I am listening to Julie and Julia on audiobook, and there is suddenly a strange little musical interlude. Some jazzy little bit, out of nowhere, having nothing to do with anything. Since I have the abridged version, perhaps this interlude is letting me know that there should be more at this point but I don’t get to hear it. “Ha HA,” it’s saying. I tend to avoid the abridged, but Julie herself reads this version, and I do like her voice.
I’ve been avoiding actually reading the book, fearing that my realization that the Eric Powell of Julie and Eric Powell is actually someone I know will make hearing the details of their marital issues a little uncomfortable. And it’s true, it does – both because I know him and because MAN do I love hearing about other people’s lives. The fact that I get this much enjoyment out of essentially spying on a friend is awkward.
When I saw the movie, I had no idea the story involved anyone I knew. Scott and I saw it together, rushing straight to Barnes and Noble for the cookbook afterwards. The two of us spent some time trying to figure out:
- How to make this blog read by hundreds and hundreds, ensuring my fame and popularity and reputation as a hilarious and brilliant social critic, leading to wealth and fame and someone adorable playing me on screen, preferably Maggie Gyllehnall
2. What kind of year-long project we could possibly take on in order to assure this inevitability.
“There’s nothing I can think of,” Scott moaned. “I guess … in a year … I could make a whole ZOO of balloon animals!”
Eric and I went to college together, and we weren’t actually friends. We knew of each other, we had some mutual friends, he lived down the hall at one point. We became friends at our 10 year reunion: both of us had married our high school sweethearts, and both of us were watching our marriages fall apart. We didn’t discuss specifics, but we found each other, and it was comforting. It’s different, when you’ve been with someone since you were 15.
A couple of weeks after seeing the movie, I was lurking about on Facebook and saw that a Julie Powell had left a comment on my friend Michael’s page. “Whoah,” I thought. “How does Michael know Julie Powell?” I clicked to her profile, which was private – but showed our friends-in-common. “Hey!” I thought. “Eric knows her too!” Pause. “Eric … Powell.” Pause. “Like in the movie.” Pause.
I remembered the last time I had seen Eric, a year or so ago. He had mentioned that his wife had written a book. He had mentioned that the book had been optioned. It was going to be weird, he said, because a lot of the book was about their lives.
Surely, though, if one’s book is being made into a movie with MERYL STREEP – surely, one mentions that.
I started googling “Julie Powell”, “Julie and Eric Powell”, and “the real Eric and Julie Powell.” And yup, there’s Eric. Huh. This movie, this story, this was about someone I knew.
The movie, of course, focused on the blog, on the cooking, on Julia Child herself. There was an allusion to marital distress, but the down and dirty was left out. And now I’m listening, in Julie’s voice, to the marriage issues I didn’t hear the details of at Vassar five years ago.
One of my closest friends found out last month that her husband just ended a three-year affair. She doesn’t know what to do. She’s in the kind of distress that hurts to just hear about. I’m three thousand miles away and don’t know what to tell her.
Since that reunion, my marriage has ended, and Eric’s is doing quite well. This is something, honestly, I cling to – relationships can make it. “Here’s what’s happened to my friend,” I emailed him a few days ago. “This is awkward and personal, but is there anything you can tell me that I can pass on?” “Remember that nothing is as bleak as it seems now,” he replied.
I’m heading to my next reunion in about twelve hours. Five years ago, when I last saw this campus and these people, I wasn’t doing terribly well. I was in the death-throes of a fifteen-year relationship. I looked terrible. That’s changed. In fact, everything’s changed. All that was true – I lived in California, I was a teacher – all these things have changed, not just that which was unhappy.
There are days when I think, I am 36, what am I doing? Is this my life?
There are days I think, I am 36, and this is my life. This is what I’m doing.