I do a pretty decent job of dodging remarks that compel me to vent out loud. I don't tune in to Glenn Beck or Pat Robertson, and I know where the 'hide' button is on Facebook. It's all part of being in my early 40's and keeping my usually excellent blood pressure in check.
That said, I do - at times - stumble across a quote or two that requires at least a cursory response, and my blog seems like the place to take such umbrage. Sadly, the bone I wish to pick is with a talented woman - she's a decent writer and obviously folks find her engaging. I, however, am just not so moved.
Here's the quote - courtesy of this week's Entertainment Weekly- from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat Pray Love", in response to repeated criticism of her hit book and soon to be blockbuster film: "If women like it, it must be stupid." In other words, my work is being marginalized because it struck a chord with women.
Now, I take pride in my balance of gender-based yin and yang. For every Scorsese movie I worship, there's a Meryl Streep film that devastates me. For each Springsteen anthem that moves my soul, there's an Emmylou Harris ballad that makes me believe in worlds unseen. I would likely be described as a 'sensitive male' before someone uttered the phrase 'man's man', and I'm cool with that.
Therefore, I read "Eat, Love, Pray" last year at the behest of a couple of female friends who felt I would connect with Gilbert's journey. I do, after all, love to cook, meditate, and I believe, as Sheryl Crow said, "Love is a Good Thing".
In a nutshell, I found Gilbert's journey to be vapid, self-absorbed, and self-serving. To be fair, that's her right. Hey, if a publisher paid me $200,000 to go on a year's journey to indulge in great pasta, find some inner-peace, and then have a passionate romance, I'd be looking for the dotted line. That is, if I weren't happily married. Gilbert apparently was as well, but suddenly decided she was unhappy - for no definable reason, according to her book. So, she walked out, leaving everything to her ex-husband (out of guilt, she purports), had a brief fling, and then went on a quest to find God....or happiness...or a really good angel hair marinara.
Honestly, I'm a tad mystified that this book is so popular among women. In the end, Gilbert's apparent search for happiness ended with her, ultimately, falling in love with another man. (Oops...retroactive spoiler alert. She travels the world over seeking enlightenment and then completes her journey by falling for a handsome Brazilian dude who makes her all tingly inside.) In the long run, she could've saved some frequent flier miles, wandered into a singles bar in Jersey and gotten the same outcome.
To make criticism of her work a matter of sexism is a tad insulting to women and men alike.
The reason I didn't like Gilbert's book is the same reason I LOVE the writings of Carrie Fisher, Anne Lamott, Geri Larkin, Mary Karr, and Joan Didion; the lyrics of Lucinda Williams, Indigo Girls, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patti Smith, and Bonnie Raitt. These are insightful, empathic women who explore both self and other, who ask the big questions but don't feel like the world is revolving around them as they do so. They are self-deprecating, alive with humor and mischief, and capable of busting your heart wide open with the right phrase, because you know they meant it, they lived it, and they want to share how it felt.
Now, to put Carrie Bradshaw's $500 shoe on the other foot, I have to be fair and ask the fateful question:
Can men be narcissistic, self-absorbed, and self-serving? Hell yes. We wrote the book on it (likely titled "Overeat. Prey. Self-Love."). We majored in this topic and graduated Summa It's-All-About-Me Laude. We swim daily in Lake Me and dangle from the tip top of the MeMonkey Tree. That's why truly en-route-to-enlightenment guys see women as teachers, mentors, and our best bet at understanding whatever divinity intersects with our humanity.
Hell, we're looking to you to save us, ladies. We're the barely walking upright Y chromosomes who start wars, fill up 90% of our penitentiaries, and seem to leave a pretty brutal karmic footprint everywhere we step. We'd do well to listen to the wisdom you ladies lay down on the page, in song, in artistry, hell, at the checkout line.
But I just didn't find much of that life altering wisdom in "Eat Pray Love", and I don't think that makes me a chauvinist, a shallow guy, or even a harsh critic. It just makes me all the more aware that the women who truly Eat, Pray, and Love with the kind of joie de vivre that moves me not only reside on my bookshelf and my I-Pod, but also happen to share my home, my zip code, my kids' school hallways, yoga classes, dinner parties, and Girl Fight Club gatherings.
I'm sorry Ms. Gilbert, but I disagree with your assessment of why some find your book to be as shallow as an Atlanta summer rain puddle.
To paraphrase Mr. Dylan - "You don't need a weather girl to know which way the wind blows..."