Friday, September 09, 2016

The final descent of EPL

In 2006 a bestselling book appeared called Eat Pray Love:
At 32 years old, Elizabeth Gilbert was educated, had a home, a husband, and a successful career as a writer. She was, however, unhappy in her marriage and initiated a divorce. She then embarked on a rebound relationship that did not work out, leaving her devastated and alone. After finalizing her difficult divorce, she spent the next year traveling the world.

She spent four months in Italy, eating and enjoying life ("Eat"). She spent three months in India, finding her spirituality ("Pray"). She ended the year in Bali, Indonesia, looking for "balance" of the two and fell in love with a Brazilian businessman ("Love").

The book was a kind of divorce fantasy, in which Elizabeth Gilbert left her decent husband to have adventures before finally happily remarrying.

But the reality of Elizabeth Gilbert's life has not matched the fantasy. She has not only divorced her second husband, she has gone off men altogether and now has a female partner.

Is this a divorce story for women to buy into? Isn't it yet another example of the failure of the sexual revolution to improve the lives of women?

Traditional Western societies emphasised the ordering of our sexual and emotional impulses to the good of marriage and family life. That was not only good for society and for children but it was also the best way to preserve our individual capacity for a trusting and loving relationship (to pair bond). For centuries, marriage was opposed by those who believed in "free love" - which meant following your emotional and sexual impulses around from person to person, rather than ordering them toward upholding marriage. But the evidence that is now accruing from the sexual revolution is that this "liberation" ( or disordering) of our sexual and emotional impulses doesn't lead to growth and development but to large numbers of jaded middle-aged people who lose a sense of love and admiration for the opposite sex.

It has also led to a lack of prudence in relationships. For instance, there is now a belief that relationships involve an open-ended pursuit of a person who fulfils all our needs. One of the best known dating coaches, Even Marc Katz, has criticised this attitude amongst his female clients:

So it should be no surprise that Eat, Pray, Love has been on my mind recently. Not just because all of my clients feel inspired by it, but because of its billboard campaign for the movie, which reads:

“You Don’t Need a Man. You Need a Champion.”

You hold out for your hero.

We’ll hold out for our Supermodel/Top Chef/Rhodes Scholar.

And all of us will end up alone because there’s nobody that fits the bill. The end!

Not a very happy ending, is it?

Yes, I’m teasing about the billboard, but although my example may be a bit hyperbolic, it’s not that far from the truth.

Men really DO want the Supermodel/Top Chef/Rhodes Scholar.

Women really DO want a hero and a champion.

And yet, in order to find happiness, we both must relax our fantasies a little bit.

Not because they don’t feel great. They do.

The reason to relax your fantasies is because they’re unrealistic, and they almost invariably lead to disappointment.

...The message of this blog post isn’t about settling. It’s not about being with a man you can barely tolerate. It’s about the expectation of what a man is capable of delivering.

...Listen, as a dating coach, my job is to help you find happiness in your love life.

Because of this role, I have a unique access to your inner world. You might even say that I often understand you better than your own boyfriend.

Which is why it’s very easy for me to observe that your expectations of men are RARELY met.

...I usually hear something like this:

“I don’t know, Evan. I just don’t feel INSPIRED by him.”

Come again?

“I want to feel that thing in the pit of my stomach. To get nervous when he calls. To admire him and think about him all the time when we’re not together.”

You realize that every time you’ve had that feeling, it’s never worked out, right?

“Yes, but I can’t help how I feel.”

Fair enough.

Just know that, percentage-wise, the number of men who are cute, smart, kind, tall, funny, generous, ambitious, successful, and family-oriented is minuscule.

Now you want to add in “inspirational?”

You know how many men are left?

That’s okay. Neither do I.

The message of this blog post isn’t about settling. It’s not about being with a man you can barely tolerate.

It’s about the expectation of what a man is capable of delivering.

There are millions upon millions of decent looking, thoughtful, bright, solid men who want to marry you, cherish you, build a family, and create a life together.

If only you would love them and accept them.

Believe me, nobody wants you to achieve your dreams more than I do.

