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APW Book Club: Committed (If Women Like it, It Must be Stupid)


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

APW Book Club: Committed (If Women Like it, It Must be Stupid) | A Practical Wedding

So, those of you who pay attention to the APW comment box know that I’ve said we’re going to read Elizabeth Gilbert’sCommitted” as the next APW book club selection. I, honestly, had been trying to avoid this selection. As a matter of fact, I’d been trying to avoid the whole book. The minute it hit publisher friends desks during the review period, *everyone* told me that I had to read it. When it finally came out, I would walk into bookstores and feel like it was staring at me. I’d think, “Yeah, I get it, I write about marriage, I’m not going to read this to relax, no way.”

Then in the spring, we were in New York on vacation, and I got sick, and I gave in. I bought it to read in bed. And it was really good. Was it the most brilliant book ever written? No. Were there, as the reviews pointed out, major structural problems? Yes. Was it a thoughtful discussion of what marriage is, and can be, from an author with a really strong, really likable voice? Yes. Did I like it? Yes, very much.

And then you guys started asking for it to be the book club selection over and over in the comments. And then I quoted Elizabeth Gilbert talking about the “Auntie Brigade,” and you guys cried all over the comments. So I got it, and we’re reading it. Done.

But before we do, I wanted to take on the boogie man behind the curtain – Eat, Pray, Love. I read EPL when it first started going viral. I didn’t love it. I didn’t HATE it, mind you, but I was surprised by how mostly unmoved I was. But I got why people did like it, and I was happy it was inspiring so many women, and I moved on.

But this fall, since the movie came out, the Eat, Pray, Love backlash went into full effect, mostly among women. Suddenly, whenever I brought up Elizabeth Gilbert’s name, women went nuts. Her writing was un-intelligent, she wrote a chick flick, her advance paid for her travels, she was Not A Serious Person. And then I started to get mad. Sure. I didn’t love Eat, Pray, Love. But I also knew that Gilbert was super smart and super accomplished. She gave a TED talk that is deeply brilliant. Because of her early books she was nominated for a National Book award, she’s been a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway Prize, she’s had a New York Times “Notable Book.” And she worked her way up, on her own merits, not on her connections. (And she went to NYU, thank you very much.)

So what was going on? Why were women writing her off as dumb? Then Danielle of Knotty Yarn linked to an article about the phenomenon, “If women like it, it must be stupid.” And I got it. I got it not on a theoretical level, but on a super personal level.

You see, as the blog has gotten to be more successful, and to slowly take up more of my time and become more of how I support our family, I’ve started to have to talk about it more in social situations, and let me tell you, the outcomes of those conversations range from “pretty bad” to “totally f*cking disastrous.”

After lots of trial and error, I’ve learned that the best thing to say to the perennial American question, “What do you do?” is to say vaguely, “I own my own business” and if pressed, “I run a website.” But of course the questions almost never end there. So then I move on to, “I write a blog” (which is a whole other mess of belittling comments that I won’t get into). But when finally backed in to a corner, there are two things I can do.

If I say, “I write a blog about weddings and marriage,” and leave it at that, the assumption immediately becomes that I write about silly frivolous things for silly frivolous women. Which of course, couldn’t be further from the truth. But sometimes I just let it go. Yes, weddings are silly. Yes, women who have weddings are silly monsters. Yes, people who write about weddings are dumb people encouraging silly monsters. Yes, all of your stereotypes are true. Please pass me a very large cocktail.

But if I’m not in the mood, sometimes I say that I write about alternative and feminist weddings and marriage. Because then I feel like I’m sticking up for you guys. You’re rad, you’re smart, you’re funny. None of you are anything like people’s stereotypes of silly selfish brides. They can suck it. And you know what happens then? Then the conversation spins off into how I clearly write for controlling, humorless women, who want nothing more than to overthrow culture as it exists, destroy the American family, and dominate their husbands. It’s awesome. And I generally go to parties with smart people.

This is why you feel totally scr*wed being a bride in modern western culture. You have two options in people’s minds: you can be shallow and selfish, or you can be controlling and humorless. There is no win in bride.

Or, translation, if women like it, it must be stupid.

And I’m sick of it. I write a wedding and marriage blog, for smart thoughtful funny women, who are trying to be a bride and a wife on their own terms. And YES, man with a bad attitude passing me the appetizers, no matter what you think, there ARE a lot of them. No. Smart and funny women is NOT a niche market. But thank you for playing.

So. All of that is to say, the next APW bookclub selection is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Committed. And no, I don’t want to discuss the fact that someone who didn’t read Eat, Pray, Love is pretty sure it’s not a good book and she’s not a good author. We’re going to evaluate this book on it’s own merits. It’s a mixed bag, but I think it’s a mixed bag that you guys will really like.

Next up, a vote on day and time.

And thank you, ALL. Thank you for proving every d*mn day that smart, funny, supportive women are not a niche market. It means more to me than you know.

Now go read the book. You’re welcome.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

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  • http://www.bearandhoney.net juliana

    I feel like your situation at cocktail parties is a distillation of the larger experience many women still have just being…well, women… in our culture.

    Thanks for sticking up for us (and yourself) and not letting that stop you. We adore you!

    • Daphne

      Juliana- I second the congrats to Meg on sticking up for herself. I taught for five years, and almost always refused to describe myself as a “teacher” because that title plus my stature (petite blonde) = assumptions aplenty. I often wanted to stick up for myself against compliments like “you must be so patient” and “isn’t that sweet”. Actually, I’m not a patient person, and the only thing sweet about me is my slight southern drawl.
      Ashamedly, what I (being a history major) most enjoyed about eventually teaching an algebra class was the ability to share with strangers “I teach algebra.” Because well, the reception more closely matched who I truly am. World, your title (and its associations) is not who you are. Thanks to APW for affirming this sentiment so often and in so many ways.

      • Jovi

        Daphne, I completely agree. I am a teacher and I get the “patient” comment all the time. It’s like people think I’m just babysitting teenagers (instead of pushing them to develop the kind of critical thinking that, thankfully, is alive and well on APW).

        Meg, thank you. Maybe the more people talk about these insulting assumptions regarding things that are popular with women, the more they’ll catch themselves and stop thinking this way.

        • Marina

          Daphne and Jovi, please tell me you’ve seen Taylor Mali’s “What Teachers Make”.

          If you haven’t, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxsOVK4syxU

          • http://abernacky.tumblr.com Jessica

            omg, love that video. going to look up more of that guys work now. amazing.

          • http://abernacky.tumblr.com Jessica

            omg hes speaking in Charlotte NC this weekend (I live in Raleigh). how fortuitous. mayhaps I will go. http://www.taylormali.com/index.cfm?webid=8

          • http://www.dealingwithlupus.blogspot.com Amber

            I’d never seen that before but it was awesome. I’m so sad I have to give up teaching even though it’s the hardest job I’ve never done. I HATED seeing that politician on the news the other night (can’t remember who it was) talking about how teaching was a part-time job– even my hubby to be was yelling at the screen. lol

  • http://rescuedinsanity.com Kristine

    Thank you for this. While I haven’t yet read anything by Elizabeth Gilbert, not for any particular reason, I have read a lot of the books and seen a lot of movies lumped in that category. It’s exhausting arguing with people about it so I’ve just stopped. But perhaps that is the wrong approach.

    What you’re doing with this website is wonderful and powerful and awesome. Though I’m sure you know that already. Weddings, marriage, love, all that, it affects all people, not just silly women or humourless feminists (both of which I am proud to be). Men get married too, I know, shocking! In fact, many studies suggest that men are happier in marriage than women are. My husband-to-be-if-we-ever-get-our-act-together is actually a lot more eager to have a wedding than I am. Gasp! Imagine that.

    Anyway, I’m rambling. I just wanted to say thanks. If I finish bloody Don Quioxte by this weekend I plan on joining in. It sounds like the kind of book I need right now.

    • ElfPuddle

      “My husband-to-be-if-we-ever-get-our-act-together”
      I believe I shall start referring to my fiance this way. Thank you!

      • http://made-of-sun.tumblr.com/ Trisha

        I referred to mine as my Husband-Elect until the wedding.

  • http://ladyoftheforest.blogspot.com Blind Irish Pirate

    I may be compelled to read it. Not because Gilbert is a female author or because I missed out on the last one, but because you write a very good defense of the issue, and I recall thinking F* yes several times.

    On that note, how do you feel about Twilight and Stephanie Meyer? Haha.

  • http://engineerbaker.blogspot.com Caitlin

    Okay, so I know I made my voice heard earlier, but I’m reiterating because I refuse to miss out on an APW meetup just because I’m getting married in the near future. So, um – nothing in the Oct 3 through Nov 7 range please! If it falls in that range, I’ll have to blame the fiance who picked the date, and that’s not the best way to start a marriage, is it? But, y’know, no pressure :)

  • Christine

    Amen sister! That is all!

  • http://2twenty-three3.blogspot.com/ eRiN

    I think this may be my favorite post of yours ever.

    On the book, I’ve read it and I’d just like to say that while it may not be all-encompassing, it feels pretty close to chatting out marriage/wife concerns with a close girlfriend, which was exactly what I needed when I read it. I’m greatful that you might be pushing some others that would have stayed far, far away from it to give it a chance.

    • Allison

      seconding the favorite post ever. can we get an exactly button for posts? :)

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    Thanks, Meg – I am totally guilty of hating on things I haven’t checked out myself. I’m a total snob when it comes to books and movies and I’ve been part of the problem. I admit, I was acting like the enemy.

    I’ll definitely be reading Committed, and I’ll be trying to check my attitude in the future when someone tells me something popular is also good. Thanks for calling me out Meg, I needed it.

  • http://www.lauramaryanski.com Laura M.

    I’ve already read this a few months ago and have been waiting for an APW book club on this book (so I can read it again and discuss with intelligent people). So, Chicago, I’m looking at you!!!

  • Alix

    I hear you – and I wish I could tell you: “Don’t worry about man with a bad attitude passing you the appetizers. As your reader and bride-to-be, I do not care about his judgment.” But it’s hard to always “leave it”.
    So, here is another try, hoping it will bring you courage to confront all the grumpy ones: I am French and I discovered your blog a month ago. I will not get married before another year, but thanks to you, I do not feel like a niche market anymore. Your thoughts are bringing me to another level, from “what dress will I get?” to “what will be the best way to symbolize and share the fact that we want to live together?” Merci and bravo!

    • Jessica

      I’m more in the “what will be the best way to symbolize and share the fact that we want to live together?” boat than I was before, but I still care about what dress I will wear and what the flowers will look like.

      And I’ve learned that is ok.

      It is all about balance and staying true to ourselves.

  • angie

    i’ll admit it. i’ve been a hater. i haven’t read eat, pray, love and i’m not familiar with elizabeth gilbert… but when i read her travels were paid for, i felt slighted. and i let that leave a bad taste in my mouth and i stayed far, far away from all of it.

    and it makes me feel just as crappy as the a-hole passing you the appetizer judging what you do.

    • Alyssa

      You can totally fix that.

      Read Eat Pray Love, and then see if you hate it. And if you do, then your suspicions were justified. And if you don’t, then you get to feel all proud of yourself for turning your viewpoint around.

      And then, regardless, read Committed and have snacks and drinks with awesome APW ladies.

    • Mallory

      I’m going to admit I don’t really understand the aversion to her just because her travels were paid for, though I’ve noticed that many people feel that way. So she got an advance on her book? Yes she went into her travels knowing she would write a book about them. I’m sure it just made her more aware of her experiences, I don’t think it changes what she experienced. Honestly the book wouldn’t have been that good if she hadn’t known she was writing it the whole time because she would have had to recall all the experiences after the fact instead of noting her feelings as she was feeling them.

      She’s not perfect, but who is. She actually addresses a number of her faults (and notes many of the same things I’ve heard critics say about her) in Committed.

      I guess I just don’t really understand why having someone else foot the bill for your travels trivializes the experiences.

      • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

        This was almost exactly what I was thinking in response to the aversion to her travels being paid for. She knew she wanted to travel, she was already a writer. It just made sense that she would try to bring them together. And hey, it worked.

      • abby_wan_kenobi

        I think there were two things that bothered me when I learned her trip had been paid for with the book advance. One was the mental picture of her pitching the book – “So you send me on a trip around the world and the book will be about me visiting exotic locations and having a spiritual awakening.” It feels contrived. Like she knew she could write a book women would read if she made it about “finding herself”. It seemed…. disingenuous? The second thing was the idea that the book was prescriptive, but the actual experience is quite unattainable. The vast majority of people couldn’t afford that trip (including Gilbert) so whatever inner peace she acheived is sort of exclusive to the wealthy.

        Possibly those are unfair judgements, but it’s the root of the visceral response I had to the information. For whatever that’s worth.

        • http://whitehindu.blogspot.com cm

          I thought it might be contrived, but when I read it I was very deeply moved by her experiences. I think it took a lot of courage to admit that her marriage didn’t work and that she went out to actively fix her life. It was exactly what I needed to hear at the time and her honest assessment of her spiritual growth was enormously helpful.

          I tend to be distrustful of popular things, I was trained in a literary writing program and we are really known to be snobs about those things, but Elizabeth Gilbert won me over.

          I read Committed a couple of weeks ago and it also was perfect for me. My serious boyfriend and I just split up because I don’t understand my own feelings about love and marriage and Committed helped me to examine my assumptions about it. It’s only the start to my journey, but I’m grateful for her help.

          • http://whitehindu.blogspot.com cm

            Oh, and also, about the experiences being for the wealthy… I think what she discovered about herself and about life can be discovered anywhere. The trip helped open her mind and heart to some things, but you don’t have to go somewhere exotic for that to happen.

