I am writing this post as an open letter to New York Bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert whose book, Eat Pray Love, is currently resting on my coffee table (here I pause to scowl in the direction of said book as the author is not currently available to witness my angry glances). I have searched for some way to communicate directly with Ms. Gilbert, and finding none, I have been forced to simply send my words out into the internet universe in hopes that they might beat a path to her door. I suppose you, our fair reader, are just along for the ride on this one.
Dear Elizabeth Gilbert,
Earlier this summer, I spotted your book with its cleverly designed cover, snuggly resting between What’s His Name’s newest thriller and Whosit’s latest cookbook. My book club had nominated Eat Pray Love for consideration for the upcoming year. I also noted Anne LaMotte’s enthusiastic recommendation on the cover and impulsively tucked you in the cart amongst the swimsuits and bug spray. Since that day, “you” have traveled with me to watch my four children swim at the lake; you have kept me company while I pretended not to be putting off making dinner. You have rested on my bedside table as I slept. Of course, you didn’t actually come to live in my house and follow me around but I tend to take the reading of a book as a very personal affair and often become deeply attached to an author through the words they have crafted. So imagine my shock and anger when I reached page 94 on which you discuss those of us who choose a more conventional way of life. Imagine my disappointed after I had given you the benefit of the doubt as you described your rather unconventional form of Christianity and put up with your heavy-handed political statements. I did so because in reading your book, I felt in many ways I recognized a kindred spirit.
Though there are few similarities between us outwardly (I am a Midwest residing stay-at-home mom with four kids), I saw myself in many of your struggles, laughed at your jokes and savored your descriptions of meals I am unlikely to experience for myself. And what did you do? You gut-punched me right there on page 94! You actually made me write a bad word in my book. Okay, so you didn’t force me, but I was really upset and I am no longer permitted audible four-letter words. So what was it I found so hurtful, you might ask (or not, but since this is a one way mode of communication I get to pretend that you did)? In your discussion of the comforting status brought on by marriage and conventional living, you say, “at every stage, you know who you are, you know what your duty is and you know where to sit at the reunion.” In the words of Virginia Woolf, you say, on this side of convention “all is correct.” WHAT?!?
If the life of convention comes with some sort of instruction manual with an illustrated step-by-step guide, I must have been in the bathroom the day they handed it out. Just about every moment between the time I am jolted into consciousness by one of my demanding brood and the time when I lay my head across the pillow is filled with wearying, bone-crushing self-doubt. Not just the run-of-the-mill mommy doubts like “Do Fruit Loops count as an actual serving of fruit?” but deeply personal ponderings of the soul that seem to mirror many of your own wonderings of purpose and meaning. Your comments left me feeling as though, were we to meet in the family reunion of life, you would quickly seat me at the “Boring Conventional Women” table without a backward glance. Perhaps I would, with a deep sigh of envy, do something similar, placing you at the “World Traveling, Not a Care in the World Accomplished Women” table. But surely this seating arrangement doesn’t do justice to either party. I would love to sit at the “Jumbled Up Women of all Shapes and Sizes” table with you. Rubbing elbows over large quantities of carbs, surely we could find that we share more than just a deep love of pasta. Amidst our mutual self-doubt perhaps we could find some common certainties.