Only one year ago, we noted the Times’ gross habit of including people in the “Vows” column who very clearly cheated on and abandoned a former spouse or lover before getting hitched to the current one, then went on to revel in it in the Times, so their exes can relive that period in all its painful glory. But that practice seems practically innocent compared to today’s “Vows:” See, time was, the Times would say a couple “faced many obstacles to romance,” or “the road to love was bumpy,” when what they meant was that there were other human lives involved. In 2009, affairs and spouse-dumping would still pop out at you in the column - abruptly, perhaps, but rarely with unmitigated pride. But now, with print media facing its struggles and competing with saucier online writing, the spouse-dumping goes right in the lede:
What happens when love comes at the wrong time? Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla met in 2006 in a pre-kindergarten classroom. They both had children attending the same Upper West Side school. They also both had spouses. Part “Brady Bunch” and part “The Scarlet Letter,” their story has played out as fodder for neighborhood gossip. But from their perspective, the drama was as unlikely as it was unstoppable.
Once a subject of shame, this affair is made to sound like a veritable harlequin novel. Except, in reality, it was clearly still awkward and sort of sad:
The connection was immediate, but platonic. In fact, as they became friends so did their spouses. There were dinners, Christmas parties and even family vacations together.
The couple claims that they didn’t have a sexual affair, but they did have an encounter that their spouses couldn’t have been too happy about:
“I’ve fallen in love with you,” he recalled saying to her. She jumped up, knocking a glass of beer into his lap, and rushed out of the bar. Five minutes later, he said, she returned and told him, “I feel exactly the same way.” Then she left again.
You sort of expect this “Vows” to hook right at some point; for the former spouses to be quoted saying that they’ve accepted things, they’re all friends now, the kids are okay. Because, you know, Carol Ann Riddell and John Partilla opted to have this tale put in print. We don’t doubt that these things just happen, but we do question the decision to celebrate it in the face of your exes and children, right in the New York Times. Especially when the “Brady Bunch” part turned out to be pretty shaky. Because it sounds like they’re by no means all friends:
“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.”The problem was she could not guarantee that. All they had were their feelings, which Ms. Riddell described as “unconditional and all-encompassing.”
“My kids are going to look at me and know that I am flawed and not perfect, but also deeply in love,” she said. “We’re going to have a big, noisy, rich life, with more love and more people in it.”
Noisy and rich, we do not doubt.