It’s a tawdry tale of two adulterers, each with children (he with three, she with two), who left their spouses to marry each other.
But it’s not being treated as a tawdry tale. It’s in The New York Times, in the feel-good “Weddings/Celebrations” section, in a column titled — irony alert — “Vows.” And it’s in there because the couple, whose names are in the headline, wanted to tell the world.
Here’s the upshot. Married man met married woman at their kids’ school. They developed “unconditional and all-encompassing” feelings for each other. They agonized some, but just had to split with their spouses, because they couldn’t “deny their feelings and live dishonestly.”
If this sounds more like self-congratulation than confession, that’s because, well, it is. There’s more in that vein. The woman, who thought at first she was being punished with feelings for a man she couldn’t have, says she “came to realize it wasn’t a punishment, it was a gift. But I had to earn it. Were we brave enough to hold hands and jump?” The man, likewise, says “I did a terrible thing as honorably as I could.”
Let’s review the language here. Adultery and abandonment can be done “honorably.” It takes “bravery.” It’s a “gift,” but it’s also something you “earn.”
Turns out the Times’ “Vows” column has a track record of celebrating unions begun with (at least) one partner cheating on a spouse, according to New York Magazine: “We find they always use the same kind of language. The couple ‘faced many obstacles to happy romance,’ they’ll say. Their relationship was ‘complicated.’ Their ‘road to love was bumpy.’ “
In other words, when your feelings are your god — all-excusing, all-justifying — then naturally language, too, must be twisted to make you feel good. Or, at least, to make you not feel bad.
Long past time to rediscover some older language, isn’t it? Adultery. Betrayal. Sin. Shame. Words like that.