How Not To Announce Your Wedding in the New York Times

8 years ago

I have a bit of advice. If you're married and you fall in love with someone else who is also married and then decide to divorce your spouses and eventually get married... don't have the New York Times cover it. Carol Anne Riddell and John Patrilla learned this lesson the hard way when the Internet reacted strongly to the article about their relationship in the Time's Vows section last week.

I read the initial article in the Times, though I refused to delve into the comments -- which were eventually closed. While I couldn't figure out if they've ever closed comments on a Vows piece before, it seems to be common place for the paper to do so when "there has been a a healthy discourse on the subject." The comment policy, however, mandates no name-calling, SHOUTING and so on.

It's also interesting that the couple chose to submit for a Vows column piece when their original wedding announcements in the New York Times were both much tamer. Patrilla's in '94 and Riddell's in '95 are both the same as the rest of us common people. X-person married Y-person on such-and-such-a-date. If the newlyweds had chosen that route this time around, they'd have a nice keepsake cut-out for their scrapbook without all of the resulting drama since the piece ran.

Whatever the case, the backlash spilled over to the rest of the web. The Internet exploded, with very few saying anything particularly nice.

Jennifer Barton of lemondrop conceded that, yes, marriages end and new ones start. She just has a simple question for the NYT and the couple.

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.

In fact, the whole "put it in the New York Times" thing is what most everyone was questioning. Geri at Fab Over Fifty went through a divorce for similar reasons -- and doesn't "get" why the NYT chose this couple.

I understand that people fall in love outside their marriages all the time. I did, and I left my husband and hurt my two little kids when I was 41. But why in God’s name would these two uncontrollably narcissistic people agree to a newspaper interview and subject their former spouses and children to the pain all over again?

Of course, some bloggers took issue with the whole falling-in-love-with-someone-else thing. Over at Good Enough Mother, the quote Riddell made about it just "being life" is dissected.

A quote from the piece: “This is life,” said the bride, embracing the messiness of the moment along with her bridegroom. “This is how it goes.”

Well, maybe for you and your new husband Carol Anne. My messy life is worth sticking it out for, including the times I cry or am frustrated. That’s because the pendulum is in constant motion; it will swing back to the blissfully happy direction too. That, Carol Anne, is life.

Wendy Dennis over at The Huffington Post is most concerned about the children. Rightfully so.

When any divorce happens, kids lose the families they have known, and their sense of safety. For a time, they're traumatized and disoriented. In this case, the children have one parent who's madly in love, and another who's been turned into road kill. What are we to reasonably expect of any child who has to wrap his or her head around that?

I know that marriages end and sometimes that involves innocent children. But I have to agree that putting it in the New York Times and claiming that "it's life" seem to be mocking the ex-spouses and children.

Perhaps Riddell and Patrilla should have paid attention to celebrity news earlier in 2010. The negative reaction similar to the backlash that LeAnn Rimes received after her article in Shape magazine. Rimes started dating her now-fiance (as of Christmas) Eddie Cibrian while still married to her now ex-husband Dean Sheremet. In fact, (name) was also married at the time. Of course, they admitted to an actual affair-affair, whereas Riddell and Partilla claim that there wasn't any hanky-panky. Which then brings up the argument that an emotional affair is still an affair. All the same, Rimes got a hard time. This couple is getting a hard time.

People have been asking why we haven't heard from the exes. Why weren't they interviewed in the original article? Where are they now? Perhaps if we had heard from them -- even a simple, "It sucked. Big time. But now we're moving forward," or even, better yet, "I hate the spiteful wench," -- the Internet wouldn't have freaked out so badly. Maybe they were smart enough not to get caught in the fray. I contacted the Times asking if the ex-spouses were contacted but did not receive a response.

In the end, while the bride thinks that the article proves they had nothing to hide, the new groom regrets the article.

"I think if we had had an indication afterwards of the nerve it would have struck," he told Page Six, "we obviously would not have shared our life in any way publicly."

It now seems as if this couple has an uphill battle ahead of them -- and that's not even referencing society's opinions of what they chose to do with their own lives. I hope -- for the sake of those children -- they can pull this together and make it work.

This, after all, is their life.

What was your reaction to the article?

Contributing Editor Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom) blogs at Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land. She is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer.

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