Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Is This the Perfect Relationship?

Gawker’s Kaity Weaver calls it the most “unhinged” article in the New York Times “Vows” section. I cannot help but agree.

For those who don’t read it—count me among them—“Vows” is the Times version of wedding announcements. It does not merely announce a wedding, but it celebrates the couple’s love. It also tries to set cultural standards for good relationships.

If you’ve just eaten, this is something you want to read later.

Weaver explains:

Over the weekend, the New York Times "Vows" section published a 1,765-word celebration of one couple’s love that was so aggressively serene—so gratingly ethereal—it just may be the most irksome in the history of the medium.

Between its recipe for a natural abortifacient cocktail, its emphasis on the bride’s overwhelming beauty (“she probably doesn’t have many” bad hair days, the Times observes), and its dash of tragic manslaughter, it's certainly staggeringly bizarre.

Perhaps Weaver does not know what an abortifacient is, but the concoction recommended by the woman’s midwife was supposed to speed up her contractions during delivery.

Weaver is right; the Times article is staggering, but telling. It tells us something about how the paper wants people to see the perfect relationship. It gives you the chance to feel badly if your relationship or marriage does not contain the spiritual serenity as Erika Halweil and Corey De Rosa have found.

You see, Halweil and De Rosa are yoga teachers. They live the correct yogic life, full of serenity, oblivious to the world around them. For a paper than tends to disparage all signs of religiosity, the Times drools over their spirituality.

For many people the therapy culture has been replaced by the religion of yoga.

Turn now to the Times. Doesn’t this sound like something of a human ideal:

People describe Erika Halweil, a longtime yoga teacher in the Hamptons, as someone who has a lot of backbone in every way. She has great posture. She rarely gets upset over things like parking tickets or bad-hair days. (Naturally pretty, she probably doesn’t have many.) She is sometimes stern but never shy.

The Times offers an equally flattering description of De Rosa:

“You always need to go a little further than you think you can in order to make progress,” said Mr. De Rosa, who in a single conversation might discuss Hindu deities, the connection between the knees and the ego, an energy healer he admires, Indian spices, juice cleanses and his ideas about love (timing is everything).

Surely, their lives have not been a bed of roses. Since Times readers definitely want to know how they deal with trauma, the paper reports on a horrific experience.

It explains how Halweil dealt with the trauma of accidentally running down and killing a 5 year old girl with her car:

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. Sometimes, she stayed after class to discuss meditation techniques or the yogic perspective on suffering with Mr. De Rosa. He said he found her “amazingly beautiful and radiating,”

Halweil sounds as though she is drugged. She sees pale skin and blue eyes, but she sees no blood. She can talk about vehicular manslaughter with a “calm, philosophical and open demeanor.” Oh really, what happened to mental anguish?

Halweil talks about the little girl as though she were talking about a doll. She has no sense of the horror of the situation. She does not see a human body that has just been hit by a car. She has no feeling for the pain the accident caused the child’s parents.

She says that she was devastated, but there is no sign of it. She tried to purify her soul by taking yoga classes and talked about suffering with De Rosa, who also had no real feeling for the loss of a child either. Listening to Halweil express her anguish, assuming that there was some, De Rosa found her “amazingly beautiful and radiant.”

In their world nothing makes you radiant like running down a child. Do you think that the average individual would so easily have sloughed off normal feelings of having participated in an act that caused a child’s death.

Describing Halweil, De Rosa explains:

“She’s so light and fun,” Mr. De Rosa said. “No matter what’s happening, it’s fun. And if it’s not, it turns fun really quickly.”  

Considering that the couple connected over the death of a child, there is something jarring about this description.

As for De Rosa himself, the Times makes him into a faith healer:

Mr. De Rosa, who is so knowledgeable about food he can tell you what to eat to feel more grounded, to get over a broken heart or to sleep better.  

Of course, the two are perfect soul mates:

Once a skeptic about the notion of soul mates, Mr. De Rosa said, “It was like, ‘O.K., this idea of true unconditional love really does exist.’ ” So, he was asked, What is it? “It’s a combination of really loving being around each other; perfect sexual chemistry has a lot to do with it; and openness,” he said. “We’ve been so open about even the deepest secrets. That’s one of the keys to really strengthening a relationship because you’re breaking barriers and clearing blockages.”

Everybody who knows anything about human relationships knows that it’s a bad idea to share everything. Adolescents believe in it, and they have every right to believe in it. Adults should know better. Oversharing causes far more pain than pleasure.

The happy couple was recently married. He wore white; she wore a dress that she called “pigeon-blood red.”

Good to see that she has a sense of humor about blood.


Anonymous said...

i live on the east end of long island, i remember that accident. the driver was a young mother herself who slammed her car into a guard rail to avoid what was coming at her. the front of her car exploded. all eye witness accounts said that she avoided the child. they also confirmed that the child did not have any blood on her body. i feel for this poor woman; i am sure she did not want this included in the article.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank your for sharing your recollection. I trust its accuracy. I agree with you that she probably did not want the story told in the Times at the time of her wedding.

I was trying to emphasize two points: first, that her reaction was basically affectless. I accept that she did everything in her power to avoid the child and that she bears no responsibility for the accident. Still, if you are involved in such a horrific accident and are perfectly blameless you would still show some emotion over the vision of a dead child on the pavement. I do not see any in the Times account. The second point I wanted to make was that the Times has presented her reaction as a sign of her being superior, more spiritual, living in a higher more transcendent plane. Thus, it is encouraging people to admire those who arrive at such a state and who seem to be unmoved by the death of a child.

Sam L. said...

Another sign, to me, the NYT and its staff have no soul(s), and that their readers like it that way.

Too bad you had to read that story, Stuart.

Anonymous said...

Yet another example of emotional voyeurism by a culture so out of touch with real relationships that it has to read about a couple of yoga people to find its way to inner peace.

"I read it in the paper, you see... that's the way real relationships are."



Unknown said...

I guess some people just know how to handle horrible experiences in life just like Miss Erika Halweil handled that traumatic event in her life. We all go through hardships in life but this should not stop us from continue living and appreciating life. For some of us, it may take a lot of time before we could bounce back, but the most important thing here is, we were able to recover from those sad experiences.


nice man said...
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