What’s the Big Deal?: Fifty Shades of Grey Live Blogging Edition, Chapters 15-17

Pardon my absence, but I’ve been busy ever since I met this handsome guy.

All right, time to plow through this travesty the way just like all those readers who stayed up into the wee hours to finish it. When I read their reviews, I wonder if I downloaded the wrong file. Their crowings over the realistic romance and loveable characters make me feel they read a different book.

Fifty Shades of Grey

by E. L. James

The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, $9.99 Nook book, ISBN-10 1612130291

Last time on Grey-t Expectations, Ana graduated and began considering a weekend gig as Christian’s kept lady, presumably after browsing job ads and realizing life with an English degree does not provide one with fancy sports cars and oysters at dinner, but Christian does. When we left Ana, she was trepidatiously awaiting Christian’s arrival at her apartment.

Chapter Fifteen: Know Your Limits. Or Don’t. Christian Will Decide for You Either Way.

Ana opens her front door to Christian (no, her actual front door) and almost immediately tries to return the $14,000 books, with predictable results: Christian gets irked and refuses to take them back, pointing out again that when she truly submits, she won’t have to think anymore because he’ll make all the decisions. I like how he implies that Ana is currently thinking. He gives her more credit than I do. He tells her not to “place some vague moral judgment on yourself.” Exchange of goods for sex: I vaguely morally judge this situation to be a description of prostitution.

Small talk, small talk. Ana wonders what Christian’s game is. Making normal conversation is such a head trip! He should walk in and immediately talk about fisting. What a freak. The conversation veers to whether Ana’s eaten, as usual, and Christian threatens to spank her the next time she rolls her eyes at him. Having thus gotten her attention, they launch into contractual negotiations over soft limits.

You guys will be so surprised to hear this: Ana’s getting tipsy. Best time to get hammered: while negotiating what painful and kinky acts you’re willing to undergo. She asks why he has to punish her, and his answer is pretty much, “Because.” She blanches at the list of punishments (spanking, whipping, genital clamps, hot wax, etc) and asks that caning be left out. Christian tells her they’ll work up to it. Same thing with anal: she doesn’t want to, but he really wants to “claim your ass, Anastasia,” so he insists it be left on the table. How is this relationship consensual if she’s not allowed to set her limits? Ana asks if a butt plug does what it says and freaks out over the inclusion of eggs in the sex toy list, thinking he means actual eggs from birds. Christian laughs at her, then gets mad 30 seconds later when she asks him not to laugh because she doesn’t know what a spreader bar is. Excuse her for feeling insecure, and way to reassure her, you ass. She agrees to all the sex toys, binding materials, and binding positions, but not suspension. After all, she might get hurt if she lets him suspend her! Being tied up into a human pretzel is much safer.

Now that Christian has hammered out the contract mostly to his satisfaction, he’s ready for naughty-time. No wonder he is so successful in the business arena: contracts get him hot. But first, he tells Ana he’s willing to take their relationship to the next level, as in, he thinks they should actually try to have a real one with romance and dating. You know, maybe one night a week. As long as it doesn’t affect the BDSM arrangement. And, as though he’s not making it conditional enough already, only if she will accept his graduation gift: a shiny new Audi. I’m pretty sure the car is stolen…from the pages of Twilight. Edward and Bella went through a similar “You will get a new sportscar whether you want one or not” power struggle.

These two dopes bicker about the car but settle the argument by calling it an “indefinite loan” rather than a gift. As long as Ana can use semantics to convince herself he’s not her sugar daddy, she’ll take any shiny object he waves in her face. I can’t help feeling that the car, the laptop, the books, the wining and dining, the fancy hotel suite… All these trappings act as a decoy, showing Ana an opulent lifestyle she too can access via a relationship with Christian. She says she doesn’t want the gifts but always accepts them. I also feel that the extravagant wooing is meant to disguise from the reader the fact that Christian has little personality and isn’t a loveable character. In effect, the gifts are meant to buy the reader’s love just as they are meant to buy Ana’s. Christian only has two appeal factors. First, his wealth. Second, he’s incredibly messed up, a quality which sends some women into a motherly frenzy of nurturing. If your ultimate fantasy is finding a man with emotional issues, fixing him, and living happily ever after knowing he will only love you, the source of his self-actualization, then I can see why Christian seems perfect. If you’re a gold digger, I can see why he seems perfect. Otherwise, I still don’t understand the raving about Christian Grey.

