Thursday, October 11, 2007

eat pray seethe

I never got be Madonna. Or Gwyneth Paltrow, or Amy Stein from camp, or Susan Amoroso from sixth grade. I have a history of wishing to be other people. And today it pains me that I am not Liz Gilbert. I am not an intrepid world traveler, I am not becoming fluent in Italian, or on the bestseller list, all before my thirty-eighth year. I am not tall and blond…Okay I like my dark hair, especially as I have usurped my Angelina Jolie girl-crush with Penelope Cruz after watching Volver on Netflix…

Not two, but four different people recommended this book to me, all independently of each other. Before she was on Oprah. I couldn’t not read it.
I so identify with some of the things Liz Gilbert writes—about being in a puddle on the bathroom floor, about the repetitive prayer, “please tell me what to do,” about exhausting her men with her emotional issues, and of course about being on a spiritual quest. I’m embarrassed that my reading experience is coated with narcissistic woe. As in, why didn’t I write this book? And how clever is her structure, the whole prayer bead device? And it’s not just a fancy gimmick. It works.

My thirty-one year old self can relate to her not wanting children, but not my thirty-four year old self. I also have not been divorced, but my parents have. Twice each. Ka-ching. And I know what it’s like to be addicted to a man. That was me from age eight through—um... My any-age self cannot, sadly, relate to Gilbert's zeal for traveling alone. I did fly to New Orleans for a weekend by myself the June before Katrina hit to see what it would be like. And because I had a Jet-Blue credit. But it was just, eh. I’m too timid by myself. I close up like a clam without an audience, or something. I just wind up shopping alone, eating alone, writing in my journal, trying to look like I’m enjoying myself, or like I’m on assignment, and I didn't meet a soul. In fact the only other traveler I talked to was a twenty-something gal whose period snuck up on her and stained her skirt. My heart pounded in my throat for her. I just had to help somehow, had to offer her something in the way of solidarity, or concealment. But she practically clawed me when I pointed it out to her. “I know,” she hissed, yet still, mind-bogglingly, didn’t cover up. She could have tied a sweater around her waist.

I will know more when I finish, which at this rate might be sooner than later since it’s such a fast, easy read. If I weren’t so jealous of the author, I might enjoy it even more. It inspires me to travel, but moreover it inspires me to write another damn novel. Or become a self-help guru. And it definitely inspires me to write a petition to God. How many people have done that after reading that section? I can just picture Julia Roberts in that scene when the movie comes out. "Gandhi just signed it!" (Loud cackling trademark laugh.)

So yes. It’s resonating all over the place with me. I like it. And so must the other ten million readers who’ve bought the book. Which is comforting in that I’m-not-so-special-after-all way. And oh, her charm. It’s undeniable. Yet at the very beginning, I found myself reading down my nose at the thing, waiting for her not to be so smart, so likeable, so human. I turned green as a lime. When that medicine man guy in Indonesia read her palm I wanted to chop our hands off and trade them. Ew. I didn’t really, but I felt like I was in the room with her, eavesdropping over her shoulder and twisting in jealous agony that he hadn’t said anything like that to me. He would have just pointed out the giant chip on my shoulder.

It was the same way I used to feel at summer camp when everyone would gush over how gorgeous Amy Stein was, with her blond hair, long tan legs and big boobs. And then of course there was Liz's author bio to contend with—the five years she spent writing award-winning features for GQ. The several novels, all nominated for some prestigious award or other. Talk about repetitive prayer. I reminded myself, chant-style, “It’s good to be you. You’re on your journey and she’s on hers. There’s enough room in this world for the two of you.” And the classic, “You have children. She doesn’t have any.” I’m okay. I really am. There’s only one Elise Miller! Rah! But the clincher? She traveled to Russia alone as a teenager, funded by the babysitting money she’d saved. When I was a teenager? I was holed up in my room, dying my hair black, getting baked on pot I’d stolen from my mother’s boyfriend and penciling portraits of Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran while fantasizing about our wedding. I'd wear asymmetrical red leather and fishnets. He'd wear a top-hat. It would be at midnight in Spain. On a beach. The hot surf licking at our pointy satin shoes. Because You're Lonely in your Nightmare, let me in… 

eat. pray. dream.


Amelia Plum said...

Oh! I've been checking you for a new post for days and now you give me such a full cherry full of great bits of wisdom to think about. I'll have to read this book, it's next on my list of things to read. The teenage fantasy wedding with Nick Rhodes sounds fabulous, my gosh I can see that in a movie. You do have two children so don't be so hard on yourself seething. The time you've spent in a solid marriage and having two wonderful children is a testament to your growth from the early years. Single Liz Gilbert might seethe in envy at how far you've come and the family that you have.

jodi said...

That Nick Rhodes picture is going to give me nightmares.

Paula said...

I'm sure you've heard this before, but still: "Comparison is the thief of joy." I have to remind myself of this all the time, and it really is true, isn't it? As soon as you start looking at what someone else's got your own shit seems shabbier. I also use my kid as a way to snap out of that mindset. -Works every time! No way is any spritual jet-setter luckier than you -You get to look into the eyes of "God" every day (not that I believe in God, but whatever -chin up).