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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Eat. Pray. Love. Rant

It was only just the other day that I first realized I might be becoming a cynic. I can recall the warnings some years ago when I was basking in the glow of my twenties that once a woman hits forty she can easily lose the optimism. This seems like an empty threat to me. After all I AM an eternal optimist.

I do believe in happy endings. I am quite certain that “love will find a way”. And I would bet my “bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun”.

I am equally a huge fan of self-reflection. Hell, I think we could all use a little time in each day to sit and ponder our place in the world. I call these moments “Existential Inventory”. I go up stairs to my closet, close the door, light a candle, turn on a DVD and the world falls away. I play dress up, I dream and hope and make plans that may never come to fruition. It is truly one of the best parts of my week.

I emerge feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and centred. I have connected to a part of me that only I can appreciate and it’s all good.

So you can imagine, given this philosophy how freakin’ disappointed nay I say pissed off I was at the book then the movie and now the movement known “Eat, Pray, Love”.

For those of my girlfriends not familiar with the concept….a quick tutorial. “Eat, Pray, Love” is a book written by Elizabeth Gilbert back in 2006. It’s the author’s nonfiction account of her own year of travels through Italy, India and Bali after the dissolution of her marriage. It is an “estrogen vision quest” if you will and one woman’s self search for meaning in her life.

Yah, I read it. It was recommended to me by so many who gushed that I would no be able to put it down…. Three chapters in and I wanted to throw the piece of self-indulgent shit clear across a cafĂ©.

Firstly, the writing is substandard. Who am I to judge? Excellent point. That being said I am judgmental, that’s who I am. And I paid $20 for the book…. Thus I have a financial entitlement to critique.

Secondly, I am a relatively intelligent member of the female sisterhood. Thus I feel a sense of personal, nay familial obligation to call one of my girls out when she is being a whiney, self-pitying, petulant child masquerading as modern day feminist’s response to Khalil Gibran.

Thirdly, this book/movie/movement is NOT what the women’s movement had in mind when it encouraged my generation to empower itself and search for, claim and reclaim autonomy.

The book is shit. Read it. Don’t read it. You are better off with a good trashy chick lit novel…. At least it’s honest. It does not pretend to be anything it’s not.

The movie… well… why did I see it? If I did not like the book, why subject myself? IN my defense… I did not realize the thing was well over two hours. I was also secretly wooed into thinking I might actually like the damn thing. Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem? How could it suck? It did. All two hours and 25 minutes of it.

It was not a shitty movie per se. The cinematography was great. I left wanting to travel to Bali more than ever. Julia Roberts wears a thin Italian belt with a sundress in one scene and I went out afterwards and bought a belt for the very same look. Lessons were leanred. However, the message of the movie was to teach women to LIVE. And I could not help but think, “if you have to go to Italy to learn to eat, India to learn to pray and Bali to check in with a medicine man in order to make sure you’ve don it all right…. Then sweetie… you aren’t empty, you’re just an idiot who was too vapid to begin with.

If the world needs to FILL you up, then you have seriously got it all wrong and perhaps you’d best put the book down and begin psychotherapy. I could not help but wonder when it became so much about what the world has to offer. When did this EGO BOOM explode to such a point that it was all about what experiences give us? How did it become so one sided?

Is there not a balance about what we also GIVE to the world? Does not our own contribution matter? Are we no longer defined by what we PROVIDE as much as with what we TAKE?

This book/movie was becoming less about self-reflection and more the manifesto for selfish chicks the world over.

Let me break it down for you…. First comes EAT…. A journey through Italy….
This part of the book/movie is really about how the author, “Liz” needs to leave New York in order to eat without guilt. Liz feels the world imposes its perfection upon her and thus you must escape to Italy in order to enjoy a pizza without counting calories. IN the movie we see Julia Roberts shoving pizza down her throat in a triumphant “screw skinny” moment praising the need for a larger pair of jeans. Yes, Julia gained ten pounds filming the movie. I am sure; she has since taken it off.

The NHANES study showed that women who gain 10 pounds increase their risk of developing hypertension (high blood pressure) by 56%. I love the pizza in Naples as much as Julia, but I’m not willing to increase my stroke risk by 40% for it.

What’s the message? Screw the world, pass the Parmigianino? Is this what we want our daughters to learn? Eat shamelessly? Abandon all conventions? Given the epidemic of Obesity in North America, I would safely say the message has been received and well distorted enough.

In India, we find Liz learning how to meditate. I will give her this. An article published in 1995 in the Journal of General Hospital Psychiatry shows a significant benefit at 3 months and after 3 years of follow up in 22 patients with anxiety that were enrolled in a supervised meditation program. Ongoing compliance with the meditation practice was also demonstrated in the majority of subjects at 3 years. Please note- these people meditated for at least 90 minutes 5 days a week.

I am too shallow to spend an hour and a half alone with my thoughts. I like my neuroses just fine, thank you very much.

Finally we come to LOVE.

I’m a fan of love. But I don’t need to go to Bali to do it. Hell I love Bali. It has always been on my “To Go To” list. That being said…. This whole love chapter lost complete credibility for me when Liz cites that she’ll never marry and 3 years later publishes a new book on her marriage.

To make matters worse, I recently saw an advertisement for “Eat, Pray, Love” merchandise. YES…. Thanks to our friends at the home shopping network you can buy everything from “Eat, Pray, Love” bath towels and jewelry to “Eat, Pray, Love” prayer mats and lotions. This to me is proof that the author really did leave her soul somewhere in the South Pacific.

But perhaps I’ve been mistaken. Perhaps this Gilbert lady was in fact a visionary and I was in fact in error. I mean who am I to speak? She WROTE the book; I just read it. I am merely another blogger with a bone to pick. Elizabeth Gilbert has had international acclaim. She has had thousands of book signings and the afformentioned “stint” on the Home Shopping Network as well as appearances on Oprah and Good Morning America.

My book signing was 5 years ago at the Chapters in Lethbridge, Alberta; A modest event but there WAS cake and coffee. Oprah has yet to respond to any of my emails and the last time I had any contact with the Home Shopping Network was to return a strand of pearls I wore on my wedding day 13 years ago (something borrowed, you know).

So there it is my cyber sisters…. The medical evidence for the latest ovarian cultural zeitgeist. Eat and get hypertension, Pray if you have anxiety. Love you can find anywhere. I’ve saved you hours of reading and a $12 movie ticket.

WHO AM I to judge Elizabeth Gilbert? This book/movie made a generation of woman could thousands, nay millions of women be wrong?

Well the answer is quite plain. YES they could.

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