When he walks into a room, “he doesn’t walk in, he explodes in.” She “rocks back and forth on her feet as if she can’t contain her energy as she’s talking to you.” And in an explosive, energetic feat of abstinence, they waited to fuck each other’s brains out until after they each told their spouses and kids that they were breaking the families up. This all from a New York Times vows piece about the marriage of Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla, who first met in an Upper West Side pre-kindergarten class, and are now the objects of commenter ire from New York to San Francisco.
They were friends–even had joint family vacations and whatnot–until they finally met and declared their love at O’Connells pub on 107th and Broadway (“The bathrooms were gross and they didn’t have food,” wrote one CitySearch reviewer about the place, “so I have never stayed for very long.”)
What followed was typical in some ways–recrimination, doubt, divorce–except that the bride and groom decided it would be nice to contact the Times’ vows section to try to get a reporter on-hand to watch their nuptials in the Presidential Suite of the Mandarin Oriental.
The piece makes the case right at the top that this was simply a good connection with bad timing: “What happens when love comes at the wrong time?” is the first sentence.
I’d argue–even as someone whose marriage has survived multiple Upper West Side pre-kindergarten classes–that the timing actually makes perfect sense. Just around the time that your kids become school age, that’s the time that the future really flattens out in front of you. Your spouse is no longer any kind of mystery, as a partner or as a parent, and if you have turned into dynamic little powercareer buzzbunnies like these two, then you eyes might start to wander. You want your personal life to match the chaotic striving of your professional life? Then yes, make vows of undying love to your kids’ classmates’ parents (just find a nicer place than O’Connells, please).
So to all those people saying that this is an outrage: stuff it. Murder is an outrage. Tax cuts for billionaires and the failure of the DREAM Act are outrages. This, not so much. Marriages fall apart for lots of tiny, petty, horrid little reasons, and while I wouldn’t necessarily want to have a beer with these people, much less break up my family for them, they haven’t done anything particularly vile.
What’s sort of sad, actually, is that there’s no room in our society to really take the Brady Bunch to the next level. Why not, especially in the Upper West Side where group-living arrangements can help defray high real estate costs, just start living communally? I know a man in Berlin–let’s call him Martin (because that’s his name)–who went through exactly what Mr. Partilla did. He was with his kids (at a playground, not a school), and met a mom there. And, well, he liked that mom better than the one his kids already had.
But here’s the genius part: this being Berlin, which still has touches of anarchy and post-Soviet neo-futurist alternatives, Martin didn’t want to settle for a bourgeois divorce-and-remarriage cycle. He just moved the new mom in with the old mom, and the new kids in with the old kids, and carried on in near-polygamist glory in a combined apartment in Mitte or thereabouts. The old mom, she must have felt quite strange/angry about it all, but apparently got over it: last I heard, she wanted to have yet another child with this Martin.
Anyhow, the problem with all that, from the Vows section’s point of view, is that there’s no ceremony. No presidential suite, no ceremony for a reporter to watch. Just a dude and his weird decisions and two women who, I guess, love him.
And that final point I will concede to that Partilla-haters. Why do all this in Vows? Publicizing it takes the whole thing from the level of justifying your own personal choices to, what, advocating that more people do it? New York Mag did a nice little takedown last year about the euphemized infidelity that litters the Vows section (unlike Partilla’s story, where infidelity was front and center). The real victims, of course, are the cuckolded. And Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici tracked down the unidentified cuckold in this story for a hugely satisfying interview. His name is Bob Ennis, he’s a media executive like his wife’s new husband, and he is pissed:
“The primary story here is not that interesting,” he says. “People lie and cheat and steal all the time. That’s a fact of life. But rarely does a national news organization give them an unverified megaphone to whitewash it.”
Although his ex-wife said she and her new husband volunteered to tell their story to the “Vows” column partly “for our kids’ sakes,” Ennis says he is angry primarily because of the effect he sees this episode having on those same kids. “You could easily try to brush this off as a kind of self-evidence, a self-serving act by a couple of narcissistic people who for whatever reason have a need to try to persuade people, except for the fact that there are lots of children involved,” he says. “These kids watch TV, they read newspapers a little bit and certainly they surf the internet.”
Also infuriating, from Ennis’ point of view, is the fact that one of the Times pictures (not the one we posted here) includes his daughter. “New York can still be a dangerous town for children of wealthy people,” he told Bercovici, at which point he once again lost my sympathy. Sigh.