Can men and women really be friends?

It’s the age-old question. Debated amongst many.

I caught “When Harry Met Sally” on cable the other night (it was a Monday, the only night a week I am home by myself, sans boyfriend or work events).

I guess the movie “proves” that men and women can never be 100% friends – the potential for them to be more is always there, regardless of platonic behavior. The curiosity of what it would be like to date your friend ducks in and out of the edges of possibility, whether you intend to act on it or not.

It got me thinking about all of my past significant relationships. Every single one of them, including my marriage, started with friendship. My ex-husband and I were good friends for three years in college before we started dating our senior year. Neither one of had a crush on the other previously; we both agreed our feelings had been strictly platonic. And they were. But the potential for the chemistry to shift with the wind was always there, whether we knew it or not. My ex-cub and I were friends first too – but with some benefits (perhaps therein lies the…uh…rub).

With both those relationships, my sister had said, “It’s like ‘When Harry Met Sally!’” implying that those relationships were sure to last. It gave me comfort, and the assurance that relationships that begin with friendship are the best kind. You already know one another, and since you’re not trying to woo the other person you are free to be yourself.  So naturally a relationship that starts in that manner trumps a relationship that starts where romantic options are in plain sight, where you calculatedly reveal parts of yourself over time.

But does it? Does starting a relationship with friendship actually insure its longevity and strength?
I wrote a post supporting this theory just a few months ago. My ex-cub and I had just broken up and I was braving the dating trenches. I couldn’t figure out how I could enter into a relationship with someone where our agendas distorted our perception of one another. I believed that I’d have better luck falling in love with someone I already knew, or met in a platonic fashion. I thought I would need to discover that I loved them over time, the way it happened for Harry and Sally.
My boyfriend and I had an intense talk the other day, where we discussed deeper issues and what is important to us long term. Afterwards, it dawned on me that this kind of conversation might never have occurred had we been friends first. We would have assumed we knew those things about eachother already. But are those kinds of assumptions a short cut around really digging deep into what makes the other person tick? Are they detours around the hard work that inevitably makes your foundation stronger, and your love for one another heartier?
After our talk, I felt a newfound surge of love, one that felt more expansive and sustainable than what I had felt before. I realized that in this relationship, one in which we were not friends first, our friendship gets to grow alongside, or inside, our romantic one.

This time, no one can exclaim, “It’s like ‘When Harry Met Sally!’”

And I’m a lot more comfortable with that.

Eat Pray Love to get those two hours of my life back.

I realize I’m way late in the game. Eat Pray Love has been out for over two weeks and reviewed ad-nauseum. I haven’t read the reviews though. I wanted to see it for myself. I suspected I might dislike it, but based on my own experience “healing and growing” post divorce, I assumed that at the very least it would make me emotional, as it had for some of my girlfriends.  I ended up hating it. It actually made me angry.
Reading the book was by far a more relatable and moving experience. Elizabeth Gilbert chose the memoir as the right vehicle to convey her personal journey – words on a page. Her self-deprecating humor, her candor – her voice – allowed me to connect with her story. But on screen?  The power of her voice is lost, there is no humor, and very little poignancy.  It was impossible for me to feel sorry for her character. Five minutes into the movie, after we see her at an upscale party in Manhattan with her handsome (if not, goofy) husband, she breaks down in crying jags asking God for help. “Save me from all this,” she moans. From what, exactly? 
I don’t mean to sound glib. I understand the pain of divorce; the fear and regrets that you’ve mistakenly pulled the rip cord on your life, and hurt people you love. This happened to Liz Gilbert. And in the book, it works. But come on Hollywood, this is a movie! I almost wished they made up some stakes for Liz, for drama’s sake. Couldn’t her husband have been abusive, or lost all of their money? Couldn’t he have cheated? Couldn’t she? Although I suspect that in the real story (which is not revealed even in the book), she does. My theory is that she leaves him for David.  This missing, yet vital piece of information – which would help to explain the depth of Liz’s grief – bugged me when I read the book too, but the issue is more prominent on screen.  Where, exactly, is all this grief really coming from? You don’t have kids. You can support yourself. Your husband gave you the divorce pretty quickly. So then, what is it? Are we supposed to believe that it’s really not all that deep – she’s simply immature and on a self-indulgent quest to snap out of it? Again, I know that in real life, divorce is brutal and these things are nuanced. We women can torture ourselves plenty; we don’t necessarily need an external force’s help. But, for the sake of the movie, we need to relate to the main character. If we can’t connect with our protagonist, in the span of a movie moment, then what exactly is the point?
Also, I know this is a shocking revelation, but Julia looks very pretty. She is desirable, funny, and makes friends wherever she goes. This conveys the message that divorce is fun! Especially if you’re hot. (If you’re not, don’t you dare try it). If you’re as cute (and witty) as Julia, tall and lithe no matter how much pizza you pig out on in Napoli, I say, sign me up! I wish I knew about the Eat Pray Love divorce cruise before my husband and I split. It would have been so much more appealing than being forced to stay put, work during the day while crying myself to sleep at night, after getting guilt inducing phone calls from my sobbing ex.  
I found it curious that the movie totally neglected to mention that she’s writing a book at all, which in my opinion was a lost opportunity. Nor is it said that Liz’s travels were pre-paid for by Penguin Books. Fancy negligee in a Rome storefront? Easy. A jaunt to a luxurious abode in Bali? No prob. Even when you get driven off the road upon arrival, the driver is gorgeous, and promptly falls in love with you too. I hear there are now Eat Pray Love tours in Bali. I wonder if you have to show your divorce papers in order to apply.
The real question is, why does its badness piss me off? What’s thirteen bucks and two and a half hours? At least I had popcorn.  I’ve looked inward and here is my conclusion.  It’s not the obvious: that I’m jealous or bitter of Liz’s success, or that I feel that she’s romanticized divorce and marketed it for public consumption. I believe she wrote the book from the heart, and probably, wisely, left out a few things she wasn’t comfortable confronting at the time.
It’s the Hollywood machine that angers me. I used to be a part of its complicated inner workings. It chewed me up, and I fled, before it had the chance to spit me out. Since then, I watch movies from a different perspective. I choose to escape, to be moved – rather than bored – to tears. But mostly, I hope to watch man triumph over adversity. Just give me a little bit of that – even a smidge – and I’m good.

