I happened to have had two things happen in the same week: I went to see the new movie Eat Pray Love and I read author Elizabeth Gilbert’s follow up to the book of the same name, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.
The book was one of the kinds I like best: mix a memoir (lots of personal experience description) with social issues and include plenty of surprising statistics (some recent favorites include Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, both by Greg Mortensen). This was one of those books.
Gilbert writes about her relationship with Felipe, the man she met in Bali near the end of Eat Pray Love. Both survivors of bitter divorces, neither ever wants to be legally bound to anyone again. However, due to U.S. immigration restrictions and the rules for non-married and non-American frequent U.S. visitors, the pair was forced into tying the knot in order to settle down together and have a home in the U.S.
Here are some of the most fascinating things I learned from Gilbert’s extensive research on the institution of marriage:
- The 50 percent divorce rate that everyone has heard of can be further broken down, and the age of the couple when they got married is the most important factor in determining whether the marriage will last. Gilbert says, “You are astonishingly more likely to get divorced if you marry in your teens or early twenties….eighteen-year-old newlyweds…have something closer to a 75 percent divorce rate (p. 123).” Couples have a better chance of staying married if they marry after age 26.
- By 2004, “unmarried women were the fastest growing demographic in the United States. A thirty-year-old woman was three times more likely to be single in 2004 than her counterpart in the 1970s….The number of households in America without children reach an all-time high in 2008 (p. 149).”
- Two and a half percent of all stay-at-home parents are dads.
Fascinating stuff, really.
As far as the movie goes, I was happy to have seen it on the big screen. The scenery is gorgeous, and so many of the shots in Italy were things I saw when I went several years ago. Bali is beautiful too, and India was loud and colorful (two good things, I think). Now that I have a visual on the movie version of Felipe, I like him even more than I did in the books. I have to say, though, that as much as I enjoy Julia Roberts movies, I wasn’t quite sure she was the right choice to play Elizabeth Gilbert (I was wrong; I thought she was lovely), much in the same way I thought Tom Hanks wasn’t right as Robert Langdon in Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code (I still have that opinion). Overall, I enjoyed the movie very much. It was a great way to spend a couple hours on a hot Sunday afternoon.
So I enjoyed both of these books, though one really shouldn’t expect Committed to be as beautifully written, to have much (if any) spirituality included or be much about a deep, personal journey. What I’d really love to read is a third that shows how the marriage is going for Gilbert and Felipe, the anti-marriage married couple. I hope that’s what’s up next for Gilbert.
(**My apologies - I'm not sure what's going on with my font!)