Generally speaking, I like watching chick flicks about as much as I like getting hives. I can’t stand the Disney-ified perspective on relationships or cheesy, girl power soundtracks. I imagined Eat, Pray, Love would be particularly loathsome, mostly because I have trouble feeling much empathy for a perfect, blonde, fabulously successful writer who has the financial means to decide life lacks color, and thus travel the world eating pasta, meditating with gurus and making love with Javier Bardem.
When I high-tailed it to Spain after my own divorce, I had five hundred dollars in my pocket. Rather than doing yoga and discovering Neapolitan pizza, I busted my backside running around Madrid teaching English. And I had no guru to turn to when the pain of life hit. I had sangria.
When my girlfriends forced me to watch Eat, Pray this past weekend, I was ready to do some serious hatin’ on Julia and her mawkish little film. But then something happened. I got inspired. Weepy. I kinda liked the damn thing.
Lots of it was ridiculous – the hokey self-help dialogue, the silly flashbacks, the fact that Javier Bardem didn’t take his shirt off enough. But if you want to know what the big whoop is about this book and film, allow me to summarize.
Life Requires a Sense of Wonder
Our heroine took her trip because she wanted to “marvel” at existence, a feeling many people share. Everyone I know right now feels they’re trudging through life. Their jobs, relationships, or lack thereof, have them asking “is this all there is? Am I not destined for greater things?” As a starving artist in Europe, I experienced a near constant sense of wonder brought on by the newness of my surroundings and challenge to define myself in them. This was the essence of life: enchantment, meaning, but also hard work.
I tell my friends, “this isn’t all there is, and yes, you are destined for greater things.” Still, how do you get those things if you aren’t a New Yorker writer with a giantass bank account?
You are Not Your Work
My mom suggests I go back to school to become a teacher, a friend tells me about a crummy desk job available and my whiny response is always, “but I’m a writer,” the implication being I’m incapable of doing or being anything else.
So it was kinda weird to hear the protagonist in the movie sob, “but I’m a writer” then have her friend insist that’s not “who” she is. In the US, whether we’re artists, academics or CEOs, we let our work define us. What if we’re wrong? If my identity is not “writer,” what is it?
Goddamn, Julia Roberts.
The Sweetness of Doing Nothing
Eat, Pray introduced an Italian concept called “the sweetness of doing nothing.” I think we should import it. Life is filled with too much. Some slowness and nothingness would be grand.
Italians are the kind of folks who take two hours to eat lunch everyday. When I first moved to Europe, I felt this agonizing sense of futility sitting at a table trying to find a way to make lunch interesting and productive for two hours. But then I got the hang of it and enjoyed every bite of food, every sip of wine, every lull in the conversation.
I personally can’t stand getting to the end of the work week and looking back at the blur. This is my life, for cripe’s sake. I want to experience every second.
Don’t Be Afraid of Love
The reason I despise chick flicks is because the people in them who are afraid of love always have some dumb epiphany, run manically through the streets to their beloved, then make some saccharine statement about the importance of love before dashing off into the sunset.
That shit never happens in real life.
Most people with love fears don’t arrive on their beloved’s doorstep, bouquet in hand, saying, “I’m ready to love again.” But if there’s any truth to take from this flick, it’s that love, despite everything that blows about it, is what makes all the trials, tribulations and triumphs of life’s journey worth it.