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I went to the movies the other night and saw a preview for the movie based on the mega-blockbuster hit of a memoir "Eat Pray Love " starring, of course, Julia Roberts (release date 8/13/10).

For those of you few who are not familiar with this book, let me just say it was like a Harlequin romance gone yuppie/feminist/spiritual/ narcissistic with the usual predictable ending.  The author took a year of her life to “find herself” spending four months eating in Italy, four months praying in India, and four months making love in Indonesia (despite her vow of celibacy before she made the trip).  

To be honest, women are suckers for this kind of book (hence the megahit status).   And don't get me wrong.  I read the book  and loved it.  Who wouldn't love the idea of escaping REAL LIFE and running away for a year?  

The book begins with Elizabeth Gilbert, the author, lying prostrate on her bathroom floor in complete ruins about the demise of her marriage.  We are never quite sure why her marriage ended in a heap on the bathroom floor, we only know that her divorce unraveled in seismic ways, becoming one of the top 10 worst divorces of all time (odd given there weren't any children or vast amounts of marital property involved).

During the course of the year, the independent protagonist ended up being like Cinderella who found her Prince Charming and lived happily ever after (until she started writing her next memoir, an agonizing blah blah blah about being against marriage but getting married anyway).

Ask any woman what she thought of " Eat, Pray, Love  " and you would find women who ate it up, made a religion out of it and fell in love with the idea that their true soul mate is out there, if only they had the time, money and airline miles to find him (or her).  You would also find those who hated the book, couldn’t stomach getting through it because they found Ms. Gilbert's pathos a little too self-indulgent, whiny and spoiled.

Ms. Gilbert had earned her right to write this book.  She was a well-respected journalist whose agent found a publisher willing to give Ms. Gilbert a generous advance for the book that would describe her  soon-to-be year-long adventure of self-discovery and growth.  And the rest of us poor suckers settled for salivating over the $15.99 worth of words that tantalized, teased and showed off while we read them between loads of laundry, commuting, working, being married and raising our children.

As I said earlier, I admit to loving the book, despite turning a lovely shade of green with envy.  Greedy of me really given I had found my “soul mate” guy in mid-life, my children were grown and doing well, and my professional life was flourishing.  But still...a year on my own to do whatever I wanted?  Oh how tempting...a kind of hedonistic spiritual journey that involved a lot of food sounded more than appealing.

I went so far as to resent the fact that I  couldn't just take off for a year (money be damned!).  Where had I gone wrong?  But like everything else, I eventually separated Reality from Fantasy and asked myself what it would really be like to eat, pray and love, all in linear order, for a solid year?

Four Months of Eating in Italy:

On first thought, this sounded divine.  To be holed up in some boutique Italian hotel, off the beaten path, with my only responsibility being to explore the cuisine of Italy and merely eat, eat, eat followed with drinking, drinking, drinking, who wouldn’t love the sound (or taste) of that?

However, this was my first glitch with the plan.  For me, the drinking part would be tough because I'd given up the Barolos, Chiantis and Amarones four years ago.  While as seductive and enjoyable as those wines had been, the Reality was that my personality and the fermented grapes were like oil and vinegar.  Nope, the wine wouldn't be an option, not if I wanted to find myself.  I would need to be clear headed to find myself.

Now the food.  I could do the food and the endless trattorias.  But wouldn't it get old after say, five days of doing nothing but eating and tasting, indulging and gorging in pasta dish after pasta dish?  Would there be veal?  I couldn't do veal.  And the bloating.  Women and pasta, especially middle-aged women and pasta, are not a good combination.  Throw in some perimenopausal hormones and I might have gone Uzi in one of those quaint Italian squares.  

I had to admit that as romantic and gastronomically appealing as it sounded, the reality was that spending four months eating in Italy was no different than an Italian version of "Super Size Me" times 4.  I'd gain 40 pounds, burp constantly, feel full, puffy, and moody, not to mention waste an inordinate amount of time in the gabinetti.  

And no sex in Italy?  So much for, "When in Rome..."

Four Months of Praying in India:

With my stomach distended, I would next have to go and sit for four months in silence and prayer.    Where did the exercise part come in? Having just eaten non-stop for four months, the prospect of sitting around doing nothing wouldn’t make sense.  It couldn’t possibly be good for my intestines or mental sanity, could it?  This self-imposed new form of spiritualism could make my previously mundane life look appetizing.

Try sitting in silence for say, ten minutes.  Ten minutes of silence is impossible.   My inner chatter would drive me mad before the first day in India was done (and yes I've downloaded and listened to Jon Kabat Zinn, I'm a slow learner).