Scent of a (divorced) woman: "Eat Pray Love" - now selling perfume?

When Elizabeth Gilbert’s, “Eat Pray Love” first came out, I felt as if it had been written for me. I had just entered into my own Gilbertian phase post marriage, and I believed that I had found this book, and that it had found me. Reading about the author’s grief and depression in the aftermath of a brutal separation from her husband made me feel like I wasn’t the alien I thought I was. There was another woman out there who felt hopelessly out of her mind too. I was not alone.

One of my best friends was also divorced, and we quoted that book as if it were our bible. Soon after, the book caught on like wildfire, and everyone was talking about it. I had already begun to embark on my own little healing journey, and, like Gilbert, I had started writing my own kind of marriage in crisis novel, “The Virgin Wife” (except mine is fiction…insert air quotes here). But unlike Gilbert, my healing travels stretched from my apartment to the local bar, then back to my apartment to iChat my girlfriend, then back out to meet up with friends who tolerated my woe is me prattling (thanks again guys!). I had begun to become disenchanted with Gilbert’s tale, and the fact that because she was already a published author, she had been able to pre-sell her soul searching to Penguin Books, and use those earnings to travel and write some more. I wondered, how would she have coped if she had not been able to escape abroad? If she was forced to stay put, hold down a job, and risk running into her exes at the grocery, as I suspect the majority of women post divorce must do. I, for one, had no appetite for food or money for travel, and scowled at women with yoga mats. I was more in the “Can’t Eat, Won’t Pray, and Who the Fuck Needs Love” camp. I started to feel like an alien all over again.

When I completed the first draft of my novel, it dawned on me that each of us requires a different balm to heal our individual wounds. For me, the salve was writing a novel about a woman’s marriage before divorce, and for Gilbert, it was telling of its aftermath. For some women, maybe it’s poetry, or therapy, or road tripping, or.. tripping, or quickly remarrying, or meditation, or moving to another city and starting over. Or all of the above. I guess we all have to find “our thing.”

The movie is coming out on August 13, and I was waiting until then to blog on this subject and my thoughts on the book. But then today, after a visit to the farmer’s market, I walked by the perfume store “Fresh,” and stopped in my tracks when I learned that they’re doing a merchandising tie in with the book. What a strange partnership, I thought. Scents that smell like what, linguine? Unshowered ashram dwellers? Or, a depressed divorced woman? Ew! Hasn’t this whole Eat Pray phenomenon gone too far?

I was holding a gorgeous bouquet of flowers I had just bought (I’m not sure what they’re called, I just liked that they were purple), and paused for some reason to look at them again. It struck me that this flower and vase-buying pastime was new for me. I had started doing it recently; it brightened up my apartment and my day. Back when I was in a difficult place emotionally, I believed it wasteful to spend money on something that I knew was going to die in a just a few days. But now, I can enjoy their beauty and scent for as long as they last, until they fade. Because that works for me. Maybe that’s the purpose of the “Eat Pray Love” scents. Isn’t it true that perfume, when mixed with an individual’s skin, takes on a distinctly unique smell? Every scent smells different on everyone.

So I guess when it comes to scents – as with healing – the moral of this story is, to each his own.