So, those of you who pay attention to the APW comment box know that I’ve said we’re going to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Committed” 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.