Thursday, July 29, 2010

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert would make a good reference librarian! She has a nose for research and a natural curiosity. I'm sure most of you have heard what a difficult time she and her Brazilian-born beloved, Felipe had with immigration, a situation which at first put them into exile and then catapulted them towards legal marriage. To say that the previously divorced Gilbert had a full-tilt case of premarital jitters would be an understatement. She and Felipe had already had a private ceremony with eternal vows, so in truth she was already married in her heart. It was the legal, financial and bureaucratic aspects of marriage that gave her the heebie-jeebies. Three times married myself, I have to say, I could relate....

So Gilbert took it upon herself to research the subject of marriage, and turned it into Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. No, it's not another Eat, Pray, Love. It's a different kind of book altogether, a mix of memoir and her findings on the institution of marriage. At first I felt a little unsettled by this methodology, wanting more of the scoop on her relationship. But then I settled in and found it absolutely fascinating.

For instance, she presents the "Dads or Cads" theory, a DNA variation related to the vasopressin receptor gene , which makes men either trustworthy, monogamous and reliable or decidedly not. She pores over statistics related to the "marriage benefit imbalance", in which men make out better than women once the vows are said. Gilbert drops in on families in Southeast Asia, fascinated by their marital customs. Never having been a mother, she ruminates on the need for what she calls "the Auntie Brigade", and gives aunties some long overdue kudos. She points out marriage's tendency to tame the wild, comparing it to a bonsai tree. Thank you, Elizabeth, for doing all that research so I don't have to, and for pulling together all the most colorful and telling bits.

By book's end, Felipe and Elizabeth cross all their immigration hurdles and manage to lash their lifeboats together, no surprise. They live in a small renovated church in new Jersey (isn't that cool?). I've enjoyed watching some Internet movie clips of Gilbert speaking, including this one on nurturing creativity. She has such a natural, unassuming manner on stage. And I can't wait to see the movie version of Eat, Love, Pray (in theaters August 13, 2010). As far as I'm concerned, Julia Roberts and Elizabeth Gilbert should BOTH be called America's Sweethearts.

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