Arts & Culture

How Eat, Pray, Love Turned Me Into a Selfish Bitch

Today the concept of Eat Pray Love inspired me to take time to myself, a year to be exact. That’s what I said, a year. I will finish my trip that I am currently taking on the West Coast, then … Read More

By / August 18, 2010

Today the concept of Eat Pray Love inspired me to take time to myself, a year to be exact. That’s what I said, a year. I will finish my trip that I am currently taking on the West Coast, then head to Cape Cod for a three-day family vacation to relax and detox after my current vacation, after which I will take time off from freelance styling and writing for this online magazine. While I do not pray (or daven, don’t tell my Orthodox parents) and while I cannot promise that I will love anyone along the way, as a Jew I can promise one thing – I will eat. While I have not decided where these travels will take me, I do know that wherever I am in the world, as a Jewess, I will never go hungry. I will leave all responsibility behind, I will care about nobody but myself, I will not consider others in my decision to be self-indulgent. Despite the myriad of people in my life who may love and care about me, nobody in my life is worth considering when it comes to matters of utter selfishness and pure luxury.

Do you hate me right now? Do you find me self-absorbed? Do you think I am unrealistic and lack a concept of life’s tasks, tribulations and responsibilities? I thought so. This was how I entered the movie theater thinking about Elizabeth Gilbert, writer of Eat Pray Love and protagonist of the recent film starring Julia Roberts. (The fact that the author cast herself as the most gorgeous, sophisticated A-list actress of our time did not stop me from thinking she was self-centered. Anyone who thinks that the same woman who played Pretty Women can play them in a film certainly must have some sort of distorted sense of self.) I entered the theater alone, Starbucks and Sour Patch Kids in hand, ready for tales of self love and loathing that would likely make me and my recently graduated, now working self cringe with jealousy.

The previews, which I must admit were just as good if not better than the feature presentation, began. Then, after I correctly answered all of the pre-movie trivia questions (with nobody to rejoice with as I was seeing this tale of female empowerment solo), the movie started. The film opens by introducing us to Elizabeth (a.k.a. Julia Roberts), who leads a blurred, unhappy, lackluster life that would make nobody jealous. You sympathize and relate and even think "wow, this girl could use a break." Then you smack yourself across the face for liking her – after all, this bitch was about to take the vacation of a lifetime, the one that was bound to make you jealous. The one that even in her depressed, weeping, bathroom floor stupor she did not deserve. I looked around my San Franciscan movie theater and realized that none of the middle aged women in the theater shared my New York cynicism. Some of them were crying. Others were leaning against their partners’ shoulders in unified sympathy for the film’s leading lady. I was alone in the theater, alone with my four-shot latte, alone with my eye-rolls and lack of understanding for someone who wanted to leave life and accountability behind in search of spiritual enlightenment. So I took a lesson from our dear, pathetic, pre-year of travel Elizabeth and gave in. Once I did, I actually felt sorry for the poor girl. She needed a vacation far more badly than I did. And with that realization on my part, Liz earned herself four months in Rome to eat her little Catholic heart out. 

Rome was by far the best part of the movie. Luxurious, beautiful, epicurean, decadent – anything I would want my own European vacation to be. Liz ate zucchini blossoms stuffed with fresh mozzarella and pizza in Naples and could not fit into her pants after weeks of pasta consumption. She even made a friend named Luca Spaghetti, an ancestor of the family who apparently invented the noodle. After drooling over her lunches and wishing I was on her vacation instead of my own, I realized that praying at an Ashram in India was not really a vacation by my standards. The acknowledgement that I would sooner die of pasta inhalation than be eaten by mosquitoes during hour-long meditation sessions earned Liz that portion of her year long journey in my cynical, doubting New York book of judgement. She could search for God in an Ashram, a church or her local JCC and it would still not classify as "time off" to me.

Bali was where the jealousy and admittedly, the hatred, set in. Liz lived in an amazing utopian paradise and met a gorgeous Brazilian man (played by Javier Bardem) whom she falls in love with after a night of Balinese tequila with extra lime – now we’re talking, this is a vacation. As she discovers herself through the experiences and meditations prescribed to her by an adorable Balinese medicine man named Ketut, I wanted to be her more and more. Having also come from Liz’s world of New York writers pushing and pushing for an ultimate goal of God knows what, I conceded that I too wanted to experience what she had so selfishly allowed herself to. The film, which was gorgeously filmed and perfectly set, despite the emotional rollercoaster it bought me a ticket to ride, left me more jealous than resentful. Elizabeth Gilbert, once the target of my disdain, has inspired me. 

From now on, I will be slightly more selfish. I will not count calories, I will travel, I will not write about things I find ridiculous, I will engage in silly affairs with men outside the age range society has deemed appropriate for me and I will enjoy each minute to avoid finding myself at age thirty five crying on my bathroom floor. While most of the women in my theater left Eat Pray Love with tear stained tunics, I left chewing my last sour patch kid with a smirk on my face. I, Carrie Goldberg, am now a selfish bitch…I think.