What’s the Big Deal?: Fifty Shades of Grey Live-Blogging Edition, Chapters 13-14
When last we left our heroes, they… Wait, what was happening? I’m sorry. I’ve been reading other books, such as Bitterblue, the brilliant sequel to Kristen Cashore‘s also-brilliant debut Graceling and tie-in to the companion novel Fire. Anyone else have a huge writer-crush on Kristen Cashore? Hands up, don’t be shy. If you loved Graceling and haven’t read Bitterblue yet, move it to the top of your list! If you haven’t read Graceling, I’m interested to know what quarantine pod you’ve lived in since 2007. Also, go read Graceling. Then come back and thank me.
Anyway, back to that overwrought, overblown middle-aged fantasy disguised as a book. You know the one. We’re talking about…
by E. L. James
The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House, $9.99 Nook book, ISBN-10 1612130291
Now passing the halfway mark! Unfortunately, reading 50S0G is akin to riding the spinny-swirly-upside-downy ride at the fair after eating a foot-long corndog. Even if the ride is halfway over, you still have the other half waiting to make you puke your guts up.
Well, back to Ana eating Christian’s foot-long corndog!
Chapter 13: A Lot of Talk About Action, but No Action
Ana and Christian have a date so they can discuss the terms of their BDSM contract, but first, Ana treats us to every excruciating detail of her day: a snarky phone conversation with her mother in which Ana blatantly lies when asked if she’s met someone, a snarky email conversation in which Christian tells Ana the definition of “submissive” as though someone with an English degree doesn’t know how to use a dictionary, a pointless phone conversation with Ana’s stepdad, packing, working, telling
Mike Newton Paul that she can’t go out with him because she’s going out with Edward Christian, etc. Ana even gives us a play-by-play of her beauty regimen, mainly so she can gripe that picking out clothes is hard and makeup “intimidates” her. She blames the lack of cosmetic products in British literature for her ineptitude. It’s all Jane Austen’s fault for not including a scene in which Elizabeth Bennett applies eyeliner.
Ana meets Christian in the bar at his hotel. He’s wearing his “customary white linen shirt, black jeans, black tie, and black jacket.” Black jeans? Is he from Brooks & Dunn?
After some preliminary chitchat about the weather, Ana accuses Christian of using the contract to fool her into thinking she’s legally bound to serve him. Christian denies the accusation, then says “it doesn’t matter if it’s legal or not,” although I think contract lawyers would disagree with him on this point. He tells Ana she can always use one of the “get-out clauses” if she changes her mind. Translation: The contract is a prop to make Ana feel obligated to continue in the relationship once Christian pushes her into signing.
Ana starts drinking. Her
other personality subconscious reminds her not to drink too much. Christian asks her if she’s eaten at all that day, and Ana freaks out because the answer is no. I will say it again: she’s Ana-rexic. The difference, by the way, between being anorexic and Ana-rexic is that the former is a legitimate eating disorder and the latter is a rare circumstance in which one is too stupid to carry out necessary functions such as eating and breathing.
Christian asks if they should eat in his suite or the dining area, and Ana opts for the public place, causing Christian to ask if she really thinks that will stop him. Stop him from what? Ripping off her clothes, knocking aside the breadsticks, and ravishing her in the middle of the restaurant? Maybe the public setting won’t stop him, but the police will when the hotel calls them to break up the couple committing public indecency and several health code violations in the dining room.
He leads her to a private dining room where they discuss her qualms point by point. He tells her he has no STDs; he gets tested regularly and doesn’t use recreational drugs. In fact, his company has a random drug test policy. Ana considers the policy “control freakery gone mad,” but I thought many companies used random drug testing to keep a clean workforce.
The oysters arrive. “Holy Moses,” oysters! Since we’re in the middle of a dull part, let’s take a second to talk about an annoying habit of Ana’s that has been crazy-making me since the beginning of this book: Every five seconds, she says “holy (fill-in-the-blank).” Holy crap. Holy cow. Holy shit. Holy fuck. Holy hell. Holy Moses. Maybe Christian really is Batman, and Ana is Robin: “Holy teabagging testicles, Batman!” Let’s use a neat function on my Nook and find out just how many times Ana says “holy ____” over the course of the book… Huh. She uses some form of “holy ___” 155 times, or about every 2.5 pages. Sometimes she uses it two or three times on one page. It gets old. I’ve never seen anyone sanctify so many things: cows, excrement, hell. I didn’t even know the last one was possible.
Christian teaches Ana to eat oysters, telling her to “tip and swallow” in a groan-inducing double entendre. Ana confesses she’s worried Christian will hurt her with his BDSM play, which is kind of the point. He assures her he won’t hurt her “beyond any limit you can’t take,” making me wonder why he gets to decide how much pain she can handle. He explains that while he did injure a girl by suspending her from his playroom ceiling, it happened long ago and he’s much better at safe rope play these days. I can sympathize. I remember how frustrating I found my early origami-folding days, reading a diagram wrong or skipping a step and winding up with a crumpled ball of paper instead of a koala. Of course, no one was hospitalized because I forgot to rabbit-fold.
