Using and Abusing “Eat, Pray, Love”

My son, nearly 5, and I spent all yesterday morning snuggling in bed.  Being 28 weeks into a high-risk pregnancy and on bed rest, I am completely justified in this behavior.  My son, being my only weekday, daytime companion—except when my friends visit me—is my hero for keeping me company.

We started out the morning with my son watching Tom and Jerry cartoons, his favorite, while I was reading Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia for the second time. 

I first read the memoir about two years ago for my neighborhood book club.  I’m re-reading it, very analytically this time, because its author, Elizabeth Gilbert, just released her new book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage, so I’ve recently read numerous articles promoting her new endeavor—articles that have referenced the phenomenal success of Eat, Pray, Love, which has sold 6 million copies.  As a writer working on my own memoir, Nine Days: An Unconventional Love Story, I’m constantly reading memoirs, but, other than Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, I know of few others with this level of readership.  So, I’m studying Eat, Pray, Love to try to figure out exactly, specifically why it is so over-the-top successful.

Anyway, back to our morning…  After our recorded Tom and Jerry cartoons were over, my son brought in his LeapFrog® Star Wars: The Clone Wars-branded Leapster2, which my husband and I gave him for Christmas because he pines to play video games with his older brothers, ages 14 and 15.  As a parent, I think the Leapster2 is the greatest invention, because my son feels cool playing with his hand-held video game player, yet the games themselves, such as Jedi Reading and Jedi Math, are educational.  We spent about an hour together, playing Jedi Reading, in which I helped him identify the lower-case letters needed to spell various four-letter words, like lift and soft.  While he knows all of the capital letters in the alphabet, he struggles with some of the lower-case ones, so I gladly assisted him.

When he grew tired of playing Jedi Reading, he picked up Eat, Pray, Love and, flipping through the pages, asked me to tell him the number of each page he identified.  If the page also included a chapter number, I added that too. 

When he stopped at page 134, which also features the beginning of chapter 42, I told him both numbers, then he said, “I will read this to you.”

He doesn’t know how to read anything except his name, but I said, “OK.”

Starting intently at the page, he recited, “There was a lady who walked all over the land.  Because she had a baby in her belly, she was very gassy.  Then she started ‘diarrhea-ing.’  Then she pooped everywhere.  She was 42 years old.” 

Giggling, he couldn’t continue, which I’m sure Liz Gilbert would be relieved to hear, for, while she is candid in her book about the negative side effects—some gastrointestinal (see page 41)—of her worldwide travels, she is much more eloquent than this.  And, she wasn’t pregnant.  And, she was just 34 when she traveled to the “Three I’s,” as she called them. 

After reading Eat, Pray, Love, my son decided to build a fort around my ever-expanding body.  Struggling to completely protect large me from the outside world, he had to retrieve pillows from his own room to use, in addition to the bountiful supply in mine.

When he’d finished with the fort, he decided that he was going to come into it with me, which necessitated much rearranging and the addition of a blanket.  He then announced, “Darth Vader is in here.” 

Slumping down, he lowered his voice and said, “You have to be quiet so he can’t hear us.”

Unarmed, we had no way to protect ourselves, but then my son whispered, “What this hard thing?”

“I don’t know,” I whispered back.

Feeling with his foot, then reaching down with his hand, he pulled Eat, Pray, Love out from under a stack of pillows.  Thrilled, he whispered that it would be our weapon, that we would use it to bash in Darth Vader’s brain.

Two minutes later, Darth Vader was lying on the bedroom floor, very, very dead. 

Killed by the paperback version of Eat, Pray, Love.

So, to Elizabeth Gilbert, my sincere apologies for my son not only butchering your very spiritual, inspirational, best-selling book with his potty-mouthed rendition, but also using it as an imaginary weapon of death and destruction. 

He’s only 4.  I’m on bed rest and bored.  And, he’s desperately trying to entertain me.

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