Finally saw Julie and Julia last night. As a food blogger with a government job, I had several friends tell me they thought of me as they watched it and insisted that I see it right away. I had read both books in the past – feeling rather meh and a little jealous of the author of Julie and Julia, but absolutely loved and devoured Julia Child’s My Life in France in one day.
As in most reviews, I liked the Julia Child parts of the movie better than the Julie parts. But then about halfway through, I angrily hit stop and refused to watch a minute more.
Let’s rewind a bit to this past summer. I was feeling a bit lost and sorry for myself. Turning 35 didn’t bother me, nor did 36, but there is something about being 37 that is striking a nerve in a way that I just don’t like. I don’t feel like I’ve really found my path yet, and while I have huge pieces of the puzzle in place – wonderful husband, great friends, a lovely house, I find myself struggling to get my creative life in gear. We don’t want kids and are proudly child-free, but this has been the year that almost everyone we know is either pregnant or has just given birth, leaving us feeling left out. Plus, a lot of people don’t understand our decision and either tell us that we’re fooling ourselves and will change our minds, or worse, pity us.
One day I picked up My Life in France at a used bookstore and read it, cover to cover. I got a little choked up as I described it to Jeff. I didn’t really know that much about Julia Child before reading her book but learned that she was 37 when she moved to Paris and figured out what she wanted to do with her life. She and her husband didn’t have any children, which is not dealt with in any great depth in her memoir, but handled briefly in two places, sketched in just a few sentences. The distinct impression that I got was that they really didn’t mind not having children. Finally, I had found in Julia Child a food loving, child-free late bloomer that I could look up to in a society obsessed with youthful accomplishments and all things children.
The scene in the movie that made me hit stop was brief. Julia reads aloud from a letter that her sister is pregnant, begins to cry and her husband puts his arms around her in a tender, sympathetic embrace. Oh, eff off, Nora Ephron. So the only reason that Julia Child becomes Julia Child is because she was rumoured to be infertile? In truth, nobody actually knows why they didn’t have children, and really, it’s nobody’s business (which doesn’t stop it from being one of the most popular google searches regarding her).
What I do know, from reading her book, is that the two of them enjoyed each other and their lives immensely and I never got the sense that her lifelong love of food and drive to create the best book about French cooking written in English had anything to do with trying to fill up a gaping, childless hole in her life. The movie didn’t need that scene. It’s editorializing and making assumptions in an awfully careless way, perpetuating the idea that a woman is only truly fulfilled if she has children, and all other paths are second rate, at best, and doomed to emptiness.