Christian’s pissed because Ana didn’t want the car, so of course he decides now is a perfect time for sex. Ana freaks out and apologizes, and Christian instantly mood-swings to gentle and loving. Then he “inhales” Ana’s hair. What did we all learn from former President Bill Clinton? Do not inhale. Miraculously, Christian doesn’t choke. He undresses her and they form a psychic link, or so I assume from the fact that he licks his finger but she comments on the taste.

Christian does the unprecedented and tells Ana she’s in charge for the moment. Bad move. She can’t even figure out how to undress him. Oops, why did I push him onto the bed? Now I can’t get him pants off because he’s lying down!Christian quickly reverts to giving orders again: No, not yet. Get the condoms. Put it on in this manner. Ana’s upset that her turn in the driver’s seat ended so abruptly, but she gets over it when she realizes that “Looking at him is very, very arousing.” And the continued use of pointless adverbs is very, very boring. She gets on top, “up, down, up, down,” and the thought that she has some power at last pushes her, “weighted with concrete,” over the edge of orgasm. Don’t worry, eventually concrete dissolves. She’ll float to the surface after the spring thaw.

Chapter Sixteen: A Red and Fuzzy Butt.

During the afterglow, Christian stops Ana from stroking his chest because he doesn’t like to be touched. He’s said so several times, but I get the impression he only doesn’t want her to touch his chest. They hold hands. They have sex. They sleep in bed together. Clearly touching is okay sometimes, but he never takes his shirt off. When Ana asks what the deal is, he will only tell her he’s “fifty shades of fucked up.” I enjoy making fun of the titles of romance novels, as do many of my ex-bookseller and library staffer friends. Not all romance titles are ridiculous, of course. Still, a vast number do involve the words cowboy, sheik, sheriff, billionaire, baby surprise, virgin, Navy S.E.A.L., mistress, secret, etc, in a variety of unfortunate combinations. Here, I’ll do one: The Cowboy Sheik’s Mistress. Here’s another: The Virgin’s Navy S.E.A.L. Baby Surprise. See how that works? It makes a great party game. But even though I make fun of romance novel titles in many cases, I cannot remember ever seeing a romance named after a character’s emotional damage. 50SoG could as easily be called Screwing the Sadist, or How to Date Fucked-Up Rich Boys, even Spankless in Seattle, for all the BDSM we’ve actually seen. All three are descriptive titles and do not sound like a collection of monochromatic decorating schemes.

Ana confesses her riding crop wet dream, much to Christian’s excitement. Since Ana has spent days thinking about nothing but whether to get into the bondage game, her dream seems as likely to stem from non-stop pondering as a from secret desire to get whipped in the hoo-ha, but Christian’s certain she’s instinctively kinky. He asks when her period is due and tells her to deal with the issue of contraception. But Ana doesn’t have a doctor, let alone an ob/gyn! So, she doesn’t eat, doesn’t sleep, doesn’t exercise, and never receives medical attention. How is she alive, let alone so energetic?

Christian has to go, even though Ana wants him to use the second condom. He tells her they’ll do more once she signs the contract. She asks if she can stretch things out by not signing yet. He tells her she has no choice, which seems to be the party line lately, and — uh oh! — she rolls her eyes.

Spanking time! It only took them 220 pages to get to it!