        • Mallory

          It also seems like people think that because her travels were paid for and because she is wealthy now, that she was wealthy when that book was written, which isn’t true at all. She and her husband have some significant money issues in Committed (which was mostly written before EPL exploded) which is why they are traveling Asia, because they can’t afford to live anywhere else. Yes she was offered an extraordinary opportunity by getting an advance on her book, but who wants to read a book about a mediocre opportunity? Additionally I don’t think EPL is written as a “you should replicate what I do” book so it’s kind of irrelevant if its out of reach for most of us. It’s about her experience and what she learned from it which many people have connected with.

        • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

          Abby, I can see how it could be read that way, but I don’t think that is how she necessarily intended it. She has always loved to travel and previously traveled for writing assignments. She was in an unhappy place and felt called to travel to these specific places. She didn’t know what kind of experiences she would have, but she knew she would want to write about it since, well, she’s a writer. She lost everything in her divorce so it made sense that she would go to her publisher and pitch this book idea. She even states in Committed that she had no idea that EPL would bring her the success that it did. I thought the idea to parlay this travel experience she felt she needed into a job was smart. Isn’t that what most people want to do? Find a way to get paid to do what they love?

  • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

    Hi Meg!

    You are so great at sticking up for…everything. You are like the safeguarder of tolerance. I would want you as my verbal bodyguard, if I felt I needed one.

    I read Committed (after reading Eat Pray Love cause honestly, I wanted to know what happened after! And yes, I loved that book, even though I read it with a lot of skepticism for all of the reasons named above. I actually read it on my honeymoon and it made me giggle. A lot. I love books that make me giggle…)

    Reading it as a newlywed was really interesting. I highly recommend it.

    Looking forward to the book discussions.. is there anyway we could also have a virtual meet-up, for those Ex-pats and followers abroad among us? Or are there any Munich, Germany readers interested in discussing?

    • http://made-of-sun.tumblr.com/ Trisha

      i would be interested in that too. Although I’d love to meet some other APW ladies in person, a four hour drive is a long way to go by myself.

      • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

        maybe we could do a “virtual” book club, if we are in the same time zone.. any ideas on that?

    • Willow Henderson

      Safe-guarder of Tolerance! I love it.

    • http://www.empapers.com Eleanor

      Emily is this you? is this the Emily I think I know? Even if it isn’t I’m Eleanor, I live in Munich, I’ve read the book. Let’s discuss!

  • Ashley

    I was recently talking to a friend who is trying to plan a weddding really really far from where she is living and struggling with not wanting a formal sit down dinner but feeling obliged to one since she is also asking people to travel a long way to see her get married,on top of that she she also already eloped. Anyway it sounded like a dilemma that she could get a lot of advice from APW on so I stuggested she check it out. The conversation went something like this:
    Her: “why do you even read that website? ”
    Me:”well, eventually I plan to get married and also they talk a lot about really smart things, and really alternative perspectives on important issues and questions in weddings and in relationships” (which I happen to be a in a long term cohabitational one)
    Her: “Well it just sounds kind of spinstery that you read a wedding website and you’re not getting married.”
    UGH! And this is my FRIEND, whom I consider really open minded and independent and supportive and generally great. I was so hurt. For one, it was like just because i’m not engaged or married, I have no right to think about “real” relationships. Anyway, all that to say that often times it is women, smart women that make us feel bad about being a women.

    Also I can’t wait to read the book and i’m hoping for an ottawa book club this time!

    • meg

      Spinstery????? Do we say that now???? Oh my god. That is all. Also file under: I understand.

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

      That exchange just made me all kinds of livid. As do the ones Meg described above. As in, I can physically feel my response.
      But I also acknowledge it in my personal life, because when it’s coming time to talk wedding, I’m all tiny-voiced. Marriage, I can fight for, because that’s like fighting for friendship or life, it’s nuanced and intense and not fairy-tale rosy. But weddings seem so exclusively the female domain (thanks, society, for that lie!) that I am embarrassed for caring a bit.
      I proudly proclaim that I read this blog. Loudly and often. And Meg, if you need someone to write copy for how awesome it is so that you can give out business cards at parties as your answer, please call. Not that you don’t have it covered, but how badass is just giving them a card and nipping all of that shite in the bud. So you can go drink more and talk about other things.

    • http://peachyringsaredead.blogspot.com Christine

      Ughhhhh I HATE that!! I recommend this site to pretty much everyone in my life. Primarily women, but so many points of view are represented that I honestly think it can benefit anyone. And then my single or unengaged girlfriends get all weird. And uncomfortable. Like I’m reaching behind their backs to wind their biological clocks or something. Ri.di.cu.lous.

      • Vmed

        um, I suddenly love imagining that I have a biological clock winder on my back.

        Awesome.

        • abby_wan_kenobi

          Me too!! Think how awesome it would be if you could lean in conspiratorially and say, “Let’s sychronize our clocks.” You could just wind your clocks to the same life-plan timing! Ah, how easy things would be.

      • http://bluesuedeidos.com Beth

        I WISH I had known about APW long before I had gotten engaged, because I could have benefitted from the awesome discussions about weddings, marriage and life back then when I was feeling particularly bitter about the subjects.

    • momozima

      For what it’s worth, I read APW for a LONG time before recently getting engaged. (Boyfriend is from Quebec, Canada, so frankly I just thought we’d skip this step and just have babies. [Read about the history of the church in Quebec circa 1960s]. None of his friends are married, so it’s kind of a foreign concept to him).

      What APW has done to my outlook on relationships has been like months of free therapy. (Meg!! Maybe that’s what you can tell the sillys who scoff at what you do. “I run a website that delivers virtual therapy.” Ha. See how that one goes over!). It was like a safe haven for people who are in committed relationships and want to talk about the ‘big stuff’, even if that means no ring or life partner affirmation ceremony or whatever. I felt like my friends who judged me for not caring about getting married just didn’t get it even though they were in long-term committed relationships too. (Bummer that women do this to each other, Ashley!). Who says you have to be getting married to want to take your relationship to that level??

      Also, the best part of your comment?? I LIVE IN OTTAWA TOO!! I just about freaked when I saw that – I was only skimming the comments today so it must have been meant to be (if I can say that without being too shmaltzy). Yes! Ottawa meet up!!!!

      • Other Katelyn

        I’m another one of those not-engaged readers, but very much in love and committed (and actually, I would be reading even if I weren’t either of those things). Maybe it’s because I’m a planner/overthinker/Virgo, but APW has been incredibly helpful to me as I unravel my various relationship thought-knots.

        • Rachel

          I think more non-engaged women, or even women in non-commital relationships, should read this site. I think it clarifies a lot of things that some women have fantasized into being paramount to heaven, and I think we as a community are successfully dispelling the myth that marriage and/or love makes everything perfect.

          I have this common problem, as the only girl married of all my friends and siblings, where other women in my circle who want to be married and/or in a committed relationship think my life is just roses and rainbows all day long because I’m married. I have also seen many of these women date the wrong guys for years (yes, years) because they just want the wedding and the marriage. And I have yet to stand up and say, “For the record, marriage doesn’t fix anything. Marriage may actually create a whole new set of problems and challenges you couldn’t have foreseen on the other side of the wedding. And going into it with the wrong person just because you want to check the ‘married’ box on your doctor’s check-in papers and your facebook status is not going to make your life any easier. In fact, I would bargain that it’s only going to make your life harder. So stuff it.”

          • Lauren

            I second that – and its not just women who do this! I spent about 30 minutes the other night chatting with one of my fiance’s male friends about his concerns about his relationship with his girlfriend, which he kept comparing to how perfect my & my fiance’s relationship was. To which my response was: “Wow, we’re doing a much better job of not running to our friends to complain about each other when we have bad days and frustrations than I thought we were!” Love, engagement, marriage – not of it is a fix that makes all well. It’s just the thing most worth working to fix when the inevitable challenges crop up.

      • Chantelle

        Totally hear you on the free therapy! That’s exactly how I was explaining APW to my fiance the other night. Meg, we should all pay you lots of money :)

      • Ashley

        Wow! Can I just say I want to cry at all the responses to my comment? I love love love APW and all you fine ladies, and I totally agree on the months of free therapy. This site has been such a gift to me over the last however many months I’ve been reading it. AND I CAN’T WAIT for an Ottawa meet up! Seriously, I am beyond excited.

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny

        My husband is from Québec!!! I totally understand! :)

    • Faith

      Supporting the “in a commited relationship, yet not engaged” crew.
      We’re looking for houses, I have a dress, we have all our important home stuff.
      I read APW every day, and it is keeping me sane.

      A society prescribed way of doing the whole ring-wedding- marriage thing does not work for everyone. Especially those of us that have challenged the status quo:)

      Keep going strong ladies!

    • Katie

      Ashley, you totally inspired me to comment. I’m right there with you and the other “spinstery” smart women who read APW without being in the process of planning their own practical wedding. Meg writes about relevant, meaningful, important topics that I personally find incredibly moving and helpful (being in a longterm, longdistance, un-engaged relationship ain’t easy…I’ll take all the help I can get). And if participating in intelligent conversation while identifying and analyzing complex social stereotypes makes me (and the rest of the un-engaged/pre-engaged APW-ers on here) a spinster, well then so be it. I’m off to sit at my spinning wheel, wear all black, and serve as a cautionary tale to young women who don’t marry at 20…

      • Ashley

        Thanks so much for being right there with me. It is so nice to hear :)

    • Sarah M

      I stumbled upon APW at least a year before I was engaged and I was SO THANKFUL that I did. I think it really changed how I approached or own wedding and how I am now approaching marriage.

    • http://whitehindu.blogspot.com cm

      Ridiculous. I am not even in a relationship anymore as of three weeks ago but I still read every post here. It is about so much more than weddings, it is so nice to hear someone write honestly about all the issues that come up for modern women.

  • Chelsea

    My mom gave me this book a few months before my wedding, and I read and enjoyed it – it was like a readable anthropology textbook about marriage, and I definitely read parts of it aloud to my now-husband. But I also think this book was sort of doomed from the start… if Elizabeth Gilbert had written Eat Pray Love 2, she would forever label herself an author of “chick lit,” and if she strayed TOO far from that, she would have disappointed all those new fans. You can feel her trying to split the difference sometimes, which is where I think a lot of the unevenness came from.

    And can we talk about “if women like it, it must be stupid” in relation to Oprah’s book club? (I think Eat Pray Love was a pick, so it relates!) I’m not a huge Oprah fan but I usually like the books she picks, and I don’t exactly have tons of free time to be browsing in the bookstore. So, it’s a great way to find books that are generally well-written and intelligent without a whole lot of work. But, at the same time, I hate being seen in public with an Oprah pick because I’m pretty sure everyone is assuming I’m just reading what Oprah told me to… I find myself prying off the “Oprah’s Book Club!” sticker before I take the book out in public. I doubt it would be the same way if it was a man picking the books.

    • Carbon Girl

      Yes, I feel this way too. My favorite book (The Story of Edward Sawtelle) was an Oprah pick and sometimes I get embarrassed that it was. But really it is one hell of a damn good book. And her books are generally way more literary than the rest of the books we hear about from popular culture (Dragon tattoo series, I am talking about you).

      • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

        …. is there something wrong with “the girl with the dragon tattoo”?

        I love those books

        I happen to believe that criticizing people’s choices in literature is a pretty low blow. Isn’t that where a lot of this predjudicing stems from? If you are reading it, and enjoying it, and taking something from it, then what’s wrong with it? Why do we hold our fellow humans to such stringent intellectual standards?

        It’s kind of like being snooty about other people’s choices in music…. to each his own, right?

        • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

          I really enjoyed the “Girl With…” series, but then I read an comedic editorial in one of Boston’s free magazines which said “I did not enjoy this book because it sounded like it was translated by Google and edited by a pomeranian” and followed up with some examples of how confusing a read the first one actually is. It was hysterical, and true, although it didn’t take away the fact that I couldn’t put it down!

        • Jessica

          I am exactly-ing this AND commenting as a girl who just ventured over from the pop/country/and techno world and went to her first Psychobilly concert and LOVED IT.

        • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

          I can’t exactly this hard enough. I have friends who are indie hipster music snobs and it PISSES ME OFF to no end. They play something I’ve never heard, I start to get into it, and by the time I love it, they thing it’s over and blah. So either Women like it and therefore it’s stupid, or Lots of People like it, and therefore it’s stupid. Ugh.

          And this goes for music, movies, books. Frankly, if I like something, does it matter whether it’s good or not? I can like Eat, Pray, Love, Harry Potter, and Jane Austen at the same time, for different reasons. I can like 27 Dresses and The Departed. I have emotional range, and the media and literature I consume can be for any particular emotion I may have.

          So, yeah. Exactly. :D

          • Jessica

            emotional range = exactly! hence why I am currently in the midst of 6 (and starting tonight since Committed was just delivered on my kindle, 7!) books right now.

    • meg

      I think Oprah in general is a really good example of this. And I think what she’s done for the publishing industry, and for what people read in America is effing awesome, and I’m forever floored by the trashing. How about when she picked Middlesex? How rad was that?

      • Liz A

        And she’s had two (?) Marquez books, and homeslice is a Nobel Laureate.

        I shake my fist at Oprah Book Club judgers.

      • Chelsea

        And if The Road is chick lit… yikes.

        • Leona

          Hilarious side note (well, to me). You should check out her interview with Cormac McCarthy. The awkwardness is just palpable.

    • http://bravebride.blogspot.com/ Kim NYC

      Oh man, Chelsea, no need to peel off that Oprah sticker, lady! I mean yes, people might be making assumptions about you, but whatev. They’re not true.

