Sometimes I get jealous of married friends. I could take or leave the wedding part -- I'm pretty much the opposite of those women who've obsessed over their future nuptials since the day they discovered the illicit thrill of ripping the clothes off their Barbie and Ken dolls and making them roll around like a little sex sandwich on the floor of their Barbie Dream House. As an introvert, the pressure involved in hosting a massive party and being expected to look both gorgeous and thrilled for six hours straight just sounds so ... exhausting. The happy, stable long-term relationship thing sounds appealing, but not the legal document (and insanely expensive soiree) that proves you're in one. ANYWAY, all this wedding talk brings me -- slowly -- to this insane New York Times "Vows" column, heinously titled "Found, A Soul Mate."Before we broach this nightmare of a column, though, let's talk "Vows" for a minute. I've always looked at the New York Times' Sunday wedding announcements with a bit of trepidation. (The paper publishes a bunch of free wedding announcements in its weekly Sunday Styles section, and one of those weddings gets selected to be written up in a mushy NYT staff-written "Vows" piece as well.) Though the paper does now publish gay couples' announcements in addition to the usual hetero ones, there's still something that feels a bit ... backwards about the whole section to begin with.
Maybe its because of its history -- once reportedly dubbed "The Plaza of newspaper wedding announcements," the NYTs' wedding section has long been associated with romanticizing the nuptials of Manhattan's elite blue-bloods -- and the supposed social prestige in getting one's wedding covered there just makes me stabby all around. (What did these couples do, other than fall in love and buy each other expensive jewelry, to warrant being featured in the alleged Creme de la Creme of newspapers?)Also, the fact that these announcements are rather competitive and envy-inducing by design (apparently only one in five couples who submit their announcement get included) is icky to begin with. Depending on which of my moody-ass multiple personalities I'm living with on any given day (kidding), reading the "Vows" pages has the ability to either make me laugh and barf simultaneously, or make me want to promptly pop my head in the oven because aaghhghgh these people are so happy and in love and beauteous and in their twenties and wahhhh where's my guy and wahhhh why are they all taking their husbands' names and wahhhh why are they doing those terrible smug smiles in their awkward engagement photo and aghhhh ... you get the idea.
But the latest column made me want to stick my head in an oven for a different reason altogether (it also managed to outdo the 2010 controversy of two married parents gleefully describing leaving their spouses for each other).
Sunday's "Vows" outlined the passionate (1,765-word) romance between two yoga enthusiasts from the Hamptons. Along with flowery descriptions of the bride's beauty, "exuberance," and all-around perfection, the piece divulged a personal tragedy the bride was forced to endure on her way to finding Mr. Right:
On Aug. 17, 2008, Ms. Halweil was driving on Montauk Highway when a 5-year-old girl rode a red toy wagon down a steep driveway and shot out onto the road in front of Ms. Halweil’s car. When she recounts the accident (the child died and Ms. Halweil was not charged) you can really see her calm, philosophical and open demeanor.
In an almost plaintive voice, she said: “It was clear sky, clear road. I saw a flash of red coming toward my car.” She swerved but still hit the wagon. “I got out of the car and this really beautiful little girl with pale skin and blue eyes was laying in the road. Her eyes were glazed over. I knew the spirit had left her body.” Today, she says the accident taught her about fate, her own and the girl’s, but at the time she was devastated. She started taking daily classes at Tapovana and finding comfort in Ashtanga’s rigorous, some say purifying, series of poses that are practiced in silence.
I'm sorry -- are they really OK with using the tragic death of a little girl as a plot device to help spin the story of two "soul mates"? I don't mean to hate on the couple's love parade. But whomever approved a terrible accident being used to portray the bride as some Inspired Yogic Serenity-Master should probably look for a new job. I can't even imagine how reading those details must have made the girl's parents feel! (Plus, I'm sure the bride felt horrible about what happened -- anyone would -- but I'd think she might want to keep her role in that sort of incident semi-private, not announce it in the biggest metropolitan newspaper in the United States.)
Maybe we should all look at this latest "Vows" fright as evidence that the New York Times is, indeed, losing its grip on reality, if not its connection with readers. Or maybe it's just proof that wedding announcements -- or at least "Vows'" bizarre version of them -- are getting more and more lame and antiquated. What do you think?