Think Before You Speak: The Vows Column Takeaway

Divorce cake topper
Is there trouble in paradise so soon?

Just a couple of days after they professed their “unconditional and all-encompassing” love to readers of the Vows column in The New York Times, at least half of a scandal-ridden couple is having second thoughts (presumably about the column, not the love).

Carol Anne Riddell and John Patilla decided the story of how they met and fell in love while each married to other people was news fit to print in the Styles section of Sunday’s Times. The reaction from the general public, however, has not been kind. Scores of news and media outlets have reported on the almost unanimous reaction from readers that the column was tacky and flagrantly disregarded the feelings of their children and exes.

“I think if we had had an indication afterwards of the nerve it would have struck,” Patilla told the New York Post, “we obviously would not have shared our life in any way publicly.”

His blushing bride, on the other hand, regrets nothing, telling Forbes, “We did this because we just wanted one honest account of how this happened for our sakes and for our kids’ sakes. … There was nothing in the story we were ashamed of.”

Riddell’s ex-husband isn’t basking as warmly in the aftermath of the piece. He says no one asked him for permission to run his 7-year-old daughter’s photo with the piece (taken at his ex-wife’s second wedding), and that the Times never called him for comment or to confirm any of the so-called facts, calling the piece “revisionist history.”

Of course the real losers in this whole debacle are the poor children of the bride and groom. It’s bad enough when your parents divorce, and it’s even worse when your parents were friends with the people for whom they’re divorcing. For a moment it seemed the only thing worst was having the story printed in The New York Times. But what seems even worse — if that’s possible — is that one half of the responsible party didn’t give much thought to what the reaction might be, and implies if he had, he wouldn’t have gone through with it, which would have saved a few crucial people (his kids and his ex, namely) from further heartache and embarrassment.

So, maybe if there’s any lesson in this for the kids (not to mention Riddell, Patilla, the author of the Times piece and his editor), maybe it’s if you don’t think before you act, at least you should think before you speak, particularly if it’s to The New York Times.

Article Posted 5 years Ago
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