      But. Even if you WERE reading something just because Oprah recommended it, I don’t see that as being much different from all of us reading an APW book club selection. You read it because you trust Meg to some degree based on what she’s said/ written in the time you’ve been following the site. (Which, by the way, doesn’t mean we’re all mindless Meg followers. It’s okay to trust! And it’s okay to not like what this trusted person recommends, obviously.) And you read an APW or Oprah book club selection because you want in on the action (the “action” being a conversation with smart people about a controversial, mixed bag, possibly-interesting-if-SHE-recommends-it book). Ain’t no shame in that!

      Sorry, Meg. I know you get weirded out when I compare you to Oprah.

      • meg

        No, I get weirded out when you compare me to Michelle Obama. get your facts straight ;)

        • http://bravebride.blogspot.com/ Kim NYC

          Ahh, that’s right. But if you got selected for that Mighty Summit event there is at least one other person in the world who believes in your awesomeness as a female leader. :)

          In retrospect, however, I’m kind of laughing at myself that I placed being featured on APW up there with meeting Michelle Obama. Exaggerated comparisons only get you into trouble – like when Lady Gaga said that meeting Oprah was like meeting Ghandi. (I mean, yes, I get that you’re inspired by the woman…but those words together sound awfully silly!)

          • abby_wan_kenobi

            Wait… Is there a way I can vote for Meg? There are elections for something next month, right? Meg has my full support in her campaign to be the President of Practical. Excuse me, I’ll be making flyers :)

    • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

      I’m one of those people who is not a fan of the Oprah Book Club, but not for any reasons discussed here. Above all other forms of writing, I adore novels. Well written, character-driven novels, so you would think I would be a fan of Oprah’s Book Club, but I’m not.

      My problem with the Oprah Book Club is that she generally (not always — there have definitely been some true gems on her book lists) chooses novels in the general fiction category that are depressing as hell, dealing with incest, dead polygamous husbands, kidpnapped and/or murdered and/or molested children, spousal abuse, drug abuse, and other tough, tough topics. I’m not saying these are not important topics to write and read about; they are. But Oprah is so powerful that getting onto her book list is to an author and publisher the equivalent of finding Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. As a result, authors and publishing houses began churning out depressing-as-hell general fiction in droves.

      I do a lot of heavy reading for my job, and I really enjoy a good, well written novel that is not a formulaic sub-genre but also is going to relieve — not add to — the stress I feel. But in the years that the Oprah Book Club has existed, it has become increasingly more difficult to find fun, interesting general fiction by new authors that does not attempt to tackle the world’s problems, particularly the ones that are at the top of my fear and ick lists.

      So, yeah, I like some of the books Oprah picks, but I’m pissed that the vast majority of the novels that are being published these days (at least the ones I find in my Big Box bookstores, because all of the little independent bookstores have been driven out of business) seem to be geared toward getting onto Oprah’s list instead of entertaining me, the reader.

      Does this have anything to do with putting Oprah down because she’s a woman and therefore it must be dumb? Absolutely not. She’s a brilliant woman, a brilliant business person, and has been a much-needed spokesperson for the down trodden and for issues that, before her and Phil Donahue (anyone remember him?), went largely hidden and undiscussed. I admire her greatly. I love her magazine. When I am home during the day — back when I still had cable — I loved her show. But, yeah, I hate that her Book List — a list that is decided based on her interests — is such a powerful force in the publishing industry that it is squeezing out the fun stuff that made my life less distressing and less stressful.

      • FM

        I loved Donahue. Of course, I was tiny when I watched it, so maybe I would hate it now. But I actually remember learning about things on that show, in a way that seemed compassionate and mind-opening at the time (about race and sexuality in particular).

  • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

    Meg, I’ve been meaning to write this to you for a while, but now is the perfect time! When you write about the backlash about Elizabeth Gilbert and the fact that her book and trip were paid for before she went, it reminds me of when you first launched your new website. Someone wrote in the comments something to the effect of “I’m sorry, but the new look is way too corporate and I think you’re selling out.” And even typing that makes me swell up with rage, and this is what I want to say to that person and to the Gilbert haters:

    I’m sorry, but EXCUSE ME? Did you just call a smart and savvy woman who is spending literally hundreds of hours every month on a site that brings value to you and thousands of other women a SELLOUT for possibly creating a business that might be able to support her family? Does making money off of something suddenly make it less valuable or less sincere? Or are you just afraid of women who are actually following their dreams to the extent that they are able to make a living off of them after years of hard work making it happen?

    Because I believe that people ARE afraid of women (and men) who choose to live unconventional lives and do unconventional things and (gasp!) are actually successful at them. Elizabeth Gilbert is a funny, smart, self-depreciating writer. Like you said, she will never go down in history as a classic, but she makes me laugh, and she makes me think. And beyond that, she spent years and years working her way to the point that she could get an advance on a book that would send her around the world for a year. And the truth is that EVERYONE has wished that they could get paid to travel, or paid to write, or paid to have funny interesting conversations with people they like. And most of us are too afraid or too lazy to make it happen. So we take that out on each other, and we mostly take it out on the people who look like us- who are in the same place in life that we are, but who have done something EXTRAORDINARY with it.

    And I’m sick of women bashing each other. Sick of it.

    So Meg, keep doing what you’re doing. The haters are gonna hate. F*ck ‘em.

    xo

    • http://memyselfandbride.blogspot.com/ Jen

      hell to the yeah!!

    • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

      I completely agree with you, Lauren. It completely boggles my mind how someone could feel slighted when they learn that her travels were paid for (as a previous commenter stated). It didn’t bother me in the least that an advance paid for her travels. She proposed this adventure, her agent thought it was a great idea and gave her the money to do it. I just don’t see what is wrong with that at all. To me I thought it was a gift from the universe, she lost everything in her divorce and gained it back. E.G. is a good example of going out on a limb, having faith in the power of the universe, and manifesting their dreams. It reminds me of Mondo Beyondo.

      • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

        i think the perception is that her epiphanies and “finding herself” are less genuine as they were financially motivated. like, “hey, book-deal agent guy- i think i wanna travel the world and find myself for the express purpose of selling a book about it. wanna pay?” is a less authentic premise than just setting out on travels, accidentally have some epiphanies along the way, and then deciding to share it with everyone in book-form.

        at least, this is my understanding of the problem.

        none of that was involved in my own internal conflict. i was all, “AH. i think i wanna see this movie… but but but… it’s julie roberts surrounded by hot men and i think it COULD BE a cheesy romantic chick flick.”

    • Celeste

      While I completely agree that we should not be tearing each other down with accusations of “selling out,” (I could have a whole lengthy discussion about how it’s nearly impossible NOT to sell out in a culture that continually appropriates things that attempt not to sell out, but that’s for another time) I think there are valid criticisms of the advance she was paid for the book, and we shouldn’t accuse those who make those criticisms of simply being jealous of her “extraordinary” life. There are those for whom the idea of giving everything up to find yourself in India and other far-flung regions of the globe is just not possible. While Elizabeth Gilbert probably may not have a lot of control over how her book was marketed, it was marketed as a sort of self-help memoir, as in an example to be followed in order to improve one’s life, and that example is out of reach for the vast majority of women.

      • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

        That’s totally fair, Celeste, and I agree with the concept of privilege as it relates to self-help– how many women can actually take a year off or even a week off to go to a yoga retreat? My point was that most people who criticize haven’t thought it through that far, but are lashing out at someone who not only does what she loves but also gets paid (well) to do it, which is something everyone wants but only a select few actually work hard enough to make happen. Those people are the ones who make me angry. The intelligent argument behind the marketing and selling of privilege, I find both valid and fascinating. Thanks for making the distinction!

      • meg

        I get the critique of, “This is something most people can’t do.” Totally true, totally valid. I tend not to feel that way, but that’s me. EPL didn’t do much for me, so whatever. But when Maggie Mason got paid to go to Greece, when she got her life list sponsored, I found that HUGELY inspiring and empowering. It’s a big part of why we went to Italy this summer – something that I paid for 100% on my own, 100% from money I made owning my own business. So… for me, women getting to do this sort of thing is good. It can inspire people. But I also get that it can get you down. For most of my life I had zero access to resources that would have allowed me to buy a plane ticket. I probably still would have wanted to read about someone else buying a plane ticket, because it’s armchair travel, but I can see how it could be depressing. And I do really get the feeling that privilege is being valued over non-privilege (always, everywhere).

        What I don’t get, is the objection that she was paid a good advance. She worked hard to be in a position to get paid that advance, and she had a huge resume that made it valid for her to pitch the project that she did. I don’t want women to be underpaid and undervalued, so I’m thrilled that she was paid a big advance, and that she was able to use it to travel. Plus, the publisher was right. They were paid back the advance a bazillion times over, so good on them.

  • http://bunniesnbeagles.blogspot.com Ms. Bunny

    I picked it up from the library a few days ago and I’m really excited to get started. Just based on the quotes you’ve used Meg, it seems an incredibly thoughtful discussion of what modern marriage and being a modern woman are like.

    Regarding the backlash, I understand it from a level that a lot of things churned out by Hollywood for women are drivel, and now with the Eat, Pray, Love movie she has a relationship with those Hollywood folks. There are a lot of chick flicks that I would rather stick a fork in my eye than watch. I think many women feel the same way, and because her book became a movie made by Hollywood writers, a lot of us might have been weary. But in my experience, books are always better than movies, and not all movies made for women are drivel (a lot, but not all). Us smart and funny women should know better than to paint all movies or books for women with a the same brushstroke. So if we don’t want to be typecast as silly women or serious, humorless women, we shouldn’t typecast all books and movies made for us and/or written by other women.

  • http://agorillalibrarian.blogspot.com/ Mejane

    Oh man, I dunno. Meg, you write a nice defense of Committed, and I’m totally with you on quite a few points regarding the whole “If women like it” issue.

    That said, I’m having trouble getting past how much I despised reading Eat Pray Love (I’ll spare you the details…but, for the record, Bitch Magazine published a really well-reasoned examination of what exactly is problematic about that particular book: http://bitchmagazine.org/article/eat-pray-spend).

    I want to participate. I just don’t know if I can bring myself to read another Liz Gilbert memoir…hrm.

    • http://agorillalibrarian.blogspot.com/ Mejane

      Stupid parentheses. Let’s try that again:

      http://bitchmagazine.org/article/eat-pray-spend

    • Chelsea

      It it helps, it’s really not much of a memoir… yeah, she talks about her life and it’s roughly structured as a memoir, but it’s mostly just about marriage in different cultures (and not just her musings on it, there’s actual research). There’s still some annoying “Since I happened to be in Thailand, I talked to some Thai women” parts, but the travel isn’t the focus.

      • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

        I am so surprised about all the backlash about EPL… honestly, I never realized that it was supposed to be a sort of “self help book”. I just thought it was supposed to be about one woman’s journey… Maybe we don’t approve of it, but I don’t think it was written to advise us to repeat her actions… I thought it was just supposed to tell a story….

        How many classic lit books are about male journeys of self discovery? lots. We never accuse those of being extravagant…

        • ElfPuddle

          Is this where I can vent about Joseph Conrad and Ernest Hemingway?

          Hmm…I should probably keep that in for now.

          But, hell yeah to the point!

        • meg

          Ok. If EPL were a self-help book, that would be really problematic. Because, um, you can’t normally help yourself by traveling around the world. But it’s not. It’s just a one-woman’s-journey book. I’m still not saying I loved it, by the way, just that it’s nonsensical bullsh*t to call it self-help.

          • http://bluesuedeidos.com Beth

            I also kind of felt the point EPL tried to make was: ‘It’s OK to be happy.” Which, we APWers know, is something many people refuse to believe. They do what’s expected of them, find themselves unhappy and accept that unhappiness as their lot in life. It’s OK to seek out happiness however you can, whether it’s travel around the world or participate in a blog about smart and practical marriage.

          • meg

            I think that’s really interesting, Beth. I also think that might be why the book pisses people off.

          • http://agorillalibrarian.blogspot.com/ Mejane

            “If EPL were a self-help book, that would be really problematic. Because, um, you can’t normally help yourself by traveling around the world.”

            But isn’t that exactly what Gilbert is saying? That you CAN help yourself by traveling around the world? By ditching your dreary personal obligations? Isn’t that part of why the book has spawned Eat Pray Love “Spiritual Tours”? If you prefer, you can call EPL “self-help-ish” – but whether the book itself is shelved in the Self Help section of Barnes & Noble or not, it definitely shares in the tropes and language of that genre.

            And the article I linked to in my original post never suggests that the desire to see the world is somehow inherently consumerist. However, the path to happiness that Gilbert describes (in which you go through a messy and expensive divorce and then run off to Italy, India, and Indonesia to seek enlightenment) is simply not one that is available to the vast majority of women. World travel of this scope (and the resulting spiritual or emotional benefits, whatever those may be) is only available to a privileged minority. And, yes, the primary obstacle here is money, and not the ability to boldly reject the “life everyone expects you to lead” and prioritize your individual happiness.

          • kireina

            I haven’t read EPL, but isn’t this more or less what Frances Mayes did with Under the Tuscan Sun, etc? Messy divorce, move to a new country, write about it for women who may see it as self help, even though it’s just her journey? It’s interesting to me that in all of these debates, I’ve never seen her name dragged in as an example of precedence. Is it just because she didn’t get an advance?

        • meg

          “But isn’t that exactly what Gilbert is saying? That you CAN help yourself by traveling around the world? By ditching your dreary personal obligations?”

          No. I think that’s what *she* did, and what *she’s* talking about. I don’t think the book was a generalization that we all could or should do that.

