Thursday, July 21, 2016

Apology to Three Elizabeths

I have not read Eat, Pray, Love.  About this I have been foolishly proud.  And I should apologize.

I must first apologize to Elizabeth Gilbert.  Somehow I've been okay with mocking Elizabeth Gilbert for some time.  Based on premise, I absolutely could not stomach Eat, Pray, Love (and honestly, if you say that the book is a memoir of a woman getting over a bad divorce by eating her way through Italy until she finds herself and falls in love with a Brazilian man in Bali, it does sound repulsively entitled and simplistic).  But I've long known that Elizabeth Gilbert is not all Eat, Pray, Love.  Among other things, she wrote one of my favorite novels of the last few years (Signature of All Things, which I discuss here) and I've read some of her political commentary and find her spot on.  Yet somehow, I was smugly not a fan.

I should have noticed some sort of cognitive dissonance when I discussed Signature with my sister-in-law.  When I mentioned that Signature was great in spite of the author, and SiL asked if she'd given up her perfect life on a farm or not.  Once I realized that SiL was talking about Barbara Kingsolver and was still annoyed with Barbara Kingsolver because Kingsolver seemed to enjoy preserving food, I became defensive; Barbara Kingsolver (Animal DreamsThe Lacuna, The Bean Trees . . . among my very favorite authors) is so different than Elizabeth Gilbert ("just run away and, meet the new right man and everything will be okay!"). But SiL had actually read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Pigs in Heaven so was basing her opinion on something.  I'm not sure where mine came from.

Which brings us to Elizabeth Hagan. Rev. Hagan (a.k.a. pastor Elizabeth) was an interim preacher at my church in Oklahoma.  I always thought she was great for our church, but I was unsure if I liked her, perhaps because I was unsure if she liked me.  I'm older than she is, but in the context of the church we fell into the same (small) demographic group.  We were the only two young (humor me), blonde (humor both of us), smiley, professional women in the congregation, and we may have been uncharacteristically stiff with each other.

After Elizabeth moved on from our church, we became facebook friends, and I have started following her blog and her writing. She's great!  As I was recommending her thoughts on something recently (why Mother's Day and Independence Day shouldn't be celebrated as church holidays), it occurred to me that I may have missed out on a deeper friendship because of petty envy.  As if there isn't always more room for thoughtful smiley women in the world. [Rev. Hagan has a newborn and is working on a new book, so probably will never read this, but if she does: Elizabeth, I'm sorry that I was surprised to find your writing so good and if my insecurities prevented us from becoming better friends.]  

So, assuming she would never have any knowledge of it, I recently checked out Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage because Elizabeth Hagan recommended it, as a sort of compensatory act.

Committed is wonderful (more on that in a moment).  Which made me think that I should apologize to the aforementioned Elizabeths, and also to my best friend E, who not only stood in line to get me to a signed copy of Signature, but who also told me, years ago, that I would enjoy Eat, Pray, Love.  E, I'm sorry I didn't listen to you the first time.  You know me quite well and I should know that.

About Committed: For about a week and a half, I spoke to anyone who would listen (mostly the Mister and my Mother) about Committed.  It is the most thoughtful discussion of marriage I have encountered, and fun reading as well.  Like Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions, I think everyone should read it, but like Operating Instructions, I have no idea to whom I would recommend it (a happily married woman has no place giving a book about a happily [if very reluctantly] married woman to a single or unhappily married friend and the recently engaged probably don't want to hear it, just like the recently pregnant don't want to know about the struggles of having a newborn and parents of a newborns are too sleep deprived to get just how funny Operating Instructions is).

Eleven years, two hours and 6 miles from
the official point of  public commitment
Within the period of two weeks, I read both Anne Lamott's Some Assembly Required: A Journey of My Son's First Son and Committed.  Both authors have a core subject, and both take some rather lengthy tangents (Lamott considerably more so).  In each case, I wondered, "Does anyone really want to read about your travels in the middle of a book about . . . " and in both cases, the writing is so good that the answer is, "Yes!"  Yes, I wanted to know about Lamott's insecurities and weird trip to India and Gilbert's bad times in Cambodia, just because they are so skillful with words.  I hope to someday be like that.  I need to practice. Thanks for putting up with my practice,

And, as for a personally committed, the Mister and I recently celebrated our eleventh anniversary (steel and fashion jewelry!) by attending a wedding and going shopping together for spatulas.  As you can see from the image, we even color coordinated. It was shockingly much commented upon.

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