Subtitled “A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage”, Gilbert’s book picks up with life after her bestselling memoir, which recounted her love affair with a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship living in Indonesia with business ties to America (if that’s not global citizenry, I don’t know what is) and I never read. As survivors of bad divorces, Gilbert and Felipe have sworn to never marry. The U.S. government has other ideas, though. The couple can either get married, or Felipe will never be allowed to enter the country again. Deciding that marriage is their only option, Gilbert decides to tackle her fears of marriage by researching the subject to death.
“In the modern industrialized Western world, where I come from, the person whom you choose to marry is perhaps the single most vivid representation of your own personality. Your spouse becomes the most gleaming possible mirror through which your emotional individualism is reflected back to the world. There is no choice more intensely personal, after all, than whom you choose to marry; that choice tells us, to a large extent, who you are.” (pg. 35)
This book is really two different books — an anthropological examination of the institution of marriage and a personal examination of a relationship. The later of which I will review in a moment, but first I want to address Gilbert’s relationship. “Reviewing” their relationship feels kind of uncomfortable; I’m not friends with Gilbert and I don’t personally know her or Felipe. I’ll listen to my friends’ relationship troubles and dispense advice morning, noon, and night, but evaluating a relationship from which I only have one person’s view seems terribly unfair. I’ve tried to refrain from doing so yet there are moments where found myself saying “no, no, no!”.
One of my biggest peeves about this premise of this book was that Gilbert and Felipe didn’t “have” to get married — they could have gone to Australia or lived out their lives in Southeast Asia — and (spoiler alert!), while they didn’t have a government-sanctioned wedding, they did exchange rings long before Homeland Security stepped in. It seems terribly unfair to confess this at the end of the book after going on and on about how much of a skeptic you are about marriage. I felt cheated somehow.
“Marriage becomes hard work once you have poured the entirety of your life’s expectations for happiness into the hands of one mere person. Keeping that going is hard work.” (pg. 48)
The second section of this book was exactly what I needed it to be. I, myself, am a bit of skeptic about marriage. I’ve had great role models when it comes to marriage but having never been in a relationship, I can’t even imagine joining myself to someone for life. I’m not a particularly religious person so I have no religious need for marriage. I also can’t imagine participating in an action that my friends and loved ones are excluded from. (Don’t forget that Gilbert and Felipe would never have had their path towards being together had they been a homosexual couple.) I guess I needed this part of Gilbert’s book to help me sort through my own feelings about marriage. And for that reason alone I’m glad I read this book.
- Gilbert, Elizabeth. Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. New York: Viking, 2010. Print. 285 pgs. ISBN: 9781101189832. Source: Purchased.