Bless her heart, Elizabeth Gilbert had to fill her own literary shoes after the success of Eat, Pray, Love, and I can't blame her for her trepidation. While Committed is no Eat, Pray, Love, it's delightful in its own way.
Marriage, as I'm sure you know, is frightening for a lot of folks. The statistics are overwhelmingly dismal; the politics of marriage are worse. That's why it struck me as horrid when the United States Department of Homeland Security insisted that if Gilbert wanted to be with her Felipe, they had no choice but to get married in order to handle the issue of his ability to come and go from the United States.
Why is the Department of Homeland Security weighing in on the marriage issue? Regardless, it sent Gilbert into a right tizzy, and well it might. Nothing like having orange alerts about marriage anyway, but then to tell you that the love of your life is illegal and the only way to fix it is to tie the knot!
So, Gilbert, intrepid soul-explorer that she is, began to ask questions about marriage. The first, and most powerful place that she starts is with the admission that she has no idea what marriage is. "I don't know" are the three most powerful words in English, dear one. Like all A students, Gilbert begins to read about marriage -- what it is, what it isn't, its history, how it's changed.
Then she starts to interview women during her travels with Felipe whilst awaiting something, anything, from the Department of Homeland Security. She interviews women in Vietnam, her own family, and friends. Everyone has their own opinion -- naturally -- and they all differ.
In turn, Gilbert is terrified -- terrified that "love and marriage don't go together like a horse and carriage, but instead love and divorce go together like a carriage and a horse."
Gilbert and Felipe are traveling through Southeast Asia, using their two highly differing styles of travel, when Gilbert falls into a mad chase through marital statistics that had me laughing out loud. Statistics do not make a marriage. Marriages are made via daily choices: choices for kindness, gentleness, truth, honor and forgiveness.
Finally Gilbert figures out what her major trouble is. She's a Greek (not a Hebrew). "Our legal code is mostly Greek; our moral code is mostly Hebrew. We have no way of thinking about independence and intellect and the sanctity of the individual that is not Greek. We have no way of thinking about righteousness and God's will that is not Hebrew. Our sense of fairness is Greek; our sense of justice is Hebrew." Most of us in the West fall on the Greek side as well.
She addresses our ideas of love as a hopeless combination of both, and then gets to the bottom line about marriage. People invented marriage. "To somehow suggest that society invented marriage, and then forced human beings to bond with each other, is perhaps absurd. It's like suggesting that society invented dentists, and then forced people to grow teeth." Nope, "couples invented marriage."
Long, sweet story, a little shorter: They buy a house sight unseen in New Jersey. The U. S. government finally gets it together. Gilbert and Felipe get married, and they lived exactly the way they want to, in their own marriage, which is what we all end up doing anyway.
I thoroughly enjoyed Gilbert's writing and musing. Read Committed -- it'll make you think about marriage, if you're curious, or about your own marriage, if you're stuck.