What’s NOT to love about Julia? She was smart, talented, irrepressible, charming, adventurous, and larger than life — both literally and metaphorically. She lived life with gusto.
But here’s the deal. I think the reason women of all ages are thronging to rediscover this black-and-white TV star is this: She wasn’t the “pretty” girl.
She was the 6’2″ girl. The one who cleaned up “pretty good, but not great.” As she and her 6’4″ sister explain to husband Paul in the movie: From the beginning you’re “too tall” to fit in, so you don’t [bother to fit in].
Most women are told that they are “misfits” in some way — too tall, too large, too smart, too plain, too assertive, the list goes on and on. What’s so endearing and inspiring and energizing about Julia Child’s story is that she wasted not a nanosecond trying to fit in. She focused her time and energy grasping for more life, despite all the cultural and paternal strictures otherwise. (Her father was a deeply disapproving conservative McCarthyite.)
Julia reminds me that the right question to ask isn’t “How can I fit in?” but rather “What befits me?”
PS — In preparation to see the movie “Julie and Julia,” I read Child’s own memoir, My Life in France. (You can take the girl out of academia, but you can’t take academia out of the girl. I always go to the primary source. Her correspondence is next on my reading list.)
My next BookWisdom salon at BookWoman bookstore (Austin) will focus on women’s memoirs. We’ll discuss My Life in France as well as memoirs by Isadora Duncan, Jane Fonda, and May Sarton. We’ll meet up at 7pm on November 10. Hope to see you there to hear what you have to say about the books!