Like almost everything in America that exhibits a modicum of success – The Real Housewives of Wherever, the Twilight series and The Situation spring to mind – this Eat Pray Love thing has gotten completely out of hand.
I like sharing and sisterhood but for God’s sake. It wasn’t enough that we all read the lurid, sad, heartbreaking details of Elizabeth Gilbert’s year abroad as she mourned the marriage she left behind and searched “for everything” in her memoir turned 21st century women’s movement, Eat Pray Love?
Wait a minute – it wasn’t lurid, sad, and heartbreaking. It was annoying. And superior. And spectacularly condescending.
It wasn’t enough that we all endured another full complement of media coverage when Elizabeth married the Bali-based love of her life and then wrote about it in her follow-up memoir (assuming there is such a thing), Commited: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage? And yes, found herself on the best-seller list again.
What’s next? Her mid-forties pregnancy? Her next journey, this time through menopause?
No, it’s a major Hollywood production, starring Julia Roberts (a recent convert to the Hindu religion, resulting from her ‘spiritual awakening’ during the shoot), to bring EPL to the big screen. Javier Bardem plays the man who fulfills Julia’s every passionate dream as they discover each other in Indonesia.
Dear God in heaven help me please.
If this isn’t quite enough EPL for you, wear the clothing from Sue Wong, Naeem Khan and Rebecca Moses or the jewelry from Dogeared, Robin by Me & Ro, Padma Lakshmi, and Nicky Butler. While wearing an EPL outfit, draped in EPL necklaces, you can – I’m guessing now – sit on furniture, eat off plates, and surround yourself with EPL decorative items, all while discussing your own Eat Pray Love-like search for authenticity with your girlfriends.
In fact, Home Shopping Network just concluded three days of programming and products that celebrated Italy, India and Indonesia in what had to be an EPL bacchanal of shopping overload. Across America, there are homages to EPL in homes just like yours. Go ahead; set it up right there, next to the unfolded laundry in the basket. The one that’s been sitting in your hallway for four days.
Or build a sacred space on the kitchen counter. The same one that holds nine days of junk mail because not one single person in your house sorts or recycles it – ever. Just push all that aside and light your incense or brew your tea or whatever.
Feel the love.
Thing is – and this is how I know I’m insane – I want to see the movie. But I won’t; unless I can be in a theater full of women like me. I want the ‘audience participation’ version where we can offer running commentary on poor Elizabeth’s difficult times in Italy, her struggles in India and her torment in Indonesia.
It’s not that I don’t admire Elizabeth’s work. I do. She’s a terrific, engaging, smart writer. There were many moments in the book where I learned something new and was captivated by the way she told a story.
But I don’t know what the book was supposed to be; what the message was for me. A fantasy life? If so, that works. Because every woman I know can’t take a year off from her life, spend four months at a clip in exotic locations around the globe, and come out of it with a book that becomes Oprah’s favorite diversion.
As I’ve said before, most of us reinvent ourselves by drinking unsweetened iced tea instead of Diet Coke. We learn new languages by translating the cryptic and disconcerting posts our kids put on their Facebook pages and the responses from their friends. We awaken our inner chi on the sofa at night, usually while watching Pride and Prejudice. Again.
I’m not opposed to passing along lessons, but I prefer those more gently offered. In one of my favorite passages in Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh describes the state of most women’s lives as “zerrissenheit – torn-to-pieces-hood.” Fifty-plus years after publication, she’s describing my life. But contrary to what the modern day “reinvent yourself” authors like Gilbert tell us, a new relationship or daring adventures in a new location won’t change this.
Ultimately, we’re left with only ourselves. Lindbergh observes the waves on the shore and concludes: “each cycle of the tide is valid, each cycle of the wave is valid, each cycle of a relationship is valid.” None perfect, but all valid.
Seems to me, we’re obsessed with finding “perfect,” and cannot quite abide anything less. We look for answers everywhere but where they are – inside ourselves. We need to become still enough to hear them.