Vogue’s April 2020 cover story—on “Wonder Woman” Gal Gadot—was written before the world went into lockdown.
With Vogue writer Jonathan Van Meter in tow, Gadot flits around L.A. doing things that seem totally foreign to us: eating egg sandwiches in exclusive country clubs, reading stories to entranced children in elementary schools, driving to appointments in her futuristic Tesla. Foreign because we don’t drive Teslas or belong to exclusive country clubs. But also because many of us haven’t eaten in a restaurant or taken our children to school for over a month.
There really shouldn’t be much to relate to in Van Meter’s profile of Gadot. And in a lot of ways, there isn’t. But buried between the breezy descriptions of Gadot’s speaking style and her friends’ fawning admiration, is this little gem: “The more successful I get,” Gadot tells Van Meter, “the more I want to plant my roots in and make sure everything is balanced and still focused on the important things in life, which, for me, is family.”
The more successful I get, the more I want to…make sure everything is…still focused on the important things in life, which, for me, is family.
Putting Down Roots After Wonder Woman
Life hasn't always been so golden for Gadot. Before landing her role as Wonder Woman, she had almost thrown in the towel on her acting career and was prepared to head home to Israel. But when she got the call telling her she had landed the part, her response was a little different than we might expect from a Hollywood celebrity. Did she get a drink? Splurge on a Beverly Hills mansion? No.
Instead, she called her husband and finished her good news off with, "After I shoot the movie? I want us to have another baby." She says she's a big believer in karma, and maybe this is one perfect example: bringing herself back down to earth and family after the biggest project of her career. Gadot ended up being several months pregnant while shooting part of Wonder Woman, apparently proving that Wonder Woman can do anything.
Out of Touch or on to Something?
In a (very) brief post-shelter-at-home-order coda, Van Meter checks back in with Gadot. “We’re trying to enjoy the quality time that we have,” she says of her time at home with her family. It’s a “blessing in disguise.”
On the one hand, we could argue that calling a global pandemic with a death toll over 150,000 a “blessing in disguise” is rather out of touch. Couple that with Van Meter’s descriptions of Gadot’s pre-quarantine life, and the backlash over her star-studded viral video of celebrities singing “Imagine,” and “out of touch” starts to ring true. But, on the other hand, I kind of get what she means.
If no one that you love is sick, if working from home is an option, if the only thing this virus has asked of you is that you stay home with the people you love, then the only appropriate response is gratitude. The virus itself is not a blessing (disguised or otherwise), but the sudden reminder of what’s really important might be.
The virus itself is not a blessing (disguised or otherwise), but the sudden reminder of what’s really important might be.
When everything else is stripped away, it’s family that really matters. Keeping our family healthy. Keeping our family safe. Keeping food on the table and a roof over our heads. Making sure our children feel cared for, loved, and unafraid. Making sure our elderly family members aren’t lonely or in fear. Building a life and a home and a stronghold of love in which our children can thrive is the entirety of what matters. All the rest of it—the job and the commute and the sweat and the tears—is how we get there, not the end in and of itself.
Remembering What’s Important
I have very little in common with Gal Gadot. But I do have the incredibly good fortune to be weathering this crisis at home with my family. To be a stay-at-home mom with the time to suddenly homeschool at a moment’s notice. To have a husband able to work from home without fear of losing his job. My world has shrunk to three people: the man I love, the five-year-old boy I adore, and me. My little family. And in this sense, Gadot is right: family is the most important thing. And, for those of us who are touched by this virus only in the sense that it has forced us to “shelter at home” with the ones we love, it’s hard not to call that a blessing.
This past September I sent my little boy to full-time school for the first time. I did what every mother must: I let go. Proud of myself, I let my son go off to school to spend six hours of his day—every day—without me. And I filled my days with freelance work, lunches with friends, and trips to the gym.
At 2:40, on the dot, I was there at school to pick him up, eager for the flying hug, the grubby kiss, the crumpled artwork with “I love you, Mom” scrawled on it in crayon. And by 2:45—as we walked, hand in hand, down the sidewalk towards home—I’d be annoyed. Annoyed by how slow we were walking. How every stick was an excuse to stop and examine the ground. How there is apparently no straight answer to “How was your day?”
The detritus of my grown-up life—my work, my friends, my routine—had clouded my vision. They had become my “real life.”
The detritus of my grown-up life—my work, my friends, my routine—had clouded my vision. These things were no longer just ways to fill my time, to make a little extra grocery money, to stay productive while my son was at school. They had become the goal. My “real life.” And the concerns of a five-year-old boy were a distraction.
And now, here I am, alone all day long with my little boy. Planting seeds and doing math, building forts and learning to read, examining sticks and wondering about clouds and talking to stuffed animals. My husband works on his computer in a room nearby. He joins us for lunch and walks in the park. With everything else swept away—no appointments to keep or deadlines to meet—I can finally see clearly what was true all along. Family is what really matters. My little boy has come back to me. My purpose has been remembered.
The more successful Gal Gadot gets, the more she wants to remember what’s most important: family. It may seem like an inanity—empty words thrown out by an out-of-touch celebrity—but it isn’t really. Success ought to make you grateful for the things that are really important. But it doesn’t. It makes you forget. Makes you crave more success. Makes you think the egg sandwiches and the Teslas and the memberships to exclusive country clubs (or whatever your particular list of things might be) are the goal. But they’re not the goal. And they never were.
Regardless of how this pandemic has affected you, taking care of the people you love is the name of the game. For some people that task is relatively easy, for others it’s a life-and-death struggle. But for everyone—in one way or another—the foundation has been laid bare. And the foundation is family. As it always has been. As it always should be. Forever.