In Los Angeles, Eat Pray Love is making the rounds on the billboards. You don’t need a man you need a CHAMPION shouts one. Let yourself GO shouts another. I’m having a relationship with my PIZZA says a third in a less shouty tone.
Another billboard is a photo of Julia Roberts sitting a bench next to a nun with a plastic spoon in her mouth. I believe she is eating gelato. Insert actress eating joke here.
Full disclosure. I have read Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir, Eat, Pray, Love (the book has commas, the movie does not). Yes, I’m such a chick. The most memorable parts were in the beginning when Elizabeth leaves her husband. Even though he sounds like a decent guy, she feels suffocated in the relationship and gets out. This was not easy for her to do, and she laid out her thinking beautifully.
Why do women have to justify ending their relationships? Men can just leave, and they might be called assholes, but they don’t seem to have the burdens of keeping the relationship intact that women do. Even in the new millennium, it seems women are still expected to keep the homestead going instead of stepping off into the wilderness. It might not be stated outright (that would be sexist after all), but it’s in the nuances and tiny details.
Anyway, Elizabeth had me at the breakup and through most of her eat travels in Italy even though she wouldn’t shag the cute Italian guy. She dragged a bit during the pray through India although I liked her buddy from Texas who nicknamed her groceries because she carried around a lot of baggage. The love in Bali was a bit of a drag at first until she met the love dude (played in the film by Javier Bardem, good casting) and lives happily ever after self-fulfilled and with a dude.
I don’t really want to see the movie. I don’t really want to see Julia Roberts take a journey of self-fulfillment. It’s no fault of Julia, but she strikes me as already self-fulfilled. Why would I want to see her pretending to go on such a journey? Her cheekbones are perfect. Now, yes, I realize we’re watching an actress named Julia Roberts playing a character named Elizabeth or Liz, and it’s all pretend, and I should keep my post-modern dogs in the house. But still, the story on the page reads as sweet, but up on the big screen, it all feels self-indulgent. Maybe Elizabeth’s story is better told as a whisper instead of a communal shout.
Okay, so maybe that last paragraph kills my chances of ever getting Julia for the Sunshine Jen movie. Then again, the Sunshine Jen movie would not be a journey towards self-fulfillment. It would be a Beckett-esque comedy with sunshine, lots of sunshine.
But I digress. Actually, I’m not really digressing. I’m more circling in on the point I want to make. It’s like when you’re on a sailboat, and you have to tack twice in order to get somewhere. Ahhh. Boats.
I find such behavior admirable, but I wonder about people who adapt such a lifestyle out of necessity rather than choice. Where are their stories?
In a way, Eat Pray Love feeds into this middle class extremist vibe. Does one really need a whole year to eat, meditate, and fall in love? I could have Italian food for lunch, a yoga class in the evening, and meet a random dude in a bar that night. Bang, done, less than a day.
I’m not jealous of the memoir writing extremists of the world. I have my own extreme side. I have traveled to a country whose name begins with I. I have had epiphanies in my travels. They happened in the most unexpected places and ways. They happened in the quiet---off the beaten track. They can’t be bought or sold. They can’t be made into movies. They can’t even be re-experienced.
But then the question becomes---what do you do with this new revelation? How do you live on after the experience? As time passes, how do you shape your life based on that experience? Where is the delight?
When the champion billboard caught my eye, it made me pause at the traffic light. Then it made me smile. Il campione sono io.
We all have our Italies, Indias, and Indonesias. Maybe the key is to find that, live that, and move on.
And eat gelato.
By the way, if you’re looking for a movie about a woman who eats Italian food and finds self-fulfillment, I highly recommend I Am Love with the great Tilda Swinton.
And I’m thinking Tilda Swinton could play the gray knit cap in the Sunshine Jen movie.