          Look. If we were talking bout someone who grew up with great privilege and took it for granted, I’d have a problem with that. The difference for me is that we’re talking about someone who worked their way to be in that position on force of will and talent, and I’m less comfortable trashing that for personal reasons. I grew up without privilege or an ability to travel. I’ve worked myself into a place where I can, in a self made way. So for me, when people trash Elizabeth Gilbert for building this life for herself, I think, “Excuse me? Should she (or I) have not worked for it, and stayed where she was?” I travel. I also give money and time and energy to other women to try to help them build what they need in their own lives. And for me, that’s the whole point.

          “And, yes, the primary obstacle here is money, and not the ability to boldly reject the “life everyone expects you to lead” and prioritize your individual happiness.”

          But she earned the money. And I’m really down with that. Whether I have the same amount of money or not. Plus, she’s been a very generous force, I think. She’s worked to empower other women, not just say, “Look at me and what I did, now I will stomp you down.” And I think that’s fan-f*cking-tastic, actually.

          • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

            This may or may not be completely on topic, but Meg’s comment about money and generosity reminded me of a blurb I read in O magazine last month. It was in the 100 most powerful women? part. Under the heading Powerful Idea: Organic Banking, Elizabeth Gilbert gives examples of how the small town she lives in has been fighting to hold itself together during the recession. She cites locals starting their own businesses. A bakery, coffee shop, Pilates studio, and funky gift shops if you want the specifics. When you read further you realize that these are her friends. While these women possessed talent, passion and an entrepreneurial spirit, what they didn’t have was capital.
            Gilbert says that was a big problem because “it’s become almost impossible to pry loans out of America’s mighty, TARP-hoarding banking interests.”

            But she had money. “The decision was simple: Take my money out of the bank and fold it, instead, into my community.”

            She does make sure to make sure to state that this wasn’t charity (they set up legally binding contracts) nor is she advocating that this is the right solution for everyone. Obviously if you don’t have liquid cash outside of emergency funds then you don’t want to risk your money because there are risks. She closes by saying, “Of course there are risks. Still, here’s my manifesto: If you are lucky enough to have extra cash sitting around these days, get out there and become a bank yourself. You cannot imagine what riches await you.”

            I really love her statement about taking her money out folding her money into her community. I say yes to more smart and savvy women helping out other smart and savvy women. Doesn’t have to be organic banking. Whatever shape it forms, absolutely yes.

          • meg

            Oh wow…. hummmmm….. I did NOT know that.

            So there goes the selfish rich b*tch argument ;)

    • Laura

      Mejane, I totally agree with this. I love all kinds of so-called “chick lit”, I really do. But the navel-gazing and consumerist messages in Gilbert’s work just turn me off. No thanks.

      • Alyssa

        You GUYS, that’s all the more reason to read it!
        I’m not a fan because I couldn’t get into EPL, but I’m going to read Committed and it’ll probably be from a more critical standpoint.
        If you do participate, you might come away with a different and more interesting perspective than people who ARE fans and are willing to overlook flaws. That would make the book club discussion all that much more fun…

      • meg

        Ok. I’m sorry. I didn’t like EPL very much, but it’s not consumerist. Other then you need to buy a plane ticket to travel. But I effing love travel (and like Gilbert, didn’t get to do it as a kid), and I’m not going to allow myself to get written off as consumerist for wanting to see the world.

        Navel-gazing, it totally is. But hey, we’re all allowed a little bit of navel-gazing writing after a painful divorce, especially after we’ve spent our career NOT navel-gazing. All the worse for us when that bit of writing gets popular, and people write off the rest of our work because of it.

        • Laura

          Look, I don’t like navel-gazing writing of any sort. I’m bored by it. Give me a novel any day. That’s just my personal taste. It’s not an attack on Gilbert or anyone else.

          • meg

            Which is fine, and you wouldn’t like this book. But my point is, it’s unfair to write off all of her work because her most popular book was memoir and you don’t like memoir. She is, after all, an award winning novelist.

          • http://www.empapers.com Eleanor

            Oh goodie, book discussion.

            I had an interesting experience reading EPL. Being outside of the States I didn’t realize it was such a ‘thing’ – so I had no preconceived ideas about it either way. My book club here read it, so I did too. I really enjoyed the first section in Italy and spent the entirety of a lovely Saturday in my bathrobe eating left over pasta, drinking wine and generally applauding Gilbert’s chronicle of gastronomical indulgence in Rome and Naples. The India and Indonesia parts were okay – I couldn’t really relate, and most of the time I wasn’t quite sure what she was, dare I say it – whining – about, but she is an engaging, likable writer and it was a decent enough read.

            Well, I thought all of the other gals in my book club would feel the same. No.They had really strong reactions to it and called it ‘self indulgent’ blah blah blah. I appreciated everyone else’s perspective but was a little surprised that it elicited such a strong reaction. Then one woman sent around this link of an article by another travel writer, Ralph Potts:

            http://www.worldhum.com/features/travel-books/one_mans_odyssey_into_eat_pray_love_20080211/

            He basically says that as a man, he would have been completely slammed for writing a book along the same lines. Pott’s was a thought provoking piece, and it made me reevaluate my basic feeling about the book – but I still didn’t hate it. Ultimately though, navel gazing is navel gazing regardless of gender. If someone has a political beef with the book, it seems to me, it should be more about class than gender.

            Innyhooch. I went on to read Committed and really enjoyed it. Much more than EPL (except for the Italy part, which I still maintain is totally awesome and one of these days I’m going to get my ‘gut gepolstert’ [well upholstered] a** down to Naples and eat me some of that mofo’in pizza she writes about)

            I somehow found committed easier to relate to (my own impending marriage may have contributed to that) and somehow a little less ‘navel-gazy’. I liked the perspective she brought to what was happening in the Loatian community she visited (as an aside, see Hannah Rosin’s excellent piece ‘The End of Men’ to see echoes of this phenomenon in American society.) This was her own story, and her own process but it was still somehow more universal than EPL. In the end she is a a very human and accessible writer, which is why I’ll continue to read her stuff.

            P.S. The most ridiculous thing I find in all of this is that Javier Bardem plays the Felipe, Gilbert’s eventual husband. We’re supposed to believe he had a 19 year old son, did he father him when he was 12? Hollywood at it’s most absurd…

    • Arachna

      I’ll add my voice to those who read EPL and didn’t see anything self helpish about it. I did not at any point think she meant me to abandon my husband and go to Italy, India and Bali. Mostly because I’m very happy in my marriage and those wouldn’t be my top countries/things to do. To think that she meant to tell me to leave a happy marriage is completely absurd and bizarre reading (not that you are saying this) and if anyone is desperately unhappy because of their marriage and has been for years – damn right they should leave before it kills everything in them. The book did make me think that I should think big – but that’s being inspiring not self helpish.

      I thought the “lesson” if there was a lesson at all was to be happy, that we all deserve happiness and should seek it out. And I think that’s exactly right. I think Bitch magazine is terribly wrong when it implies that for most women happiness and fulfillment are out of reach. Yes, those in poverty are very constrained. But most women are not in poverty and those of us who make a decent living but still struggle financially often have a lot more options than we think and more than one path towards happiness. We can and should make happiness a priority. Something I try so hard to tell the women I love – and something they often refuse to do. For reasons I’ve never understood.

      • Amandover

        Yes. I feel like most of the criticisms of EPL have to do with entitlement, as in “well, yeah, if I had a million-dollar advance, I’d travel the world and eat a lot of past, too.” But this is choosing to be negative. If you don’t like the style, fine. If the spiritual stuff turns you off: not your kind of book. But the judgments about how other people can’t do what she did just sound like bitterness. The whole first section is about how you can be unhappy no matter what your privileges are, and the rest is about figuring out how to be deeply, truly happy. She never says you have to go to exotic places to do that. She also says certain things about what she did were emotionally difficult. But all that makes for a good story. And she writes stories for a living. Why not turn off the inner critic and enjoy the adventure.
        And for those on the fence about Committed, it’s more of an essay than EPL. The interactions with the South Asians I found a little boring, but the explorations and research she did of the interaction of feminism and marriage are fascinating. And incredibly readable.
        There. My two cents.

      • meg

        You know what? I grew up around poverty. It also really makes me angry when people act like happiness is out of reach when you’re poor. That’s Bullsh*t. Life is hard when you’re poor, lets not sugar coat that. But lots of really important things are things that you have, and you know their value. Family, food, laughter… Happiness is not out of reach for women, period. Saying it is because you don’t have XX is a cop out. And if XX is “a trip around the world” it’s a TOTAL cop out. Happiness is something we find inside. Sometimes we have to step way outside of our normal lives to find that, weather that means hours of yoga a day or a trip around the world, but it’s always inside us. It’s never in flat screen TV’s.

        Which is to say, I concur. Olé!

        • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

          It’s not enough to just hit the exactly button on this comment. My family have always been lower middle class (and my brothers have had plenty of moments in their lives when they’ve been downright poor). These are happy, happy people. Satisfied with their choices and their family, living close to one another and filled with love.

          I married into a wealthy family the first time around. These are not happy people. Would they be happy poor? Unlikely, but the point is — the money doesn’t make them happy or not happy.

      • http://agorillalibrarian.blogspot.com/ Mejane

        “I think Bitch magazine is terribly wrong when it implies that for most women happiness and fulfillment are out of reach.”

        Arachna, where exactly does the article propose that happiness is out of reach for less privileged women? Because I actually think it’s saying the opposite. For example, in the conclusion, the author asserts that “for every wealthy and insecure woman who can pony up to reach great heights of self and spending, there are thousands more whose lives are comparatively uncharmed, who are happier working with creative and healthy alternatives instead of spending on what they’re terrorized into wanting…”

        There are quite a few misreadings of this article floating around. There are also some superficial interpretations of EPL that, I think, are indicative of shaky fundamentals (like the idea that a self-help book needs to explicitly state that it is Telling You Exactly What To Do, or that paying for luxuries with money you’ve earned means you can’t possibly be privileged). And, to my surprise, it seems no one was bothered by Gilbert’s blatant fetishization of Eastern thought and culture, the likes of which would make Edward Said role over in his grave.

        But, then again, I suppose all of this helps to account for the book’s overwhelming popularity.

        • FM

          Mejane, thanks for bringing up the fetishization of eastern culture criticism of the book. I think it has been interesting reading others’ thoughts on the book because the most common criticism I heard from others and felt while reading it was exactly that. And I think it’s interesting not many people on APW have brought it up. Anyway, I actually think EG addresses her exploitation and fetishization and “othering” a bit in the book which I think some of her critics ignore, probably because critics (rightly or wrongly) think her readers will ignore those nuances.

  • http://kitchenactivities.wordpress.com karen

    I was a lit major in college, and my favorite professor – the smartest, most stoutly feminist woman I have ever met – taught a class on British women writers. We read Virginia Woolf, of course, and Radclyffe Hall, Doris Lessing, Jean Rhys, Zadie Smith and Jeanette Winterson. And then we read Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary.

    Uhhh… why? Yes, it’s kinda like eating Easy Mac after you’ve digested a 7-courser from a Michelin 3-star. But. My professor argued that even chick lit, if we take it for what it is, can have something to say about gender and identity constructions. About modernity and language – and the ways in which we are trapped inside it all. So many women are reading it, right? – so it must be saying something that resonates with them, with us. I don’t know that my prof convinced me of chick lit’s academic worth, but I’ve tried my hardest to not judge it (even, and especially, if I don’t read it).

  • http://memyselfandbride.blogspot.com/ Jen

    I feel that “if women like it, it must be stupid” thing a lot. And its a terrible undercurrent that is all too common in our culture. being womanly or girly should not be an insult. Half of us are such by default.

    But one of the things that gets me the most is women doing it to other women. That is just terrible and unacceptable. So yes, lets read it (and most likely enjoy it) and then discuss it on its own merits!

    Cheers, Meg! Thank you for putting together a blog that I am proud to say I read!

  • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

    I read this book in February. I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a great discourse on marriage. I am excited to re-read this and participate in the discussion.

  • Kathryn

    “Then the conversation spins off into how I clearly write for controlling, humorless women, who want nothing more than to overthrow culture as it exists, destroy the American family, and dominate their husbands.”

    A possible response, “Gosh {Bob}, I can’t imagine why you are still single!?”

    • meg

      Oh, they are usually married. Or women.

      • Cupcake

        Hm, that makes sense sadly. Some people have a very difficult time understanding that others do not all strive for the same goals in life as they do. The idea that men and women don’t have to fit particular molds, which they themselves have been trying to cram into for most of their lives, can be scary to some folks. And people who don’t all strive for their version of the middle-class American dream cause them cognitive dissonance, which makes it easier for them to write us off than to try to change their view of the world.

        • http://alongtermlove.blogspot.com lou

          hmm. i wonder if this is a cultural thing? or i have just been really lucky with the people i meet in social circles. here in london (and earlier in melbourne) lots of people i met were really enthusiastic about people pursuing alternative lines of work.

          also, there seems to be less judgment on relationships and marriage. do you think that parts of the US are inherently more conservative in these aspects? i have noticed that, in reading a few US wedding blogs, the ages of brides seem overall to be younger than brides i know locally. also, it seems to be common for marriages to happen sooner in relationships than i am used to.

          • meg

            That would make sense, except I live in San Francisco, wich is Europe level liberal. I do get less cr*p in New York, but New York is a cultural center and full of artists, and SF is a tech center and full of yuppies, so there you go.

            But no, I think people in big liberal cities also write off womens stuff as silly.

  • Sarah

    I’ve had this book for a few weeks now, and I’m having trouble with it. And I NEVER have trouble with books … I generally inhale them, frivolous and complex literature alike.

    I think what it comes down to is that I don’t like her voice. I don’t like the way she speaks about herself, and I certainly don’t like how many times she’s mentioned Eat, Pray, Love being a best seller. It just puts me off.

