Elizabeth Gilbert. If the name sounds familiar it's because she wrote the juggernaut, "Eat, Pray, Love" which is the most self-indulgent memoir I have ever read. I picked it up at the library, considered the author and then put it back down. Then I decided that just because she was completely self-absorbed and out of touch with the reality that most North American (actually the world) women live in, didn't mean that she might not have something more worthwhile to contribute than her sad introspection on her privileged life in her previous best-seller. "Oh, my life is so hard, my marriage wasn't going well, so I had an affair and have to pay alimony to my ex-husband, then I traveled around the world having a wonderful time and thinking about myself, with no responsibilities and good health, and by the way, I was so sad about getting divorced that I got really thin." Cry me a stinkin' river.
Her follow-up memoir, "Committed" is actually an informative and interesting read. Probably because she doesn't just focus on herself, but actually gives a lot of information about the Institution of Marriage in the Western world. This isn't a self-help or how-to book about marriage, but rather focuses on what marriage actually is and how it is viewed by different cultures and societies throughout history. There is a lot of discussion over whether society has shaped marriage or vice versa. I liked the historical information and agreed with a lot of the conclusions she came to. I guess you could say that I have a grudging respect for her now.
What especially stood out to me was her chapter on marriage and women. She talks about how women sacrifice self for the benefit of their families and marriages. Here is an excerpt from her book:
"But I just want to say here - to lock it forever in print, if only to honor my mother - that an awful lot of my advantages as a child were built on the ashes of her personal sacrifice. The fact remains that while our family as a whole profited immensely from my mother's quitting her career, her life as an individual did not necessarily benefit so immensely. In the end, she did just what her female predecessors had always done: She sewed winter coats for her children from the leftover material of her heart's more quiet desires.
And this is my beef, by the way, with social conservatives who are always harping about how the most nourishing home for a child is a two-parent household with the mother in the kitchen. If I - as a beneficiary of that exact formula - will concede that my own life was indeed enriched by that precise familial structure, will the social conservatives please (for once!) concede that this arrangement has always put a disproportionately cumbersome burden on women? Such a system demands that mothers become selfless to the point of near invisibility in order to construct these exemplary environments for their families. And might those same social conservatives - instead of just praising mothers as "sacred" and "noble" - be willing to someday join a larger conversation about how we might work together as a society to construct a world where healthy children can be raised and healthy families can prosper without women having to scrape bare the walls of their own souls to do it?"
This is something that I have struggled with myself, but I'll save that for another post. Whether you liked "Eat, Pray, Love" or not, this book is worth the read.
This is too funny to not share, you will laugh & laugh! Men in Belted Sweaters