At first glance, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love doesn’t sound like something I would enjoy – a self-indulgent American embarking upon a spiritual journey to ‘find herself’. And yet somehow I’ve found myself drawn in by the hype and, faced with a buy-one-get-one-half-price offer in WH Smiths, I simply couldn’t refuse.
Starting the book this morning, I felt instantly drawn in by Gilbert. I read in another review that it is difficult to feel empathy with a woman who essentially goes on an extended holiday, but I think we do identify with her. In her desperate realisation that everything she has worked towards her whole life – the husband, children and nice house in the suburbs – she no longer wants, she speaks for every woman who has ever been unsatisfied with her life without knowing why. And this, is it not, is woman’s greatest intrigue and flaw. Like Gilbert, I too have had a boy ask me in an exasperated tone, ‘What’s wrong now?’, and have only been able to sob ‘I don’t know’ through my tears in response. We are crippled by our desire to do and have everything all at once – career, children, fun, fulfilment – and embody conflicting roles.
Whereas for men, it always seems so much more simple. They decide what they want and do it. I, on the other hand, both want to go traveling and start my career. I wanted by boyfriend to ask me to go traveling with him, yet I didn’t want to wait a year for him to finish his master’s and ultimately knew going as a couple wouldn’t have worked. As a result, I am left seething with resentment and jealousy that he is going with a friend, even though I am perfectly aware this is entirely unfair.
In the film PS. I Love You, Daniel asks Holly, ‘What do women want?’, and she replies in a whisper, ‘We have no idea’. In truth, I’m not sure if we’ll ever know. It’s in our nature to over-analyse everything – every text message, conversation and decision – and while that has been the downfall of many a budding relationship (How long should I wait to text him back? What is he trying to say by putting one kiss at the end? Answer: nothing), I can’t see it changing any time soon. It’s part of our (infuriating but hopefully loveable) appeal.