    Hearing how many of you have read the whole thing and enjoyed it, I’m REALLY hoping the aspects I dislike fade the more comfortable she gets with writing the book.

    That being said, the lady has some wise, wise things to say. I actually busted out my highlighter … and I haven’t done that since college. So, that’s several points on the plus side, for me.

    • meg

      I think she mentions EPL as a best seller because it took over her life in a scary unexpected way, not in a bragging way. That said, if you don’t like the Liz Gilbert voice, I don’t think you’re going to get into the book :) That’s what holds it together.

      • Sarah

        I understand that bit of it … it was just when I got to the 4th or 5th mention of it that it started wearing on me.

        So who knows … I may not. But I’m still in the section where she’s talking about how uncomfortable writing this book is, so I may like her a bit more once she gets over that.

        Or not! Either way, it’s going to be a very interesting (and fun!) discussion this time around!

  • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

    i think it’s interesting that so much of the backlash against the book cites her consumerism.. reminds me of some passages in “The Boss of You” ( http://www.laurenandemira.com/ ) – a book for women entrepreneurs about how women consistently undervalue themselves, undercharge for their work, and feel guilty about making money/being “prosperous”.

    Is it so bad to be a successful woman with financial resources?

  • Lauren

    When I read Eat, Pray, Love- I mostly felt really jealous that I couldn’t eat in Italy for four months, and it literally made it hard to keep reading. Then I felt jealous because as hard as I try, I can’t seem to meditate like Elizabeth. Then, I felt really jealous because she was having more sex than me when she was in Bali. So basically, reading the book was neither my happiest nor proudest moments.

    That said, I also hate the “What do you do?” question. If I say, I’m a psychologist (not exactly true but simplified) people want me to analyze them. If I say I’m a researcher, people don’t know what that means. If I say I work with intimate partner violence survivors, people stare at me with confusion, or want to talk to me about Eminem and Rihanna. And argue with me. The conversation usually ends with- “You’re going to school for HOW LONG?”… and they leave me alone. I head for the bar.

    Sometimes I wonder if people don’t like when someone else is really dedicated to a cause that they don’t think much about in their daily life. I think it makes them nervous. Instead, they should be happy that someone is working to make the world better- and support them!

    • Jessica

      Interesting last point you made!

      My friend and I were discussing the fact we struggle with trying to do “all the right things” (which from our perspective is being socially conscious: women’s rights, gay rights, labor rights, environmental rights, etc. etc. etc.) and how we have a hard time trying to do all those things. We do the best we can, which I can say is better than some people, and try to at least maintain a heightened level of awareness in the choices we make.

      Your comment made me realize that it’s OK to dive fully into a single cause, but try and encourage others to vest themselves in their own cause.

      • Wsquared

        I think there’s a difference between trying to do “all the right things” because they’re what society or culture prescribes as “the right things” instead of doing those things because they are right: right by ourselves, and right by others.

        We should not just aim to do “all the right things,” but to do what is right.

        It’s one of the reasons why I draw a distinction between fetishization of “other cultures,” say, and trying to actually understand them as something bigger and more complex than me and my consumption of it.

    • Anna

      This is OT, but…My favorite response to what I do (also domestic violence-related) is “wow, that’s so noble. I try to help women, in other ways, like with my art, but I could *never* do what you do.” Thanks lady. It’s probably best that you don’t. I do what I do because I love it, not because it’s “good,” thankyouverymuch.

  • Cupcake

    Rock on. One of the best posts since I started reading your blog. I took a break from commenting for a while but this moved me enough to put down my studying and chime in. And you know what? You are completely right. They can suck it. I gave up pretending that I care about all the planning and dresses and flowers. It’s not me. I don’t hate the women who do care about those things, and I don’t want to overthrow my society, I’m a member of it too for crying out loud. People don’t even know what to say when I don’t play along and get excited/gush/complain about wedding colors when they ask me how wedding plans are coming. (Even my advisor was stumped. My grad school advisor! Who knows firsthand that I am brilliant and serious and non-frivolous. Sigh) But that’s their problem, not mine.

    Bring on Committed!

    • Anna

      Cupcake–

      Cheers to putting down grad school work to read APW!!

      Anna

    • N

      You’re implying here (I think*) that because people know you’re smart and serious about your graduate school work, they should also expect you not to care about wedding colors. I think its actually nice that people who know full well that you are an intelligent woman are excited to talk wedding flowers with you. The two are not mutually exclusive, and I don’t think it’s helpful to draw a line in the sand like that. Caring about colors does not equate to being frivolous. Caring ONLY about colors might, but there is space in our lives for graduate school and the aesthetics of a wedding.

      *Apologies if I am misreading your comment.

  • Mallory

    I can definitely relate to the double edged sword that is being a western bride-to-be. I got called a bridezilla(by good friends of mine) the other day for saying that I’d like my brother to stand with me instead of my partner at our wedding, because although he is a guy, he’s MY brother and it seemed illogical to put him on the other side just because it’s traditionally the “guy side”. Though I’m sure if I had started talking about traditional wedding parties they would have called me petty or frivolous… it seems to be a constant lose-lose situation.

    Rant aside, I really liked Committed and can’t wait for the next book club meeting!

    • Alyssa

      Eff ‘em. I had my best friend stand with me as my man of honor. Them standing there and being chosen as your person of honor is what’s important, not the gender.

      I had the added fun that he is a drag pagaent queen (former Miss Gay Texas!!) and I actually had people ask me if he was going to be up there with me in drag, even though they KNOW he doesn’t live as a woman, he just performs as one. *sigh* Some people’s children….

      Besides, I’d be damned if I had him up there looking better than me….

      • Jessica

        “And I’ll be damned…”

        Thank you for the laugh of the morning!

    • http://jolynn.wordpress.com jolynn

      Miss Manners says your friends should stand with you, man, woman, or whatever they choose. They’re YOUR FRIEND. Bridezilla, that is not. Bridezilla would be making your brother get implants and a wig so he matches all of your other bridesmaids.

      • Mallory

        Bahahaha yeah that wouldn’t go over well with my brother. But he better wear the same shoes as the rest of them… totally kidding.

        And for the record I have no intention of changing my plans to have my brother up with me. I just thought it was so ridiculously ironic that you seem to get called a bridezilla on both ends of the spectrum.
        Women who obsess over the way their bridesmaids look and have everyone in matching everything, and need to have their hair a certain color and a certain updo… bridezilla.
        Women who want to go against the grain and have the meaningful people in her life stand with her regardless of gender… bridezilla.

        Really?!?!?!?!

    • Marina

      When I hit the point where I up and said, “Look, when you call me a bridezilla it really hurts me. I want to be able to express my opinions without being called names” my life got a LOT better.

  • http://hitchdied.wordpress.com HitchDied

    Fantastic post, Meg! I can’t believe anyone would scoff at what you’ve done with this site, either because it is a blog or because it is a blog for women. You’ve built a fantastic community, and given so many women a home base for sanity in a crazy world of weddings.

    And I love that we’re all going to fight against “if women like it, it must be stupid.” And for everyone out there looking for more cultural analysis of chick lit as, well, just plain old lit, I highly recommend Jennifer Weiner’s blog: http://jenniferweiner.blogspot.com/. (It’s linked to in the Women and Hollywood article).

    • Liz A

      I loved that whole discussion that Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult brought up with regards to the latest Franzen book and the NYT. I think it’s a discussion that needs to be had. If the genres of crime/suspense/forensic mysteries are getting reviewed, why are female authors being ignored?

      I’m going to continue ignoring the NYT in favor of Nancy Pearl (she’s got her own action figure!!) and her Book Lusts.

      I think it’s also worthy to note though that there’s the reverse side to “If women like it, it must be stupid” thing, which is “Let’s make it stupid, so women will like it,” which is why Nicholas Sparks makes my skin crawl.

      • http://bourbonlove.wordpress.com kat at bourbonlove

        I have the Nancy Pearl action figure! That’s crazy!

        Also, I think you’re so so right about the idea that “if women like it, it must be stupid” getting turned into “make it stupid, so women like it.” The whole way the EPL movie was packaged made my skin crawl — I instantly assumed it was hedonistic, shallow and self-centered, without knowing anything about it (shame on me!). When the book was getting super popular, however, I didn’t have this reaction at all; I just kind of thought “oh, there’s that book again, maybe I’ll pick it up, maybe I won’t get to it.” Sometimes I like super popular books and sometimes I don’t. I think the movie was much more clearly labeled as chick flick because the Hollywood producers thought that’d be the surest way to a blockbuster.

      • Sarah

        “let’s make it stupid” … ew. I see so much of this; I’m a gamer, and eeeeeeurk. Gaming blogs are several generations back on the ability-to-deal with this; even mainstream wedding blogs manage less genderfail, generally.

        I haven’t read either of these books; I generally don’t read books that don’t have spaceships on the covers and I am OK with that, but this whole conversation makes me want to just to put a thumb in the eye of convention.

      • Leona

        You know, I used to feel this way about Nicholas Sparks too until I met him and asked him why he felt he had to use the same equation for evoking emotion in every book. He explained that the plots to his novels are things that have actually, really happened in his family and to people he’s close to. He also just really likes having such a dedicated fan base and enjoys writing what he does.
        I can’t say I hold that against him. He might not be a creative genius but the man makes money doing what he loves and is appreciated for it. Does that mean that he doesn’t continue engineering books made to make money? No, but I don’t begrudge a company when they make a car designed to appeal to people of a certain demographic.

        Also, I must comment in general on popular books that everyone is probably, at some point or another, guilty of shunning. The truth is, if we want well-written, quirky, and unusual masterpieces to continue to be published, we need those genre-fiction novels and cheesy romances to continue to thrive. Without the massive profits from those books, publishers can’t afford to acquire the beautiful and devastating stories that just won’t sell well. Little, Brown, for instance, was able to publish my professor’s novel in glorious hardback with money they made from the Twilight series. It doesn’t mean that we have to like or appreciate those books, but I definitely wouldn’t hate on them altogether.

        • Liz A

          Gah. I dunno. I just can’t wrap my mind around someone having a teen cancer victim with alzheimers losing a long lost love sailor soldier they met on summer vacation in their family. Not to mention that he wrote a book specifically so Miley Cyrus could star in the movie version! True story!

          I just think he’s emotionally manipulative (Alzheimer’s? Seriously?) to achieve the goal of the cry.

          I can take a poorly written book and have enjoyed quite a few, but I can’t deal with preying on the emotions of women.

          • meg

            Oh my god. I’m reading in my dashboard and I thought you were talking about EPL or committed, and I was like, “DUDE SEND ME YOUR COPY! Because it is totally awesomer than my copy!”

  • Alyssa

    You know, I might be the only one, but I look at book clubs as kind of a Lit class without the tuition or tests, and sometimes with booze.
    You may not necessarily LIKE the book you’re reading and it may not be the best book in the world, but it was chosen because someone found merit in it. And you’re a part of the club not to only read stuff that you’re in love with, that’s why you read for yourself. You’re a part of the blub in order to analyze and discuss those themes, to give a viewpoint and to see if the author accomplished what they set out to do.

    I’m not a EG fan, I couldn’t get into EPL even before the movie and the publicity and the World Market running a damn Eat Pray Love sale in order to cash in on the hype. (I might have bought a candle from that sale. Don’t judge me.) BUT, I’m going to read Committed because I might not like it and then I get to get all up in arms about what I don’t like. That’s always fun.
    But then again I might actually like it and learn something. And that’s even more fun.

    • Sarah

      “BUT, I’m going to read Committed because I might not like it and then I get to get all up in arms about what I don’t like. That’s always fun.
      But then again I might actually like it and learn something. And that’s even more fun.”

      Yep. That sums it up!

      I was talking to the boy about it and said almost the exact same thing. Why-I-Didn’t-Like-It can turn into a VERY fun conversation. And if it’s a jumping off point for the “But-I-DID-Like-…” so much the better. =)

    • http://peachyringsaredead.blogspot.com Christine

      “I might have bought a candle from that sale. Don’t judge me.”

      Hi.larious.

  • ddayporter

    I have definitely been one of those rolling my eyes at EPL – I rejected it when it was just a best-selling book, and then when it was made into a Julia Roberts movie, that clinched it for me, I was never going to read it. I would have just avoided everything from EG because of that heebee-jeebee feeling EPL gave me. Not saying any of this is rational! I am a judge-a-book-by-its-cover/title/hype person. But I am also willing to try new things when someone I trust makes a recommendation, and this here is a pretty compelling recommendation. also i don’t want to miss out on the meet-up.

  • http://eclpse.livejournal.com Kimberly

    Guilty as charged.

    I stayed away from Eat, Pray, Love because I thought I knew what it was about and wasn’t interested. In fact, when something swells to become as big as it was (is?), I generally stay away on principle. (What principle? Admittedly, I don’t know. Maybe something about a bandwagon? Then again, I have loved some “bandwagon bestsellers” that I’ve been persuaded into reading — The DaVinci Code, Harry Potter, I’m talking to you — although I’ve hated others. *cough*Twilight*cough* But I digress . . . ) That being said, I was really interested in Committed, and I felt I had to read Eat, Pray, Love first because I’m weird like that. Did I enjoy Eat, Pray, Love? Meh. Meh meh meh. But I thought Committed was very different and much more intriguing, and I’m really looking forward to hear other people’s thoughts on it.

  • http://forayavecmoi.blogspot.com Caitlyn

    “Now go read the book. You’re welcome.”

    Bahah, I heart this! You are the most awesome.

