Confession time. For several weeks I have been struggling with forbidden feelings. Usually one to walk the societal tightrope with a fair degree of agility, I have clearly fallen from grace. I am a deviant. And the whole situation has me rather ashamed.
You see, I downloaded the New York Times best selling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey with the best intentions, only to be completely mortified at my reaction. I wish I could be pleading guilty here to crimes of passion after reading the book, but no. In fact, my reaction is far, far worse.
I hated it.
For the uninformed, Fifty Shades of Grey is a “piece of literature” one can purchase online. It is a work of fiction that revolves around a super hunky CEO and the young college graduate who he takes as his… uh… girlfriend. The book explores the world of dominant and submissive relationships in the most literal sense – and it has set the “married with children” demographic on fire in the most literal sense as well. Wives across the country have been downloading this book at the behest of their peers – and husbands have been all too supportive of this unspoken book club for its “effects” on the weary libidos of their betrothed.
I purchased the book weeks ago – before it was covered on the morning news shows – after being told about it by a girlfriend. Admittedly, I was excited for it, as I do enjoy trashy books. Most of my day is spent reading and writing financial and business documents so when it’s time to crawl into bed and get swept away by the pages before me, I prefer something that doesn’t require a great deal of energy. And if the entertainment value is accompanied by an increased heart rate, all the better.
Six weeks later and I still can’t finish the damn book.I have read it in my bed. I have read it on a plane. I have read it in a chair. I have read it on the train. I do not like Fifty Shades of Grey…. Does this fact make me insane?
While the rest of the world is raving about the effects of this book — and going out and buying the two sequels — I can’t wait for the first to be over. And I am completely embarrassed because of what my apathy suggests about me. Am I an uptight intelligentsia? A literary snob? A….. (please no) prude??? Does the fact that Christian Grey leaves me cold mean I am as well?
Or perhaps the emperor has no clothes. Are women gushing about this book because not gushing suggests they belong on ice?
In my own defense, I was not completely immune to powers of the erotic scenes in the book. On several occasions I needed to stop and look around me to see if anyone might have noticed that the woman in seat 22D suddenly became very flushed and shifty in her seat. And the dominant / submissive theme was, uh, educational in a sense. It’s not exactly my cup of tea – as I imagine it isn’t for most suburban mommies – so getting a glimpse into that world and what it is all about was slightly intriguing. But unfortunately at the end of the day, I’m just not fantasizing about being Ana Steele (the lead female character in the book).
I am , however, fantasizing about being E. L. James, the author, who is raking it in with this $hit.
The characters in Shades of Grey are one-dimensional and not terribly likable. The relationships are adolescent-like. And the plot is non-existent. Kind of like a porn movie. Or so I’m told.
After a while, I found myself skimming through the erotic scenes, thinking, “Again?” In reality, I don’t believe any healthy woman – even one who is 21 years old — could withstand the level of activity that went on in the pages of this book. It made me tired just reading it. I needed breaks of at least a few days in between chapters. Which is why I’m still not done.
The whole literary experience makes me want to go back and re-read Judy Blume’s Wifey – perhaps the 1978 version of Shades of Grey. I remember our mothers all aflutter at this novel – as their daughters’ favorite author penned her first book for grown-ups, aimed squarely at the repressed housewife, and filled with more than a few scenes that must have been earmarked for review in case of emergency. I read Wifey many years ago, before I could relate to it fully. But, I did like it. Very much. For the plot (there actually was one), for the characters (you rooted for the hero who could have been your neighbor), and for the sex (based in reality vs. tricks that make you wonder whether or not they actually work.) Nothing ties me to Shades of Grey. And like most of the meaningful relationships I’ve had in my life, just good sex isn’t enough to interest me for very long.
Still, I remain more than a bit fascinated that thousands of women who would never consider watching porn, are so openly enthusiastic about this book. It’s as if the fact that you have to READ it makes it a smarter girl’s alternative to the hard stuff. Or maybe there is more anonymity. Either way, and regardless of what I think about the merits of the writing, I do think that women claiming as their own this rarely heralded piece of themselves is a good thing. Men have had Playboy for years. It’s our turn.
As for the finishing Shades of Grey – or downloading the two sequels that follow – I’m a lost cause. Deep down I hope I’m not the only one who is holding out for the cliff notes. Or perhaps the movie.