I'd much rather listen to other people talk than listen to my inner chatter. And yes, I know, the goal would be to learn to live in silence and get rid of the inner chatter.  But I had recently listened to a tape by Pema Chodron, an ordained Buddhist American nun, and she admitted that after 35 years of meditating, she still hadn't been able to control her inner chatter.  So forget it.  I'm nowhere near as disciplined or evolved as Pema Chodron and if she can't do it, that automatically ruled me out.  At least I'd achieved a measure of humility.

And I'd already spent too much time in the Catholic Church, in confessionals, on my knees, stand up, sit down, and kneel down again.  I’d had more than my fair share of praying.  I'd had more than enough legalism and perfectionism to last me a lifetime, and while I could maybe see the benefits of someone else praying in silence for four months, it just wouldn’t make sense for me.  The whole thing sounded like one big exercise in futility.

And besides, if there was any valid kind of praying at all (and that is debatable), my kind of prayer would be fun, a celebration, loud and noisy and involve dancing, lots and lots of dancing.  Those Buddhists would be real buzz kills when it came to dancing so no way would I want to spend four months pretending to be holy.  Been there, done that, stick me with a fork.

Four Months of Falling in Love in Indonesia:

While Ms. Gilbert found the man of her dreams and quickly broke her vow of abstinence (I hope she wasn't wearing one of those rings), this would pose a serious issue for me as I'm already married and I don't think my husband would take too kindly to me finding more love in another country nearly 10,000 miles away.  It could be seriously intimidating to him, and Lord knows, we fight enough as it is without him having to worry about me finding love and lust in an intoxicating and mysterious land where passion seduces at every street corner and with every exotic breeze that passes by.

Since the majority of those who read Ms. Gilbert's tease of a book are married women, I imagine they might share the same challenges as me if they up and left to spend  four months in Indonesia.  In my world, four months of passionate unbridled love without my husband would equal a trip to divorce court and that would take us back full circle to Ms. Gilbert's prostrate position in the beginning of her book.  


At first glance, it’s understandable as to why Ms. Gilbert’s escapist book was so wildly successful.  We all seem to have a tendency to believe that there might always be something out there that is a little bit better, a little bit sexier, a little more exciting, a little more pure than the reality that is our lives.  

But now that I've had time to reflect, the thought of  "Eat, Pray Love, the Movie" has literally made me want to barf.  And laugh at my own humanity. Because despite everything I’ve just said, being the sadomasochist that I so naturally am, I'll be the first in line to go see the movie, at the risk and peril of my family and marital status.

And who could blame me?  After all, I'm also a sucker for any movie Julia Roberts is in, and for that, I surely need four months in an asylum.

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Member Comments

    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Linni wrote Jun 17, 2010
    • heart i agree with you!

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Suzann wrote Jun 17, 2010
    • Well done, Mary! I enjoyed reading your review very much.estatic

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Dawn Espelage wrote Jun 18, 2010
    • That is the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time!  Oh how I ranted about that book when it came out...& read it anyway, & I’m sure I’ll see the movie too!

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Anne E wrote Jun 18, 2010
    • Your blog is hilarious!  Well done!

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Vikki Hall wrote Jun 21, 2010
    • I love your review! I did read the book and yes I will go see the movie (love Julia Roberts)but I do agree it was a pretty indulgent book.

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    • 0 votes vote up vote up

      Trudy S wrote Jun 21, 2010
    • Wonderfully written!  Now I know why I didn’t read the book and won’t see the movie!  You saved me $25!!

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    • +1 votes vote up vote up

      Amy L. Harden wrote Jun 23, 2010
    • Do you know how many woman have used the “Eat, Pray” Love” book as their excuse for walking out on their marriages?  

      I have five husbands that have told me that it was this book their wives were reading before they dropped the bomb...“I love you but I am not in love with you” statement and a few weeks later were off eating, praying and loving all at once!! In fact, I just had two more show up at my forum yesterday. Whether or not it truly caused their escape, I am unsure...but I bet it did help in giving them permission to consider it!

      I have read snippets of the book, watched the author’s interview on Oprah and came away knowing that many women who would be searching for permission to launch out of their marriages in to full-fledged Mid-life Crisis would find the permission within the pages of the book.  These women are looking for a fantasy to invest in and this book and NOW the movie will paint a glorious picture of a mid-life journey to utopia and they all will be Julia Roberts in their minds....and who wouldn’t want to be.

      Thank you for this wonderful review and perspective.  I am glad that you have taken the time to give it and I will not have to waste my time reading and reviewing a book and a movie that I already know some women will think is reality...your review puts the reality back in to the story and makes it at least palatable enough for me to go to the movie just because it is a Julia Roberts movie and nothing else. I love Julia Roberts!

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