  • Lee

    I started to read this site because a man and I have stars in our eyes about each other. I think we’ll do the marriage thing next year. I have never been a fan of marriage until this guy, so I looked for info. How does one get married these days? I looked on the web for various blogs about weddings and I subscribed to several through my Google reader.

    I canceled the subscription to all of the other blogs and stuck with APW, because it is the only one that didn’t scream “BUY THIS!” and wasn’t overly cutesy, etc. I couldn’t bear looking at hundreds of color schemes and being sold things I didn’t need, and looking at a gazillion “real wedding” photos of other people. Also, some other sites made me feel as if I had to do nothing else for a year or so but plan a wedding.

    I read it APW because of posts such as this one.

    “If women like it, it must be stupid.” Indeed. Great discussion. For me, I don’t care anymore. What I like, I like. Authenticity rocks.

  • http://meaghantothemax.wordpress.com Meaghan

    Exactly to EVERYTHING! I have, in the past, been known to shun things because they’re popular. I think that it’s less from a place of women liking it (although a lot of what I’ve rejected has been stuff that “women like”) and more of an “if the pleebs like it, it must be stupid” mentality, which is horrible. And then I read something Dave Eggers wrote and it spoke to me and made me see what an asshole I had been, and I have since tried to be much less of a snobby jerk… it’s long (and can be read in its entirety (which I highly recommend) here: http://students.ou.edu/M/Eric.C.Mai-1/DE.htm) but the part that always gets me:

    ” I was a critic and I wish I could take it all back because it came from a smelly and ignorant place in me, and spoke with a voice that was all rage and envy. Do not dismiss a book until you have written one, and do not dismiss a movie until you have made one, and do not dismiss a person until you have met them. It is a fuckload of work to be open-minded and generous and understanding and forgiving and accepting, but Christ, that is what matters. What matters is saying yes.”

    And that’s why I read EPL, even though I had misgivings that women – lots of women! – loved it, and so I would probably hate it because I am infinitely smarter and better read, and I turned out to really like it. The book itself was not The Best Thing Ever, but I found myself really liking Gilbert’s style, and I was not at all surprised when I reached the end and in the “about the author” section saw that she was already an accomplished author instead of the flake with a book deal that that smelly part of me had wanted to peg her as.

    Being totally honest with myself, part of that is envy – “why didn’t I get a publisher’s advance to travel the world and write a best-selling book? I know I could do a better job. Therefore, hers must be terrible and I will berate it at every available opportunity.” Maybe envy is why even women are so ready to repeat the “things women like are stupid” mantra.

    • http://spirographs.blogspot.com/ jenna

      can you re-post this link? it’s coming through as unavailable

    • Michelle

      Love love LOVE this article! A lot of the points could easily be rephased to apply to gender-specific niches. I love how Eggers sidesteps all of the shit (to be kept “real”) with the infectious, effusive YES.

  • http://gfpumpkin.wordpress.com gfpumpkin

    I’m honestly kind of sad you’re picking this as the next book club book. It’s only out in hard cover right now, which means it will be damn near impossible to get from my local library. And honestly, these days I try to only buy books that *I* want to buy.
    Looks like I’ll be sitting this one out too so that I can stick to my financial principles.

    • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

      really? wow.. I can order it in Europe in paperback.. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Committed-Sceptic-Makes-Peace-Marriage/dp/1408805766 but it’s not available in the US? that’s CRAZY

    • http://! Jennifer

      I requested it from our local library 3-4 days ago and yesterday got the notification that it was ready for me to pick up. So at least in my neck of the woods (through the Boston suburbs’ library network – I haven’t picked it up yet so I don’t know which library it’s actually from) it’s not in demand enough for those several-week-long wait lists.

    • Alyssa

      See, here is where you contact some of your bookclub buddies on the Facebook page for your area and whomever already has it loans it out to you.

      Where are you? We can totally make this happen.

    • meg

      While that’s fair enough, I’ll share my principals – I try to buy every single book I read. Why? Because the publishing industry is in a lot of trouble, and authors get book deals biased on people buying their books, not people reading them in other ways. Books are super important to me, and I want there to be lots and lots of them. So many, in fact, that their will be tons that I don’t even love that much. I want people to be paid to write. So if I’m going to read it, I buy it.

      That said, I’m sure people in your area will be more than willing to loan you the book, which is great.

      • http://gfpumpkins.wordpress.com gfpumpkins

        Meg, while I agree with you in principle, as a graduate student on a limited income, I have to be careful about where I spend my money. And right now, new books isn’t one area I care to spend my disposable income. Add in the fact that I’ll likely move *again* in a few years (as in major cross country move, not just my usual yearly intracity move), and I just try not to accumulate as much stuff these days.
        But a few other people have come up with some other fabulous ideas that I might look into.

    • Michele

      I would be more than happy to send you my copy if you’d like!

      I’m a book worm through and through, but I only ever keep the ones I truly love and know I’ll read over and over again, and while this one was interesting and worth reading, I don’t really need it in my permanent collection.

      Plus, I hate the clutter, which is why I heart my kindle. ;)

    • Liz A

      Don’t give up on your library just yet! We have a kagillion copies and I’m the only hold on it so far. Call and have them put a hold on it for you now :)

      And if there is a wait, request the large print copy bc maybe that will be available sooner.

      • http://gfpumpkins.wordpress.com gfpumpkins

        Thanks for encouraging me to to do that. My request went through and I picked the book up this past weekend. Yay!

    • http://amusingpursuits.blogspot.com/ Annie

      You should check online, because there are several book sharing sites that you can obtain the book through for free as long as you also share another title. With this kind of share program you only have to pay for shipping. Not totally free like the library, but fairly thrifty.

      • Alyssa

        I do that! Paperbackswap has helped me find books that I aren’t available in my stores and I don’t want to mess around with Amazon for. Also, I love used books and the concept of enjoying a story from a book that someone else held and enjoyed too, so that’s fun.

  • Pingback: Elizabeth Gilbert, Dave Eggers, and Saying Yes | Meaghan to the Max

  • chi-town5-22-11

    Dear Meg, I read APW because a) i’m getting married, b) every wedding book and website I scoured prior to APW made me want to alternately punch people and dissolve into tears because this wedding industry crap — the true meaning of WIC, right? — is so. not. me., and b) you use the word rad so much that I might have to put it back into my daily vocabulary.

    You are not just practical. You are a slice of awesomeness. Thank you.

  • TNM

    Excellent analysis Meg. I had almost the same experience as you did. I read the book very early on before the hype on vacation. Didn’t think much one way or another beyond “fun beach read.” Then two years later, the backlash is in full force, the same old “chick lit is sooo shallow” backlash, and I do have feelings about the book: namely, that the backlash pisses me off!

    I think you and many of the commentators have correctly highlighted most of the reasons for this: the devaluing of women’s stories (and if we tell them, we’re navel-gazing narcissists), suspicion that any author (male or female) is selling out if they make $$, simple jealousy (which some of the commentators admirably copped to!). I also think the discomfort stems from the fact that Gilbert herself breaks the mold for chick lit. That is, she is forthright that she is leaving her husband because she is simply dissatisfied, not because he’s a terrible person. (Plus, then, horrors! She doesn’t want kids.) This is not an image of a woman that people are comfortable with (had she e.g. been abused by her first husband I think the reaction to “her journey” would have been quite different). And what’s ironic is that much of her story is almost the *opposite* of the “typical chick lit” narrative – i.e. girl finds man of dreams and father of her children – and that’s partly why folks hate the story… but then attack the story on ground that it *is* silly “chick lit.”

    • meg

      Mmm. Very interesting stuff…

  • http://spirographs.blogspot.com/ jenna

    i’ve gotta say, i consider myself a pretty well-read person. i graduated with a ba in literature and now work in publishing, and, well, i read like a maniac. i read gilbert’s first novel, stern men, back when it first came out and loved it through and through. no, it’s not a perfect novel, but there’s something about the voice, something vibrant and vital, that got through to me. same for her next book, the last american man, which i also read and loved, flaws and all. then eat pray love happened. again, love, flaws, etc. i think, in general, “smart” people love to hate things that are popular. but really smart people have the guts to be open minded.

    • http://sarahsurgeon.blogspot.com sarah

      totally agree. the same way people think its hip/smart/cool to shun mainstream and try to “out-unique” each other.

  • Jess

    Oh god, Meg. I just had this conversation for the past fifteen years in my head. Still having it, in fact! Just insert things like “PhD” or “Working Mother” or “Regular Sex” or “Healthy Self Confidence” in where “Weddings” or “Brides” is.

    I have only two questions (right now, at least):

    1) How did we get like this?
    2) How can we change this?

    Perhaps #1 is irrelevant in the face of #2.

    Good lord, I’ve never felt so tired in my life. I’d like a very large cocktail at this moment.

    At least we have a community where we can shout these kinds of things from the treetops! Smart women of the world UNITE!

    Thanks Meg :)

  • http://bluesuedeidos.com Beth

    What a great post. I read EPL and loved it, and like you, I understood the opposite — why some people didn’t like it. What I didn’t understand was the sheer HATRED that was expressed about Elizabeth Gilbert. You may not agree with her path or her choices, but she’s a self-made lady, and shouldn’t we be proud of our fellow ladies who have made themselves what they are?

    I think this is another example of APW’s greater mission. It’s not just about weddings or marriages. It’s about living a life of our making and our own desires and not having to apologize for it — which I know Elizabeth Gilbert would say f*ck yeah! to. We have to stand up for each other’s decisions to be our kick-butt selves.

  • Rachel

    OK, this is somewhat off-topic, but I make a living as a college coach. I am a girly-girl caught in a man’s world, I am one of few women who appreciates the fact that she’s attractive, and, yes, sometimes I cry.

    I have this problem in my career where people want to put me into categories, though I defy any one category. If somebody sees me as a girly-girl, then I can’t also be a good coach, because only masculine people can coach well. If somebody else sees me as a good coach, then they can’t rationalize why I would wear trousers that fit properly with some REALLY COOL SHOES and eyeliner.

    And while so many people are stuffing me into categories in which I do not fit, I have my athletes. There have been some guys who didn’t want to be told what to do by a gilr, but, for the most part, my athletes actually LOVE that I’m a woman. The girls feel more comfortable crying, and when I have bad days (like the day a girl had to leave the school and the team because her eating disorder had gotten too strong) and I need to cry, even most of the guys appreciate that. I think it reminds them that I’m just another person (whereas most coaches want their athletes to think they’re god), and that means I have emotions and challenges, but I’m going to fight through them, and that’s all I’m asking of them, too. It is really truly lovely.

  • http://abouttobe.wordpress.com Mary

    I have to admit, I was one of the EPL haters too. I made a point not to vocalize my judgment of EPL to other people, especially those whom I knew liked the book (I agree with Emily above that judging people’s choices in literature is really judging an essential part of their self). I had heard that in the book, the main character pretty much blows off her husband to “find herself,” and to be honest I found myself feeling more sympathetic to the husband than to the main character. So I didn’t read it.

    That being said, I trust you guys’ judgment, so maybe I’ll pick it up. Maybe. Being a full-time student makes pleasure reading seem a thing of the distant past.

    Before getting engaged I was blissfully unaware of all the judgment that pervades getting married. (I’m curious, has anyone actually managed to get through the process without being called a bridezilla, even “jokingly?”) Go APW, for escaping that judgment and creating a safe haven for women to talk about these things.

    • meg

      Funny, that was one of the parts of the book I really did like. Yes, I felt badly for her husband (and I also like that Elizabeth Gilbert was pretty clear that she thought I probably should feel badly for him, and that she wasn’t totally right.) But I ADORED the fact that she was willing to talk about the fact that she left her husband because she was really unhappy. It wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t her fault. But, she was really unhappy and she didn’t want a kid and he did, and things fell apart. I thought that was a SUPER ballsy and honest thing to talk about. Because that’s so outside the ok storyline for women to tell that it’s not even funny. And it was true. It was simple, and true and unacceptable for her to talk about it, and she did, and I LOVED THAT. Oh, that AND then she did something kind of extravagant for herself to help herself heal?? Again, not the ok script. Again, I was really happy.

      In the end, I though she could have gone a little deeper in her storytelling. I think that was my ultimate beef with the book.

      I tend to love women who get (or risk being) publically crucified for talking about things outside of the appropriate cultural narrative. Let’s just say I have some empathy.

      • http://laorencha.blogspot.com channamasala

        I have to say in EPL that I felt badly for her husband until the part where he dragged her through the mud divorce wise. Sure, he kind of got a bum deal (they both did) with her unhappiness but that’s no excuse to treat another human being, even one who has hurt you, in that way.

        I guess I like to follow the old Carolyn Hax model of judging character in a partner: imagine how he/she would react and treat you in a breakup or divorce. If you think that person has it in them to drag you to hell and back, and would do so out of a sense of vengeance for being hurt, then he/she is not the person for you.

        So I kind of felt when she let out a few details about the divorce drama that he was letting his true character shine through and in the end, it was better that they parted when they did.

  • http://amidlifeofprivilege.blogspot.com LPC

    But, if, IF, it’s a niche market, my money and I are quite happy to be in it.

    • meg

      I love you.

  • Ruth

    I gotta say, I read Eat, Pray, Love quite a long time ago, but do remember that I really enjoyed most of the story, thought it offered some valuable insights and recommended it to friends. The criticisms that have been made about it didn’t cross my mind until I started reading them on blogs. Some of them make sense and I thought maybe I shouldn’t have enjoyed the book so much. But I did. And oh well.

    I’ve been itching to buy Committed for a while and now I have an official excuse. Cause you know, I probably needed one after all the critiques of Eat, Pray, Love. Can’t wait to read it!

