Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed

Let's be honest, we've all read Eat, Pray, Love; or at least seen the movie. Elizabeth Gilbert's hugely successful tale of her year spent abroad, post crushing divorce and consuming rebound. Her story certainly inspires me to want to take a year off from life and just live in Italy, India and Bali. Especially if it would end with finding the hot Brazilian man of my dreams, just like her year did (ok maybe not that part....I loves you Kevin! lol)

But what happens next for her? I mean she can't very well spend the rest of her life in Bali? And Elizabeth and Felipe (also divorced) have no interest or belief in getting married again.

Committed picks up where Eat, Pray, Love leaves off, and importantly the events in this book take place before Julia Roberts is cast to play Elizabeth in the movie (I can't help but think things might have been different had her book already been famous before the events of this next chapter).

Elizabeth and Felipe, after spending a year traveling the world together and flying back and forth between the US and Bali, decide to settle permanently in the USA. The problem, Felipe isn't American... and so the two are forced to have a quickie engagement at US Customs, before Felipe is 'technically not deported'.

They spend the next year living abroad, waiting for paperwork for his visa to be processed, and Elizabeth embarks on  a quest to discover everything she can about Marriage before giving it a second round.

So here are 7 things that I learned about marriage by reading Committed:

1) We Westerners are raised to believe that we are special, and that we all believe that the pursuit of happiness is our natural birthright, and have come to believe that our husband's (yes I should just use the word spouse here, but for me it would be husband and this is my list)... our husband's job is to make us abundantly happy. EG points out two things "Plant expectation, reap a disappointment." and as an old Italian woman once told her "Who's happy?"

2) Always, under all circumstances, listen to what old Italian women have to say, and consider it. My nana may keep telling me to just be a Pharmacist and to hurry up and get married 5 years ago... although I probably won't do either of those things, I think I understand why she wants that for me. As for "who's happy?" it's true, any person or importantly any relationship you could point to and say that is happiness, that's what I want... well from a different perspective it might not be all that great.

3) Not that we shouldn't expect our husband's to bring a great deal of happiness to our lives. We should, I mean who would want to be married to someone who makes you sad? But we shouldn't expect that to be their job, or worse, if you are unhappy as a single person, you are welcoming trouble to go into marriage believing that your new husband will suddenly give you happiness. You should never rely on someone outside of your self to provide you with happiness. It comes from within first. If you are depending on another person to provide you with happiness, you really are setting yourself up for disappointments, and you are likely going to just end up dragging that person down with you.

4) I was raised Catholic... and you know, I'm probably supposed to get married in the Church one day, before God and a Priest who will hopefully say my name correctly during the vows (At my cousin's wedding the priest called her Christina throughout the entire ceremony, despite multiple corrections to Krista... kind of takes away some of the sacredness from the sacrament no?) But I was surprised to learn that for the early days of Christianity (by early days, I mean the first 1000 years), the Church went about  trying to stamp out marriage in favor of global celibacy. As EG points out St. Jerome wrote "one should not even rightly compare virginity to marriage-because you cannot 'make a comparison between two things is one is good and the other is evil'." Or St. Paul to the Corinthians "It is not good for a man to touch a woman.", instructing all good Christians to be celibate like himself. At the end of the day, the holy sacrament of matrimony came about because it turns out you have happier Christians if you don't keep telling them their natural desires to be wed to one person are sinful, and the Church doesn't just adopt practices, it wraps them up in regulations and rules and rigidity.

5) The Church aren't the only ones to try to deny marriage over the years, not just to specific groups, or between specific groups, but even to populations as a whole. EG touches on the Soviet Union's early attempts to eliminate marriage, before scoring, changing suit, and declaring the family (married husband-wife with kids) to be the basic/foundational unit of a good communist society. But points out that regardless of who is trying to regulate marriage, it always prevails in the end. EG takes a whole chapter to elaborate on (and draw courage/belief from) the idea that marriage is fundamentally subversive.

6) Legal marriage is a social necessity. Sure you can have your own private promising ceremony, and happily live your lives together. But the fact of the matter is, that marriage can also be viewed as the biggest financial decision most of us will ever make. By choosing to live manogomously with one person, whether legally married or not, you will eventually merge financially into one unit. Unfortunately, the simple fact, married or not, not all couples will stay together for life. Legal marriage can therefor be kind of seen as registering your merger with your society, so if your two companies try to split, there is some paperwork up front to make the process easier (for society... not your hearts). If everyone were to give up on legal marriages, with our current 50% divorce rate, when half of all these couples eventually split, society might halt while we try to reach consensuses on who got together when and with what assets and whatever. And like vaccines, the 95% of people sticking to the regimens protect the 5% who don't. I don't know if I'm getting to the point here, but seriously, it turns out that things run more easily when unions are formalized and recognized.

7) Turns out mairrage is super good for men but not so much for women. EG draws the reader's attention to studies which show married men live longer, earn more money, are healthier and happier than single men. The same studies show that the opposite is true for women. Yet of the people my age, it's the ladies who are dying to get married and then men who don't even want to hear the word. Though things have been steadily improving for married women, so hopefully our generation will turn out more equality between the genders.

That's all I've got for now, at it's really just a long winded ramble about what I, an unmarried 26 year old took away from the book. However I will say it is a must read for anyone heading down the path towards marriage. You really should know what you're getting in to, and really should take the time to consider why you're making the choices you are.


  1. I started this book since I loved Eat Pray Love so much but I really could not get into it. She has a third book out too now I see, have you read that one?

    1. I almost bought a copy of it last night, but it was 20 bucks so I thought I'd better buy it online or used instead.