What Comes After the Eating, the Praying and the Loving?
LK: While the book is fundamentally about marriage, you are also quite frank about not wanting children, which had been a big problem in your first marriage. How did you reach that decision?
LG: Where other women hear that tick, tick, tick and they're like, Must have baby, for me, it was like, tick, tick, tick, boom. [Laughs] It was a biological clock, but it was attached to a bunch of C-4 explosives. I've often thought that if I had been married to somebody who wanted to be a mom, I could have done it. I used to say, "Man, I think I'd be a really good dad. I'll be a great provider. I'm funny; I'll go on trips with them—I'll do all sorts of stuff." But the momming? I'm not made for that. I have a really good mom; I know what she put into it. I didn't think I had the support to both have that and continue on this path that was really important to me. I wasn't married to a man who wanted to stay home and raise kids. So.
LK: You tell a story in the book that is pivotal for you, about your grandmother. She was born with a cleft palate and thought to be unmarriageable, so she got an education and took care of herself, one day rewarding herself with a $20 fur-trimmed, wine-colored coat, which she adored. Eventually she does marry. And when she gives birth to her first daughter, she cuts up the coat to make something for the child.
LG: That's the story of motherhood, in a large way. You take the thing that is most precious to you, and you cut it up and give it to somebody else who you love more than you love the thing. And we tend to idealize that, and I'm not sure we should. Because the sacrifice that it symbolizes is also huge. Her marriage and her seven children, in a life of constant struggle and deprivation—it was heavy. And that beautiful mind, that beautiful intellect, that exquisite sense of curiosity and exploration, was gone. I went to Africa when I was 19, and when I came back, I was showing her pictures. And I remember her stopping me and just—she had to collect herself. And she said, "I cannot believe that a granddaughter of mine has been to Africa. I just can't imagine how you got there." I think that her story is so central to my story. To be able to choose the shape of your own life—you sort of must do that, as an act of honor to those who couldn't. There were times, especially when I was traveling for Eat, Pray, Love, when, I swear to God, I would feel this weight of my female ancestors, all those Swedish farmwives from beyond the grave who were like, "Go! Go to Naples! Eat more pizza! Go to India, ride an elephant! Do it! Swim in the Indian Ocean. Read those books. Learn a language. Do it!" I could just feel them. They were just like, "Go beat the drum."
LK: There is a great part in the book when you describe how you knew your feelings for Felipe weren't just infatuation: "I did not demand that he become my Great Emancipator or my Source of All Life, nor did I immediately vanish into that man's chest cavity like a twisted, unrecognizable, parasitical homunculus."
LG: Like that little creature in Alien. [Laughs] Yeah. I'm very grateful not to be in that.