  • http://allisonandres.com Allison

    My husband (a very nerdy computer guy) likes to say “Haters Gonna Hate” and while I laugh at him, I think that in this occasion it is very true. We love you for sticking up for us (I stick up for APW brides all the time) but sometimes, “Haters Gonna Hate” and what we ALL need to do as a part of this community is say “F*uck them” and continue on ready awesome books and lifting each other up!

    I was like you, Meg and was hesitant to read the book afraid of what I was getting myself into. But, I finished reading last week. I was sitting in my office lunchroom CRYING during the last chapter…hell I probably cried through the whole book. It was seriously THAT GOOD. There is so much that I want to say about the book and how it shaped my perceptions of “other people’s marriages” but I’ll save that for the next meeting. :)

  • Michele

    Oh Meg, you slay me. I love this, and you are so spot on.

    Did you know that the REAL, Swedish title of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ is actually ‘Men Who Hate Women?’ Yes, it’s true, and yes, the title was changed for the American translation. Something about that really, really itches my bitch bone. I know that titles of movies, television shows and books are often changed, because there is often much that is lost in translation, but that would not have been the case here. That is actually the PERFECT title for that book, in any language. It makes me wonder – was it changed for marketing purposes, assuming that the original title would be offensive or otherwise turn off American readers? Or was it a decision made by men who do in fact hate women? Maybe a little bit of both? Who knows.

    • http://weddingdiplomat.blogspot.com/ Emily

      ha, that’s really interesting. The German title ( I read it in german) is also totally different – the three books are called “Delusion”, “Damnation” and “Foregiveness”.

  • Michele

    OH! And I did read ‘Committed,’ I was largely unmoved by it. There was some interesting discussions of the origins of marriage that I enjoyed, but overall, I didn’t particularly love Elizabeth Gilbert’s voice in this one. HOWEVER, a good friend of mine also read it and sort of went on a rampage afterward, insisting that EG is a “motherhood hating shrew, who has only herself to blame for being “sentenced to marry” because she selfishly insisted that she and Felipe live in the USA, when they easily could have lived somewhere else, and didn’t even have the common decency to invite her future step-children to their wedding because she would prefer to just get it over with.”

    The first time she unloaded all this one me, I just sat there, jaw on the floor, thinking ‘did we read the same book?’

    And then I put it altogether. This friend is someone who is very traditional, and very much wants to be married and to be a mother. Motherhood is in fact her greatest aspiration in life – one that thus far she has not been able to achieve. And I think her reaction to the book was so visceral because to her, it read like an indictment of all the things she wants most out of life. In reading it, SHE felt judged, and as a result, she turned around and judged the author in the harshest ways possible.

    • Michele

      Actually, the more I think about it, and the more I read these comments, the more I think something similar is behind so many peoples’ disdain for EPL as well.

      Here we have a woman who was unhappy and unfulfilled in her life, and did something incredibly bold to remedy that. She had a somewhat easier go of it (logistically) as a result of her prior hard work as an author (most of us are not going to be given an advance to write a book about anything anytime soon, because most of us have never published a book before), but the point remains the same: Unhappy person takes responsibility for making self happy, and then actually makes self happy.

      I would imagine EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US at APW – and every single man and woman in America, period – is unhappy about SOMETHING in our lives – however small. But not every single one of us is doing something about it, and for some people – watching or hearing about others who ARE doing something about it serves to highlight that we’re not, which in turn, feels like an indictment.

      Hence the reason you hear so many people say things like “well, it must be nice to take off on a journey around the world, but we don’t all have that luxury.” They’re using the fact that they can’t seek happiness in the EXACT SAME way as an excuse for not seeking it in some other way.

  • Lady D

    I am really sad to think that this book was chosen. I read EPL and liked it okay. I read Committed and found it to be absolutely terrible. I felt that Gilbert really fed into and ramped up the old cliche about brides-to-be being neurotic messes. (Seriously, this woman needs to get a grip.) Granted, her situation is different than most, but her thought process is not. It sounds to me that this book was chosen due to a lack of better books about women feeling ambiguity about marriage, which is the source of my sadness.

    • meg

      You don’t have to like it, nor do you have to read it or participate. But I do find it totally uncool that you called her a neurotic mess who needs to get a grip on a site where brave *ss women talk about similar issues every day. And her thought process was somewhat similar to mine, so there is that.

    • meg

      And I have PLENTY of good books about marriage on my book list. This wasn’t even my first choice, it was a reader choice. So don’t get sad, go read some other awesome books. There are plenty.

      • http://allisonandres.com Allison

        BT-Dubs, Meg I am going to e-mail you for that book list!

  • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

    i don’t get it.

    good book. bad book. it’s a book on marriage, yes? and we discuss… um… marriage, here? both good views and bad? why would it suck to discuss a book you think is bad?

    (trust me. as an english teacher, this is something at which i EXCEL)

    • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

      EXACTLY. If we all loved and gushed over every little bit of every book, it’d be some boring discussions. If we don’t fully agree, we can debate and discuss and deliberate over the details and really dig into what we liked or didn’t like about it, and how it relates to our own relationships and marriages. What more could we ask for?!

      ….well, besides a giant cocktail to sip while chatting with awesome APW folk, of course.

    • Erin

      Right on, Liz. And, geeze… If you really don’t like reading a book that much, just put it down!
      I by-passed EPL and dozens of other books on bestseller lists because the summary on the back cover didn’t really speak to me. Doesn’t mean anyone else who liked it is less discriminating than I. It just means I wanted to spend my reading time on other books.
      But, I’ve also completed books that make me ENRAGED or just dissatisfied. Doesn’t mean I didn’t benefit from reading them, and I get the fun of having the “What I didn’t like was..” conversations that can get so amusingly heated — especially over a glass of wine.

    • ddayporter

      right?? not every book is going to be like The Commitment, but you know, as much as I loved that book – everybody loved that book! At least all who’ve spoken up about it. We spent a lot of time at the first meet-up just getting to know each other, and didn’t talk about the book a whole lot at all (there was a lot of “oh I love that part too!”). which was fine and awesome. but it would be fun to have a meet-up involving a little more in depth discussion and maybe respectful disagreement/debate.

      @Erin – I once read an entire series of books I hated. Every single book depressed me or made me furious, but I kept picking up the next one, and if the author ever finishes the darn series, I will keep reading it. I am apparently the only person on the planet to hate these books (George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire), I don’t know how I’m the only one to find them draining and misogynistic (maybe he’s trying to be ironic and I’m not picking up on it?) – but it is fun talking about the books with others who love them.

      • http://happysighs.blogspot.com Liz

        “it is fun talking about the books with others who love them”

        not to mention it’s brain-stretching to read opinions/experiences that oppose your own. hullo, opening perspectives and horizons. i read MANY a book that i find infuriating- for the sole purpose of getting the other side of the story. if someone sees liz gilbert as the typical chick writer with typical chick views, how better to sharpen your rebuttals than to read what she has to say?

        • Erin

          <3
          Both of you.

          • Alyssa

            Ditto!

        • Chantelle

          I started reading”cannonical” literature just so I could argue aginst why it was deemed worthy of being part of the “cannon” by a patriarchal society…and it gives my arguments much more weight to actually say I’ve read X Y Z . Also, ended up reading some books that were actually amazing :)

      • Arachna

        I thought it was common knowledge that those books are misogynistic?
        You are definitely not alone.

        • ddayporter

          thank you!! I was feeling a bit crazy. not that I’ve looked far and wide for reviews or anything, just the handful of people I’ve spoken to are all in love with the series and didn’t see the misogyny at all. Most of them are MEN, so there’s that..

      • FM

        Hmmm…my friends (dudes) really want me to read that series… Now I’m even more excited so I can argue with them about the sexist bits they ignored. =)

  • http://bondingcarbonunits.wordpress.com/ Sarah K.

    I unashamedly loved Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert was a professional author who went through a nasty, emotional, painful divorce, and during a tumultuous time in her life, realized these three opportunities were coming together. She needed the time and the travel to recenter herself, to find her heart again, to recover from this emotional trauma. And, being a professional, brilliant, savvy woman, what did she do? She found funding. She realized that what she was doing could be profitable (hello, as a writer, there’s no way I don’t travel like this without writing; why not publish it), and pitched it to her publisher. I don’t think there’s any shame in her being financially savvy to fund this crazy travel.

    The book itself doesn’t pitch this as the solution for every person, it just is her memoir– her reflections of a life out of whack, and how she was able to get it IN whack. It’s a story, a crazy tale of food, meditation, and love. So I like it.

    I read Committed a while ago, and yes, it has structural issues (half textbook, half memoir, half something else), but it’s great. Her voice carries the book, the anthropological and sociological reflections are interesting and stimulating, and her stories are touching. It’s not perfect, but what person/marriage/book/etc is?? I think it achieves its goal, enough so that I’m ready and excited re-read it (especially on the other side of being married).

    ….And I am SO EXCITED to make it to the Boston meetup, since this time it won’t be five days before my wedding. :D

    • http://suburbaliciousliving.blogspot.com/ Lauren

      And we are excited to HAVE you at the Boston meetup!! :)

    • http://www.jehara.blogspot.com jehara

      “I unashamedly loved Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert was a professional author who went through a nasty, emotional, painful divorce, and during a tumultuous time in her life, realized these three opportunities were coming together. She needed the time and the travel to recenter herself, to find her heart again, to recover from this emotional trauma. And, being a professional, brilliant, savvy woman, what did she do? She found funding. She realized that what she was doing could be profitable (hello, as a writer, there’s no way I don’t travel like this without writing; why not publish it), and pitched it to her publisher. I don’t think there’s any shame in her being financially savvy to fund this crazy travel.”

      well said! I, too, unashamedly loved Eat, Pray Love. I couldn’t agree with this more. I am also looking forward to a re-read of Committed. I am a big fan of the Liz Gilbert voice.

  • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com sera

    First, I haven’t read any of the comments yet, so I’ll be returning to those momentarily. But I wanted to say, yet again, that Meg, I adore you. I’m so sorry that you have to stand up for us like that but I’m so SO glad that you do. When I tell people that I’m still blogging (more or less – and with a pretty small following at that) I get this look of disdain – the “what could you possibly have to say if you aren’t blogging about weddings and how stupid if you are” look. These are also intelligent friends that say they don’t read blogs but spend hours scrolling through the I Can Haz Cheezburger network – right, I’m stupid (rolls eyes).
    If it’s men, they perpetuate the same judgmental virgin/whore or bitch/naive girl bit, and if it’s women – FOR SHAME – it’s almost worse, because you have to fill the perfect mold – just successful enough, just smart enough, but always giving and always balanced and if anyone asks you to back down, you do it. You know, the non-woman.
    You know, I just finished Eat Pray Love and, no, I didn’t think it was the best book ever, but I did enjoy it and who gives a crap anyway? She owns up to being lucky right at the beginning of the book. Has no one noticed that Elizabeth Gilbert took an unusual path in order to answer questions that millions of women ask of themselves every day? How do I, somewhat lucky, desperately unhappy, continue living on this earth and be happy? It’s the ultimate American pursuit of happiness and yet, because she’s a woman, she just a stupid chick who doesn’t count.
    And here, Meg, you give us this nice, open space where us smart chicks can be kind to each other, feel safe and help each other with the day to day frivolous stuff and the hard life stuff. We are dynamic women with differences and you give us a place to celebrate that. Eff those douches who can’t understand that.

    • meg

      “if it’s women – FOR SHAME – it’s almost worse, because you have to fill the perfect mold – just successful enough, just smart enough, but always giving and always balanced and if anyone asks you to back down, you do it. You know, the non-woman.”

      Way to wrap up what it’s like to be a woman blogger in two sentances.

      • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com sera

        I almost said “stepford wife” robot woman. :)

  • Michele

    I will say, I don’t think the movie did a very good job of bringing the book to life, but isn’t that so often the case with movies based on books? The casting didn’t work for me, and they just weren’t able to translate so much of what Gilbert wrote to the screen.

  • http://tiyulon.blogspot.com Daph

    I just want to say that this is super exciting because I actually just started reading this book last night! I never comment because usually by the time I read the posts it has already been a few days and the discussion is pretty much “over” (but I do “exactly” a lot). Maybe I should try to organize a business trip to be Stateside in November…hmm…
    Anyway Meg, since I’m commenting, just wanted to let you know I love the blog!

  • http://amusingpursuits.blogspot.com/ Annie

    Like Meg I wasn’t totally in love with Eat, Pray, Love, but I have been a longtime fan of Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing. She’s a sharp profile writer, with the ability to turn a witty phrase . A friend of mine got me Committed for my birthday in January (several months before I was even engaged) and I ignored it for a while because of all the backlash when it first came out. But, when I finally took the time to read it I was surprised to discover how enjoyable I found it.

    Is it a deep historical treatise on marriage? Nope, and she doesn’t even pretend to be all wise and all knowing about all marriages, so much of the criticism lobbed at the book for failing to be more scholarly wans’t warrented. This book does touch on some of the historical elements of marriage, and discussed some cultural differences of marriage, but isn’t an expansive all-in-one guide. It’s more of a personal rummination on the institution and the patchwork was the author and her fiance have chosen to construct their own union.

    I’m looking forward to discussing it with you all. Cheers!

  • Kristen

    Maybe you should say, “I run one of the most sane and important wedding blogs out there because it focuses on the important stuff about marriage and weddings and not so much on favors. Although we do like pretty things which is okay, too.” If they give you more guff, tell them to read it for a few days and see if they think it is for ninnies only then.

    I’m really sorry you don’t get the cocktail party respect you deserve. I’m sure if you let us know ahead of time, we’d be happy to come and interrupt such conversations with gifts and requests for autographs. :)

  • merryf

    Meg, I am standing up and applauding you. (well, in my head I’m doing it, at work it would seem a bit strange). This is a great post, and this discussion just rocks!

