The other night at school pick-up, a knot of mothers were idly chatting when I threw the conversational grenade of Eat Pray Love in the mix. Strangely enough, (at least to me), I was the only woman in the group who had read this culture-dominating memoir. But as I explained the concept – a kind of self-seeking journey, not to mention sabbatical from one’s established life – all of the women started chatting excitedly. One woman, in particular, recounted a solo trip from the previous year when she was “no one’s mother, wife, daughter or employee.” She then reeled off a list of qualities that seemed to surface when she was liberated from her usual roles and responsibilities. “I was WITTY,” she emphasized – all dramatic big eyes and self-deprecating laugh.
It stuck in my mind, maybe because the one overriding memory from my Blog-camping weekend in Berlin is the laughter, the constant laughter. It was the kind of bodily laughter that inhibits speech and makes your sides ache. I don’t know if a lot of wit was involved, at least on my part, but certainly I was silly, irreverent and raunchy – qualities that don’t get a lot of play in my “normal” life.
Is laughter what happens when you take six intelligent women and liberate them from the responsibility of feeding people three times a day? Was it glorious alchemy, or just the heady oxygen of having more space to breathe freely? I’d like to think it was more than the shot of ouzo that Julochka coerced me into imbibing after I had already, ahem, had enough. “What are you going to remember?” is her motto.
As autumn descends like one great gray wet blanket, I’ve been musing on why there is too little laughter in my daily routine. What is there about normal life that smothers it?