell staying in Cambridge for their first married months. They plan to alternate at least every month after that.
If being a hipster means I can afford to split my time between New York City and England, sign me up.
“One of the great things about having this long-distance relationship at first is we got good at it,” Mr. Caws said. “I wish we didn’t have to get good at it; I wish we didn’t have one. But we’re good at staying really present in each other’s lives when we’re away, which bodes well for a future where we’ll be traveling back and forth. When we have long stretches together, it feels like a special occasion the whole time. I’m banking on that lasting always.”
I wouldn’t bank on that, my dude. What are the chances you’ve built this all up and you start realizing you hate each other? If there’s one thing that’ll rip a couple apart, it’s travelling together. Just make sure you’ve got some good soundproof headphones and a lot of ambient noise cued up on your retro iPod.
Oh, and before we forget, The New York Times always gives a little insight into the wedding day too. And it was, well, exactly what you’d expect.
At the risk of sounding basic as hell, I just… I can’t.
[via The New York Times]