Beliefnet
Fresh Living

gwyneth_600.jpgAs part snarky native New Yorker, part spiritualish yogini, I can semi feel Gwyneth Paltrow’s pain from the media-whipping she’s gotten for GOOP, her recent holistic lifestyle venture. Launched last September, GOOP (a name made from her initials) aims to educate about things like balance, yoga, healthy-but-tasty eating, detoxing, conscious parenting, and the like in a simple, from-the-heart way. Meaning, of course, she has been slammed by critics who seem to feast on the flesh of the sincerely seeking. A couple of weeks ago the New York Times explored the mocking in a style section feature.

Though Paltrow wouldn’t comment for the article, the Times sited a USA Today quote from her dissing the haters’ hating: “‘People get a hit of energy when they are negative about something. And they do not understand why they do not have a happy life.'” And then the Times jumped in with its own negativity bong hit: “It’s the kind of statement better left to a guru than an It Girl.”

I mean, I get it: She’s a beautiful, zillionaire, Oscar-winning movie star married to a rock star. And the project is not exactly polished or expert just yet. It’s a little hard to swallow any kind holistic lifestyle advice from someone who can afford all the organic veggies she wants and the person to make them into alkalizing, delectable dream meals.

But I’ve seen this so many times–any public figure doing something “new agey” that people don’t understand gets flayed with a particular relish–recall Madonna’s yoga, Alicia Silverstone’s animal rights activism, and Jim Carrey’s interest in numerology. Not to mention Gwyneth’s prior ventures in macrobiotics and cupping.

And this voracious anti-spiritualism is certainly not limited to the famous. I’ve learned to roll my eyes at myself at dinner parties to pre-emptively fend off attacks about my adventures in psychic healings, singing bowls, angel readings, aura photographs, and their ilk. And I’m no longer surprised at the knee-jerk closed-mindedness of friends and aquaintenances who normally self-identify as liberal and tolerant. But I also get their urge–part of my brain also thinks this stuff is hilariously weird and out-there.

For me, the jury is still out on the unfortunately named, but potentially cool GOOP. [Full disclosure: I might have gone to Gwyneth’s 16th birthday party. Growing up, my best friend was one year behind Gwen, as she was known, at Spence. I remember going to a large, elegant townhouse on the Upper East Side and watching her open a little blue Tiffany box with a gold heart-pendant necklace. My friend doesn’t remember this at all though, so who knows.]

Um, where was I? Oh. I think the biggest problem with GOOP is not its essentially helpful content about travel, food, and holistic living, but that it fails to laugh at itself, that we can’t see the sophisticated New Yorker in her interacting, in a conscious way, with the New Agey L.A. yogi in her. Or maybe that’s precisely its charm–it’s an honest, non-ghost-written expression from someone you’d expect to be a lot more high-falutin’. This seems to work best when she’s most open, like in this post about fessing up to her kids when she’s in a lousy mood:  “I say, ‘Mommy is having a hard day, and I am feeling upset’ so that the very mundane human ‘bad’ feelings do not turn into some grim phantom in the room with me. Sometimes I don’t have the maturity in the moment, and when it fails me, I apologize at bedtime when my children and I are having a talk. I have felt my daughter’s whole body sigh in relief when I have simply and very specifically voiced regretting my own behavior.

Here’s to doing the best we can.”

Here’s to that indeed.

Have you read GOOP? What are your thoughts?

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