I confess: I'm an avid reader of the New York Times wedding announcements. I'm one of those people who religiously scans the Vows section every Sunday. I even watch the videos online.
There's no better escape from my own banal reality than to read optimistic tales of romance that make me feel like we can all find a summa cum laude Harvard grad (who happens be descended from Thomas Jefferson) in our local bar.
Whatever your level of interest in Vows, they're an institution. Enough so that there was a bit of an uproar lately when many of us opened up our Sunday papers to find a tale of infidelity leading the announcements.
This past week's headliners, Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla
, have caused a huge backlash, with hundreds of angry comments and an enormous amount of media attention
In brief: Former TV reporter Riddell, 44 and ad exec Partilla, 46, were married to other people when they met at their kids' Upper West Side school. The two couples became friends as a foursome, went out to dinner and on vacation together ... until Riddell and Partilla "fell in love." While they vehemently deny any infidelity of a physical nature took place while married, they eventually left their spouses and then proudly boasted about it to the Times (some especially loved the "joyless onlookers
" in the photo).
Look, I know that lots of marriages end because of infidelity and that, oftentimes, new marriages result. What I don't get is why the paper or the couple would parade this tale as a headline story of triumph and bravery.
Many weddings aren't the result of fairy-tale college couplings, but there were ostensibly people who were hurt for these two to get together -- notably, children -- and bragging about it now just seems like rubbing salt in an open wound.
Adding insult to injury is the "let's pretend I did something noble when I really just followed my libido" parlance. Riddell and Partilla employ the vocabulary of struggle and dignity in the piece. The decision to stay with or leave his wife was characterized as "pain or more pain." Riddell asks, "Were we brave enough to hold hands and jump?"
Meanwhile, she would comfort them both about their kids: "He said, 'Remind me every day that the kids will be O.K.,'" Ms. Riddell recalled. "I would say the kids are going to be great, and we'll spend the rest of our lives making it so."
Right, because in addition to the ramifications of divorce, which may or may not potentially screw the kids up for life and affect all their future relationships, it's intimated that they're also going to be gossiped about (the couple admits they were "ostracized" by neighbors when the scandal broke). Is this article necessary to show the kids how much they care?
It seems strange to celebrate something so loudly that might have a happy ending for the moment, but that may have (or already have had?) potentially damaging repercussions for the other parties involved (not only the exes, but the kids as well).
It's naive to believe that falling in love with someone other than the person you're with doesn't happen. And I certainly don't advocate staying in a failing marriage when that is likely to make the children miserable in the long run. What I do think is that this couple comes across as selfish and tasteless, because there seems to be no other purpose to appearing in The New York Times together than to court attention. Cheat, if you must. Leave your spouse if you feel you have to. But don't try to dress it up as a great love affair that overcame the odds. This was not a dignified way to get into a relationship, and it's certainly not a dignified way to go on with one.
I understand that the Times wants to evolve and publish all kinds of wedding stories, and normally I'd applaud that. (Hell, how else would I have made it in there?) I only wish the paper would branch out by featuring more people who went to community college or are less than New York royalty, rather than a pair of rich people acting like teenagers and putting themselves before their kids.
Although this couple's foibles make them editorially interesting, insofar as theirs is different from the usual "how we met" stories in this section, it would be nice if they'd chosen a less thoughtless change of pace. If the choice is between mindless feel-good stories and mindless feel-bad ones, we'll take the former, please.
Jennifer Barton is a writer and frequent Lemondrop contributor.