Ana submits to her punishment, even though her legs quake with fear and she finds it “scary and demeaning.” Oh, and “hot.” Suddenly my concern that teen girls will get their hands on this book and have ideas about romance that are more skewed than what Disney feeds them has morphed into fear that teen boys will get their hands on this book and think women are turned on by the threat of physical harm. So begins a new generation of domestic violence! Don’t get me wrong, I know consensual spanking happens all the time. In fact, I used to hear quite a bit of ass-slapping going on in my college roommate’s bedroom, until the day my Doberman-mix puppy heard the racket and started yelling “WOOF!” at her door. However, it’s one thing to engage in that kind of play because you like it and another entirely to engage in something that frightens you because you’re afraid your partner will leave you otherwise.

Christian spanks her. Shocker: It hurts! Then, more sex. He insists the spanking turned Ana on because she’s so wet, but they just had sex a few minutes ago, so I don’t think his data is reliable.

Christian heads for the bathroom and Ana reflects that he was right: she does feel better after a spanking! She feels “safe.” However, she didn’t like the spanking and doesn’t want to do it again. I feel great! Let’s never do that again!

We just thought Christian needed to use the powder room. Silly us. Christian doesn’t do gross things like peeing! No, he went to get baby oil to rub into Ana’s butt. If she calls him Daddy, I’m going to get violently sick. Ana puts her sweatpants back on over the baby oil, guaranteeing a sticky, fuzzy butt later, and Christian leaves.

Ana feels confused, so she calls her mother and worries her half to death with her moping, then only tells her she’s having man trouble. Her mom gives clichéd, useless advice about not jumping into anything. Sorry, Ana’s Mom, but she’s already rounded the final curve and is heading over the finish line into Toxic Relationship Hell. Maybe you should have given her this advice before she met someone. Moms, talk with your daughters about spanking, before it’s too late.

Kate comes home and advises Ana to dump Christian because he’s making her miserable. THANK YOU, KATE. Now, sit! Tell us about Elliot. How serious are you? Have you met his mom? Kate? Ana, where are you going? NO! Don’t open your laptop! Go back and talk to your doesn’t-suck-at-life roommate!

Ugh, emails.

Christian: Oh, Ana, you’re so awesome. I order you to take Advil and not drive your VW again, evers.

Ana: No! I don’t agree to anything you say. I am the worst submissive of all time. Also, no caning.

Christian: Fine. Go to bed. But don’t drive the car, because my henchman is going to sell it for you even though it’s your property and you’ve only met him twice. But he did buy you lingerie, so I guess it’s cool.

Ana: I could get as a good a price as that Taylor dude, and why would you let your precious servant drive my death trap car when you won’t let me drive it, and I’m just a piece of ass to you? Please answer my passive aggressive statement in some way that will validate our relationship and my self-worth.

Christian: You’re drunk and I’m mad. Go to bed or I’ll spank you more. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

You are not Batman AND YOU ARE NOT THE INCREDIBLE HULK, ASSHOLE.

Ana: I already don’t like you because you didn’t sleep over! Boo hoo hoo snit snit snit! *closes laptop*

Ana goes to bed to cry herself to sleep, but a loud disturbance distracts her: Christian has returned and Kate is screaming her head off at him and trying to bar him from entering the apartment. YES. KICK HIM IN THE ‘NADS. Even though it’s Kate’s family’s property, Christian pushes past her to add trespassing to his list of jerk moves. He goes into Ana’s room, where she’s still moping in bed instead of getting up to see why her roommate is screaming at someone not to come into the apartment, or better yet, dialing 911. Kate follows and offers to throw Christian out. LIKE A BOSS. Ana declines, so Kate settles for threatening him. Yay for Team Kate!

Ana and Christian have a lengthy, angsty conversation until he decides they need to get some sleep, and Ana is, like, so thrilled because her childish manipulation tactics worked and he’s sleeping over! Yayz!

Chapter 17: Here is a balloon.

Ana dreams about being drawn to a flame. Real subtle metaphor, E. L. James. You’re going to get the National Book Award for sure.

Ugh, sleeping with Christian sucks! He’s so hot and he’s squishing her! Life is torment!

Christian leaves, and Ana immediately emails him because she’s incapable of expressing herself aloud.