But if you’re holding out for a hero, yet no guy ever fits the bill (and also sticks around!), it may be time to act like Bill, who finally gave up on his Angelina Jolie fantasy and is thrilled to have found YOU.

This is how a man finds love. By accepting all that you are, imperfections included.

You need to do the same with him.

The emphasis is no longer on the idea that "I need to cultivate these moral qualities in myself in order to be a good husband/wife/father/mother" but instead on a flight of fantasy in which some other person is so perfect that they will inspire us to live perpetually in a state of "falling in love" (and intuit our needs, keep us feeling spiritually fulfilled, give us higher social status than anyone else etc.)

As women move from man to man, and as they become older and more jaded, they are likely to experience a decline in what men are willing to offer them and a decline in their own ability to pair bond. There most likely won't be personal growth and development but a psychological closing of doors.


  1. The media really has dropped the ball on this one: hold that woman up as an example of what women can get when they don't settle, yet ignore the final outcome as though it doesn't matter.

  2. My girlfriend read about that EPL chick divorcing her second husband to be with her best friend who's got cancer, and as a woman she said "She did it because she's planning on getting another book out of it".

    I think that's true.

    1. My first thought as well.

      She actually received an advance on the first book. The months in Italy, India & Indinesia were paid for in full in advance. The story came later.

      I don't know any women who could afford a year like that.

  3. Excellent post.

    Eat, Pray, Love, has always struck me as the height of feminist decadence. Elizabeth Gilbert travels around for a year, has some surface contact with culture and 'spirituality,' and then, having found 'love,' is supposed to have solved the problems of her life.

    I was astounded that anyone would believe that. Yet the book was a bestseller.

    It sounds to me like she did exactly one thing: followed her feelings like a female college student on spring break. She didn't think: she just felt. She went to Italy and ate: doubtless that felt good. She went to India, and probably found some superficial peace through meditation. Then she went to Bali, found a man, had a rushing sense of love and excitement, and married him.

    Then it fell apart. And instead of processing it rationally, she just decided to give up on men.

    Her whole message to women seems to be "Follow your emotions, wherever they lead." Instead of telling women to intelligently get in touch with their emotions, and to live like healthy women, her message is to go all in for a kind of tyranny of emotions. Instead of a healthy connection to their feelings, she wants women to enslave themselves to their emotions. Whatever feels right _is_ right. Whatever feels wrong _is_ wrong.

    It's amazing that such a woman is held to be an authority on relationships and life for women.

  4. Over the years I've met, and banged, a lot of these sorts of women at local wine bars. It's not bad as far as it goes. They divorce to seek liberation, but instead find themselves trapped. They're easy targets for men. The level of addiction and self-abuse among these sad women mostly goes unreported. Cats, alcohol, and medication. That's their future.

    1. Even though the cats get to be sheltered and fed, I can't help feeling sorry for them...

  5. I think that when confronted with evidence like this, the cultural left simply moves the goalposts. They would say that results don't matter, that it doesn't matter that Gilbert is ostensibly worse off now, that pursuing autonomous self-actualization didn't actually improve her life, that what is more important is that she was able to pursue it.

    There was a discussion on a liberal-leaning message board I sometimes lurk on, about whether women are better off now than they were in the past. Several posters presented evidence from various surveys and social science studies that women are in fact less happy on average today, than they were in the allegedly bad old days of the 1950s when they tended to be housewives and to have less opportunity to pursue self-actualizing careers. Their interlocutors effectively replied, "it doesn't matter if they were happier in the past, because they were oppressed. Being free is more important than being happy."

    1. Yes, I've seen arguments like this from the left. Sometimes they say "Some people have a hard time adjusting to change and are less happy but it will be for the best in the long run" or else they say "We never promised to make people happy, freedom doesn't necessarily make people happy, but it's what we should aim at." I've seen older feminists berate younger feminists for being "ungrateful" for complaining about loss of opportunities for family life.

    2. Another way of looking at it is that, although Hell is a very unpleasant place, the important thing is that one gets there.

  6. Mr. Richardson, have you ever read Dr. E. Michael Jones's book Libido Dominandi? If not I would highly recommend it, I believe that you would find it very interesting.