Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Committed to reading something else.

Oh my Lord. It’s here and it’s far from fabulous (if you believe the review in The Times.) But who couldn’t have predicted that?

I’m talking about the new book from author Elizabeth Gilbert: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. Just in case you’ve been occupied with living, contemplating or otherwise been caught up in your own life for the past several years, you may not have had the chance to worship at the altar of what MSN called a literary juggernaut, Eat Pray Love. I’ve written all I care to about that book in columns and on this blog, so I’m moving on to the news about her new book, Committed.

Here we go: Seriously? Really? It’s difficult to choose my favorite part of Gilbert’s interview on MSN but I’ll offer these for consideration:

1. “Britney out” - "...you're in battle against yourself. This sort of cannibalistic self-competition ... this is largely why people Britney out." Gilbert uses this term (in earnest) to describe the idea that sometimes success destroys people, especially people who never stop trying to top their latest achievement. I’m not sure if she coined it but it’s annoying and somehow superior-sounding. This is the best one of our best-selling authors could do to voice her distaste for self-destructive behavior? Brilliant.

2. On the possibility of being mother: “I've often thought that if I had been married to somebody who wanted to be a mom, I could have done it. I used to say, "Man, I think I'd be a really good dad. I'll be a great provider. I'm funny; I'll go on trips with them — I'll do all sorts of stuff." But the momming? I'm not made for that. I have a really good mom; I know what she put into it. I didn't think I had the support to both have that and continue on this path that was really important to me.”

Translation: Dads are providers who possess a sense of humor, a love of adventure and other kinds of ‘stuff.’ Moms are…humorless home bodies. How is this train of thought even possible in a woman as cosmopolitan and sophisticated as Gilbert? She’s not in her seventies or eighties; she’s forty years old. We’ve come a long way, baby.

3. On her husband and their partnership: “We've been together five and a half years now, and I have never had that man put a plate of food in front of me where I didn't feel like I was in holy rapture. Because I never, ever, ever saw, in my entire life, a man bring a plate of food to a woman. Because it wasn't his job.”

Note to self: thank my husband for the dinners he prepares much more often that I. I hadn’t realized that made him such an item of curiosity in the 21st century. (He’s exactly the same age as Gilbert’s husband by the way.) Once again, how is she a forty-year old professional woman in the Western world who has never been connected to a man who prepared and served her a plate of food? Is it that freakish?

4. On travel and spontaneity: “When I was in Mexico when I was 20 [note: she previously disclosed that she traveled to Africa when she was nineteen], I remember meeting this American couple who were in their 60s, and they said, "Oh, it's so great that you're traveling now, before you have kids, because you won't be able to then." I know this is a thing that people do; they go traveling for a year, and then they hitch their leash to the wall and put their face in their feed bag and that's the end of it. And I thought, "But I might want to keep doing this," you know?”

“…hitch their leash to the wall and put their face in their feedbag…” I'm sorry. Would that be similar the actions involved in choosing to create a home, putting down some roots, developing some constancy and building a life within a community, surrounded by family (including children you adore) and friends you love?

I kind of can’t really go on with this except to say that much of this is very amusing. During her interview, Gilbert acknowledges that she is comfortable with her persona: “….I'm not what's being said about me, either in the highest praise or the highest criticism. I know I'm not a self-indulgent idiot; I also know I'm not the second coming of Deepak Chopra. [And thank God for that. One is quite enough, thank you.] If I had believed either of those, or both, as some people do when they get famous, that's when the mental illness arrives.”

In other words, she is not an extreme. I get that; few people are. And yet, she has very clear and defined images of others. They are either bread-winners or they are busy “momming.” They are either globetrotting adventurers or they’re hitched to a wall with their faces in feedbags. Mental illness must be on their collective doorsteps.

How very enlightened. How very open-minded. How very entitled. And since I’ll never get back the hours I put into Eat, Pray, Love, I think I’ll pass on Committed.


Anonymous said...

Renee, you crack me up! I will admit that I haven't read Eat Pray Love (maybe I should whisper that?), but, yikes, she sure has an...interesting...view on life. And--my Dad did fun stuff with us and also shopped, cooked, and ferried me to speech tournaments at 6am on Saturday mornings. And my mom listened (and still listens!) to me whine and sob about, well, everything, but also showed me that, as a professional woman, you can have a family and a career (especially when you have an understanding husband that cooks and shops!). According to Elizabeth--my parents are strange anomolies. While I, of course, think they are special, I think that there are lots of people out their similar in spirit and priorities.

Keep writing, Renee!

Reka Rubin

renee said...

Thanks Reka - you are not alone!

Maybe you could start a support group for women who have not read Eat Pray Love and are living with the guilt.

I could be guest speaker one night and remind you all about how very smart you are.

Pete is blessed to have you! (And you him of course.) Somehow the two of you have worked this whole 'marriage as partnership' concept out without the benefits of globe-trotting self-discovery. Amazing.

Thanks for your comment!

ljr said...

have you ever read mark twain

renee said...

Yes, I have. Are you thinking of something in particular?

Linda Paist said...

Hey Renee, I'm another potential member of the club for people who have never read Eat, Pray, Love, but I have no guilt whatsoever. I heard an interview with the author on Fresh Air (NPR show with Terry Gross), and she sounded so arrogant and exclusive that I thought, "I have nothing in common with this woman." As she answered Terry Gross's questions about her book, I was further convinced that I would not be wasting my precious time on her self-indulgent novel/memoir/all-about-me tome. Shortly after, I read your editorial on the book, and I laughed my butt off. I have no regrets about passing over Eat, Pray, Love and will gleefully decline to read Committed as well!

renee said...

Thanks Linda! Yes, you are another charter member of the DREPL club (Didn't Read Eat Pray Love club.) We're a quiet but growing group!

I'm delighted to say I missed the NPR interview. God knows what I would have written had I heard it.