Ana: Being spanked sucked. And it was also hot. I’m confused. I know nothing about sex and I feel guilty.

Christian: You should get over it to make me happy. That’s what a real submissive would do. I’m glad you know nothing about sex because I have total control over your knowledge and experience rather than you being all empowered-woman.

Ana: Whine whine, I’ll run away, aren’t you in a meeting?

Christian: Yes. (What?! Does this guy ever do real work, or does he just say “in Darfur” into his phone every now and then?) And you could have used a safe word. Duh. If you run away, I’ll track you down. Which isn’t creepy of me at all. Anyway, go to work!

Ana: Go to therapy!

Christian: I do!

Me: Get a refund! It’s not helping!

Ana glories in her new Audi and angsts over Christian on the way to work, where a motorcycle courier brings her a BlackBerry from Christian, who wants to be able to contact her at all times. She already has an email from him on the screen.

Okay, NO. I have a smartphone, and I had a BlackBerry until my greyhound punctured the speaker. You need a password to connect it to an email account. If Christian is already able to email her, then he has her email password, or he could not have added the account. What if she decides to email someone else? He can read her private correspondence any time he likes. I hope to God someone with more tech knowledge than Ana explains this detail. Also, BlackBerry? He gets her a not-yet-released Mac laptop but he can’t get her the latest iPhone?

Emails, emails, Ana’s last day at the hardware store, emails, Taylor picks up the VW, Ana has a house-colding party (because they’re moving out) with Kate and Jose, Ana goes for a drink with Jose when Elliot shows up and starts making out with Kate like no one else is in the room. Which is apparently a great way to get everyone out of the room.

Ana comes home to emails, missed calls, and voice mails. She told Christian she’d let him know when she got home from work, and she rudely forgot, so he flipped out. She calls him. He’s cold and distant until she says she missed him, and then they do that gummily sappy “You hang up,” “No, you hang up” bullcrap until I want to gouge out my own eyes.

Kate and Ana move. A courier shows up with a helicopter-shaped balloon and champagne for them, because of course the helicopter balloon is a perfect gift for Kate, who has zero idea that Christian even owns a helicopter.

Girl talk girl talk. Email email.

Ana is due at Christian’s apartment for her gyno appointment. While that seems insane at first, think about it: he probably has stirrups and a speculum in his collection. Ana borrows a dress from Kate because she can’t be bothered to have her own nice things, and Kate’s wardrobe fits her even though we’re constantly reminded that Kate is lithe and toned and Ana is…I don’t actually know. She hasn’t said, but she’s constantly jealous of Kate, so I’m assuming she’s got some junk in her trunk? Maybe? She’s also wearing the undies Taylor bought her at “Agent Provocateur or wherever.” You know, in the middle of the night when Agent Provocateur is closed. Try skeezy adult bookstore or wherever. Anyway, appropriately attired in dinner wear as I always am when I go to the women’s clinic, Ana heads off to meet the little blue Pill. And the big Grey pill.

Christian gets gushy because Ana’s on time and bothered to put on something other than sweatpants. He shows her a society page photo of them together which makes surprisingly little impression on her. I’m surprised! I’m over it. Personally, I’m shocked that The Seattle Times covered Ana’s college graduation in another state. Who says investigative journalism is dead?

While they await the arrival of Seattle’s preeminent gynecologist, who apparently makes Sunday afternoon house calls, Christian tells Ana he’s taking her to meet his family, which he’s never done with any woman because she’s so special blah blah blah.

Dr. Greene arrives, and while she’s coming up to the apartment, Christian tells Ana he can’t wait to get her naked. And that non sequitur closes the chapter.

Roughly 140 pages remain! How will this wacky roller coaster of whining, crying, and driving to work end? More importantly, inquiring minds want to know: In your opinion, what shape of balloon should Christian give Ana next? Might I suggest this charming little number?

Speculum

For any boys out there, this is a speculum. You do not want to know what it’s for. Google it anyway. We have to hear about your prostate exams.