    I’m going to go pick up Committed and I’m going to try so freakin’ hard to get to the NYC discussion. What you said about EPL — that she needed to have gone a little deeper into her storytelling — is the part that I also found a bit lacking. I thought some of it left me feeling like I wanted to say to her “…. and then what?” But I enjoyed it very much — because i was able to travel for several months in the midst of my own midlife crisis and find my way back, and I found myself reading the book looking for passages she wrote that expressed what I had gone through too.

    And as for strong women — This is the one place where I know that I can read interesting, wonderful, rock-my-world posts, and read stimulating discussions and know that there’s a community of women Just. Like. Me. out there, even if not Exactly, you’re all close enough. After 45 years on this planet there have been enough people who have rolled their eyes and made comments to me/about me, and what kind of woman I am and am not. Phooey on them. I like being my own smart woman, and I don’t have to be that in any way except the one *I* visualize.

    thanks Meg. You made me cry today. But in a good way.

  • http://www.projectsubrosa.com/ Cate Subrosa

    Oh this post was about so much more that Elizabeth Gilbert. It was about me. Thank you, Meg.

  • http://www.laorencha.blogspot.com channamasala

    “There is no win in bride” – heck, there is no “win” in being female sometimes. It astounds me how many otherwise smart people simply refuse to see women as human or treat them as individuals. Accomplished, intelligent people (male and female, astonishingly) who group us all into “humorless and controlling” or “silly and frivolous” and can NOT see beyond it.

    It hasn´t happened in awhile, but my stock response when someone acts like that in real life is to say flatly “I am not going to defend myself and by extension 50% of the human race to someone who refuses to judge that 50% as equals, and instead will pick at any excuse to stereotype them.”…then turn around and walk away.

  • Amanda

    I hope I will be able to participate in a meetup (I am in Holland, not sure if there are other readers here) . I read “Committed” and I found it interesting, not the best book I ever read or anything, but ok… anyway it would be nice to meet other APW readers because of all this discussions not only about weddings but mostly about life, about being yourself, the way you are and breaking molds, about not doing what society dictates.
    However, back to the topic, I was expecting more “depth” in this book , something more like the complete historical analysis Simone de Beauvoire does in “The Second Sex” that really helps understand lots of things, but I guess it’s just a novel and what is great is that we can discuss about this subjects . So, if there are any other readers here, let me know we could organize it.

  • Class of 1980

    Meg wrote: “Or, translation, if women like it, it must be stupid.”

    Yeah, that fuels white hot rage in me. And it’s not just what men think – sometimes women downplay anything that mostly women like or do. It’s as if they think … Well, if MEN don’t do this thing or care about this issue, then it’s not valuable or important in the scheme of things.

    If men aren’t in a particular occupation, it’s not valuable. If men don’t watch this movie or read that book, it’s not valuable. If men don’t play this sport, it’s not valuable. If men don’t stay home and keep house and raise children, it must not be valuable.

    I’ve always wondered why the presence or absence of men should determine the value of anything!

  • http://www.lilikoiandthyme.com Christine

    Eff yeah Meg, THANK YOU for sticking up for us. I love APW and love sending all my friends, engaged/married or not, here to read and understand and think about what’s important instead of having heads full of lace and fluff. xoxoxoox

  • Class of 1980

    Meg, here is your new mission statement:

    “I write a blog about weddings and marriage for women who have no desire to march in lockstep with the Wedding Industrial Complex.”

    or

    “I write a blog about weddings and marriage for intelligent women who prefer to take a more thoughtful approach to major life changes.”

    • Willow

      Wish I had read this before commenting below! Great descriptions…

  • http://www.alosangeleslove.com Becca

    God yes. I’m at the point where I can’t handle any more reading about marriage and weddings or relationships so I won’t be joining in the book club, but a resounding YES to everything else you said. Obviously, my little wedding blog isn’t in the APW or small business category, but it’s MINE. And I’m finally confident enough to say I’m a WRITER with stats and readership and a body of work to back it up. And yet, when people ask what I write about… the conversations are painful.

    I read one of my posts recently at an artists group and a male screenwriter friend was blown away. He admitted he’d never read my blog but was going to start now. I’d been mentioning it around him about it for ages, but the word “wedding” or the topic of “women’s issues” apparently meant my work only belonged in a pink ghetto of bridezilla crazies. And I was both thrilled that he liked my writing and furious all over again. Just because we write about the world from the viewpoint of being women doesn’t make our insight any less valuable. In fact, smart women probably have something to say about the cultural and social experiences affecting about 50% of the human race, and there are some damn interesting conversations, criticisms and creativity born from these experiences.

    Harumph. This wedding stuff has reminded me all over again, in so many new ways, how important it is to support the art and intellectual achievements of other women. Even if they aren’t entirely my cup of tea.

  • peanut

    Well, you just totally put me in my place, Meg.

    I too rolled my eyes when I found out this was the book club selection – I was out of the country getting married during the last book club and was looking forward to the second one – because I though eat pray love was so super boring that I couldn’t read more than 50 pages. And, to be honest, I thought it was kind of gimmicky and aimed at a certain stereotypically-defined group of women. But for me to completely ignore everything else that this author has written (and I didn’t even bother to research her other works, I had not heard of her before EPL) is totally unfair. I mean, even if I don’t like this book, it will still provoke interesting discussion.

    Having said that, I’m not going to buy it – especially not in hardcover (hello, brokeass grad student here!)…

  • http://www.agirlandaboy.com/journal agirlandaboy

    I love you, Meg. Where have you been all my life? Seriously.

  • Emily

    I just have to plug an amazing “chick” lit author who writes about smart, complicated, intellectual women who also – shockingly – have exciting personal lives. Her name is Joanne Rendell and she is AWESOME. I read almost no market fiction but I love diving into her novels.

    Her website is http://www.joannerendell.com/

  • Eve

    You are so totally right on. I’ve said to several people– and suddenly realize I should be ashamed to have said– that I didn’t read Eat, Pray, Love for years because “everybody else liked it.” Then I finally read something about it that made me check it out of the library (I forget what)– and, guess what, I loved it (better than “Committed,” which was still pretty good). Okay, “everybody else liked it” is already a totally snobby attitude, I realize that. But I hadn’t quite thought about the fact that the problem was: lots of women liked it. Oh noes! Jeez.

  • http://www.moodeous.com Kristy

    I’m definitely in the cadre of ladies who have written off Elizabeth Gilbert due to Eat, Pray, Love and I’ll admit I have no actual case for my indifference. I totally fell for the chick flick bashing, because generally I don’t get behind anything that feels like it reinforces the image of women as unintelligent and trite. But I just watched her (insightful, intriguing, lovely) TED talk and I’m stoked to read this book. Olé!

    • meg

      Olé!

      Love.

  • http://tiyulon.blogspot.com Daph

    This is pretty exciting since I coincidentally just started this book last night! Maybe I can arrange a business trip to be Stateside in Nov…hmm…
    Also, I never comment (because by the time I read the posts it has usually been a few days) but I just wanted to say that I love the blog Meg!

  • Willow Henderson

    Last night I was talking to Husband-Elect (love that!) and was just saying how Meg, this site and all the ladies on here have been the most influential in how I view marriage, and our upcoming wedding, and how amazing that is. You know, not my family, or my friends, but this online community.
    But the problem still remains of the haters. Meg, your description of how you decide to answer the ‘what do you do?’ question reminds me of the decision I make in my head before bringing up a topic discussed on APW with non-Team Practical members.
    I started by saying ‘So I read this article today…’ when I was first reading the site. But that felt like I was cheating APW out of credit for prompting all of these amazing discussions and it also didn’t allow for the hundreds of different voices. So I got braver and started saying ‘So I read this discussion on this wedding blog that I love today…’ but that just didn’t work either, because I got all the attitude you speak of. And when I describe it as a feminist wedding blog, the attitude is even worse. So now I just say ‘on my favourite blog’. Because I WANT to talk about these ideas and issues more, off screen, because the conversations on here are SO interesting! And people just don’t get it. And I want them to get it!

  • Sarah

    Hi, first time commenter, long time reader. I’ve read both EPL & Committed. I don’t have particularly strong feelings about Elizabeth Gilbert, but I couldn’t help but chime in on the comment about consumerism. NYT had a feature on her shop in NJ a few mos ago, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/fashion/15With.html?_r=1
    Just sayin’.

    • meg

      Um. Her husband is an importer. They are both self employed. Y’all, I promote thoughtful consumerism on APW too. You know why? I’ve got bills to pay. Other business owners have bills to pay. I don’t want all of us working in jobs we hate. I am SUPER SUPER pro small businesses making money, consumerism or no. And I’m really *tired* of those of us making a living doing things we like perpetually taking a beating for doing so. She has a store. Ok. Great. I don’t see how that’s a problem.

    • meg

      Also! You should read further up in the comments about how Gilbert is personally giving loans to all sorts of small business owners in her town that wanted to start something, but couldn’t get bank loans because of the recession. She had the capital, and she chose to invest in people, which is amazing.

      I think it’s interesting how we always leap to judge women who make money. Like, “Well, what a consumerist! She owns a store importing stuff from South Asia, which she wrote about in EPL. She’s all about STUFF and MONEY.” When the real back story is her husband is an importer, and he moved here for her, and he wants to work so they opened up a shop in their town, and hey she’s giving loans to all kinds of small businesses. She’s trying to revitalize the town where she lives in the middle of a huge recession.

      We have to stop judging before thinking, I think.

  • http://livinglnf.blogspot.com Jo

    Meg, amazing, as always. Can’t reiterate that enough.

    Also, this is probably a little woo-woo spirituality for you all, but what is with all the ego involved in saying, ‘Gosh, it’s so unfair that she got to explore the world during her post-marriage time’… and why hasn’t anyone said, how thoughtful of her to share her very human, very personal, and very privileged (the travel part) experience with the rest of the world through a book?? I mean, really, aren’t we all just pieces of the same puzzle, and so isn’t she just putting herself and her incredible experience out there for the rest of us to benefit from – be inspired by, live vicariously through, etc??

    • meg

      Yes! I’m a little woo-woo sometimes too, though I use the less woo-woo God word as well, but in sum, YES. I actually do agree. So there you go.

  • http://sarahsurgeon.blogspot.com sarah

    did anyone else sort of hate, but simultaneously also sort of like EPL because obviously EG got to have a great experience on someone else’s dime, and i was just reading about it. i mean, i would love to have a year off from work to travel and “find myself”. most of us don’t get to do that, so i think a lot of people dislike the book from the perspective of jealousy.

    i read committed shortly after i got married and was feeling the change in perspective going from “engaged” to “married” and thought it would be good just to read about others’ perspectives on marriage and long-term relationships. anxious to hear others’ opinions on the book and therefore on relationships. i think its a book that can initiate great discussion, and therefore is a great choice for a book club.

  • http://discerningdilettante.blogspot.com KA

    Chiming in late to say, did anyone else watch Annie & Britta’s scenes in last nite’s ep of Community with all our recent convos about self-worth and women supporting other women rolling around in their brain? It seemed like they were getting at something there, but it was 2am for me, and I’d run out of intelligent analysis. I also watched Always Sunny’s recent gay marriage ep while thinking about The Commitment that entire time. What is this site doing to me?!?! Hahaha, whatever it is I love it. I haven’t thought this hard since college.

    • ddayporter

      I was definitely thinking that during Community! unfortunately I missed that Always Sunny episode, will have to see if it’s on On Demand…!

      but yeah I am constantly thinking either, “hmm we were just talking about this on APW the other day,” or “hmm I wonder if Meg has heard about this, team practical should talk about it.”

  • brendalynn

    I never read EPL, and I instinctually shy away from books that become too popular. But I salivated over Committed a full year before it was available in print, so I felt like I had the inside track with this one before it could be pushed on me. It was on my Christmas wishlist, even though it didn’t come out until the following January–and so I got a gift card specifically for purchasing this book.

    And I really enjoyed Committed, on its own merits and without a lot of background in Elizabeth Gilbert lore. I read it because I spent a lot of time thinking about marriage. And though I hadn’t gone through a divorce–and otherwise don’t share a lot of experiences with Gilbert–I really identified with this book anyway.

    I’m almost uncomfortable going to a book club meeting for this one, only because it seems like there is a clearly established narrative to shape the discussion already. We’ll see. Maybe everyone got their EPL frustrations out in their comments on this post ;)

    Other funny thing: I read the Dan Savage book after this one–and though Savage’s book was written first and is dramatically different, they do share some similiarities in terms of addressing wedding/marriage ambiguity… I’d say at the very least: It’s worth a critical read, ladies.

  • http://softflexgirl.blogspot.com/ Sara Hardin

    Nice post. :)

  • http://www.madamvonsassypants.wordpress.com Madam Von Sassypants

    This is EXACTLY how I feel about this book, Elizabeth Gilbert, and the culture and misconceptions around women and weddings.

    Head nod.

  • http://www.twitter.com/kahlia kahlia

    Obviously this post is not (mainly) about this sentence: “There is no win in bride.”
    But I hope people noticed it. And I hope it inspires a few more people to think critically and to try to help change the way people think about women who are getting married.

    I read Eat, Pray, Love before it was popular/non-popular, so I was lucky enough to not have my opinions influenced by all of that. And I had a similar reaction to it (it was ok, I guess, but I wouldn’t say I liked it or that I identified with a lot of it, and it was very much one woman’s journey [of course]). Because of that, I wasn’t planning on reading Committed until you talked about it (*ahem* over gelato in Italy… don’t tell the EG haters! :P), and now I am. Getting to discuss it with other APW readers is a wonderful bonus!

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