Mr.?Spaghetti is talking about Americans, and he makes quite a keen observation. He says, “Americans! You work too hard, you get burned out. You come home and spend the whole weekend in your pajamas in front of the T.V. But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it."

Now before I begin, I want to set the record straight: This column may make it sound like I’m a fan of chick flicks, but honestly, I’m not.


“Pretty?Woman”??Hated it! “Bridget Jones’ Diary”??Pu-leese! “P.S. I Love You”? Not if you paid me would I watch that again! However, every now and then, there’s that one film aimed at the chick that speaks to me, and this weekend was one of those moments.


I was sitting around on Saturday evening with not much to do, and I noticed that “Eat, Pray, Love” was about to start. Why not, I thought. I’ve got some Maltesers. There’s frozen yogurt in the freezer. Stella the cat is curled up in a nice ball next to me, so on with the chick flick.?Something mind numbing, I thought to myself. It’s been a long week, and watching something that won’t take too much thought is perfect. Just what the doctor ordered.


If you haven’t seen the film, Julia Roberts plays Liz, who in the first half hour is already divorced and has broken off a rebound relationship. She decides that she’ll spend a year in three different places –– Italy, India and Bali –– to “find herself once again.”


Well, there was this scene where Liz was talking to this guy, Luca Spaghetti. Yes, really, that was his name. See what I mean about chick flicks. I mean, an Italian named Luca Spaghetti??Give me a break. But anyway, I digress....


Mr.?Spaghetti is talking about Americans, and he makes quite a keen observation. He says, “Americans! You work too hard, you get burned out. You come home and spend the whole weekend in your pajamas in front of the T.V. But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it. You see a commercial that says: ‘It’s Miller time’ and you say, that’s right, now I’m going to buy a six-pack. But an Italian doesn’t need to be told. He walks by a sign that says ‘you deserve a break today,’ and he says, ‘Yes, I know!’”


I rewound Mr. Spaghetti’s little speech three times just so I could hear it again.?Three times! Each time it sounded more and more truthful, and more and more depressing. Mr. Spaghetti is right.


When we look at so much of the world, we see how much they have learned to enjoy the time they have off from their day-to-day grinds. Just simply meeting with friends or getting together for meals or parties is relaxing.


In this country, we have to plan these things. It’s like we’re scared of being spontaneous and just getting out there and living –– really living in the moment.


Let’s take ol’ Mr.?Spaghetti and his Italian cohorts. Europeans know how to live in the moment.?They know how to work in order to live, not the other way round.


Europeans, when beginning a job, get an average of five weeks annual vacation time.?Five weeks! Seems high right? But it’s not. It’s less than 10 percent of a year.?Less than 10 percent of your working life isn’t excessive. It’s not like the Europeans are getting away with something.


Now let’s look at Americans. When beginning a new job, the average vacation time is two weeks. That’s less than 4 percent of a year. Seriously, many Americans give up less than 4 percent of their working life in order to just be. That seems so very sad to me.


When we grow up, we can’t wait to strike out on our own and do all the things we want.?The problems begin, though, when we realize that’s not realistic. We work long hours for little pay. We are tired when we get home, and we still haven’t managed to get our workloads done in many instances when the weekend rolls around.


Mr. Spaghetti and his friends have the right idea. They know how to live happier lives. They know how to find a way to reach a happy medium when it comes to work versus life.


“But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it,” is what Mr.?Spaghetti says. His insight isn’t lost on me.


We work too hard. We don’t slow down enough. We tire ourselves out. In the process, we are running a serious risk of missing out on those simple pleasures of everyday life that make getting up in the morning so wonderful.


The American dream, right? Well I’m just having a hard time believing that’s what was meant by that phrase.


Charlotte Guedry is Editor of the Gonzales (La.) Weekly Citizen. You can reach her by emailing editor@weeklycitizen.com.