They haggle over contract length. She wants a month, he wants three. She wants a weekend a month off. In a line easily recognizable as a holdover from Twilight, he tells her he doesn’t think he can stay away from her that long and can barely manage to stay away from her at all.
I want to say something about the difference between Christian and Edward from Twilight. Yes, Edward did and said many of the same creepy things Christian has said and done. No, having a relationship with a guy like Edward is not a healthy decision. However, there’s a basic difference between Edward and Christian: Guys like Edward don’t exist anyway, because Edward is not human. He’s a vampire. I wouldn’t say that makes his behavior more acceptable, but it does at least make his behavior understandable. He has weird, creepy-ass vampire instincts that make him do weird, socially-unacceptable-to-humans stuff. However, all that creepy stuff is completely normal and acceptable to other vampires, and at least he tries to control his impulses (see: not eating Bella’s face.) What’s Christian’s excuse? Oh, yeah. He doesn’t have one. He’s a rich, kinky manipulator with no shame. He’s not comparable to Edward at all.
Did you guys see that? 50SoG has pushed me so hard, I’m defending Edward Cullen.
Christian explains that the ownership language is in place to make Ana understand his perspective, which is apparently that the slave trade did not end in the 1800s. He only wants her to understand that he’ll do whatever he wants to her, however he wants to do it, whenever he wants to do it, including punishment. It’s not like real ownership, right? He assures her that pleasure and pain are two sides of the same coin. If by that he means that both are transmitted via the nervous system, he is correct. If by that he means they are opposites, like heads and tails, he is correct. If he means they are the same thing, he needs to get that dictionary out again.
He asks Ana if she trusts him and she says yes. That’s why she’s terrified of signing the contract and intimidated by his shouty capital letters. It’s all about the trust. She is so full of holy crap.
Back to the darn rules again. Ana is firm about the food control clause. She doesn’t want it. No, he can’t modify it to make her eat three times a day. She’ll starve if she wants to, by golly. I do admire the spirit of her rebellion, but the practice is a bit stupid. Did you ever hear of a subservient population rising up because the upper class kept them well-supplied with nutritious food? I haven’t seen that one in the history books, either.
Christian concedes food and sleep, but not masturbation. (She doesn’t eat, doesn’t sleep, doesn’t touch herself… Is Ana observing strict religious vows?) He gripes at Ana for not eating and gives her a bite-by-bite inventory of the little food she has consumed because he’s creepy enough to keep track. He starts in with the I’m so clever and seductive routine, telling her she can be dessert. Blarf. I’ve had that line used on me, and I tell you what, he did not get any “dessert.” Ana, however, tells him out of the blue that it’s unfair that he uses sex as a weapon. I have no idea how that relates to his line. Does she find his subpar come-ons so sexy that she’s incapacitated? Yes, yes, she does. “How can he seduce me solely with his voice?” Maybe you’re just listening to the sound and not paying attention to the cheesy words? Oh, and she’s “panting.” Like Lassie. I hope she falls down the well with Timmy.
Christian tells Ana that if she were his submissive, she wouldn’t have to decide whether or not it’s right to have sex with him in a semi-public location where someone might walk in on them at any moment. She’d never have to decide anything because he would always tell her what to do, and wouldn’t that make life easier? I think Loki said something to that effect in the new Avengers movie, right before Iron Man beat the hell out of him. (Has everyone seen The Avengers? You guys, it is SO good, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t even like Captain America.) Christian adds that he knows Ana wants him because she’s pressing her thighs together. He cannot see her thighs. He “felt the tablecloth move.” Oh, he did not. Not unless she spread her legs pretty far and then clapped them shut. I know she’s doing that figuratively, but not literally.
Ana realizes she’s at a disadvantage because she’s inexperienced and he’s pretty much a man-whore. Her only sphere of sexual reference is Kate. Um…no comment. You guys know what Rainbow Flag and I think. Anyway, Kate knows how to stand up to men, unlike Ana. Couldn’t she ask Kate how? They see each other all the time. Her other references are Elizabeth Bennett (who’d be pissed), Tess (who’d just do it), and Jane Eyre (who’d be “too frightened”–what, Jane Eyre? Frightened? Jane Eyre didn’t take any shit off anybody. That was kind of her schtick.) Ugh, no makeup knowledge, no relationship knowledge. Ana, I beg you to pick up a women’s magazine. Any of them would be better than you’re doing on your own.
In a scene oddly reminiscent of Flashdance, Ana eats a spear of asparagus seductively, driving Christian into a frenzy of sexual need. Then she rams the head-trip home by leaving so he won’t have sex with her. She needs distance. I agree! She needs tons of distance! I hear Australia is a friendly place.
Christian gives Ana his jacket to keep her warm, walks her to her VW Beetle, and then flips out because it’s a junker. He decides to buy her a car. She throws a fit. He ignores her. She drives away, crying because she’s afraid she’ll wind up saying no to the contract and then he won’t want to see her anymore, or so she says. Personally I find it suspicious that he mentions buying her a shiny new car and suddenly she’s terribly upset at the thought of losing him. I’m sure the two are completely unrelated.
Ana spends a couple of pages crying and trying to figure out if being Dom/sub is like being boyfriend/girlfriend. She goes home and reads yet another email from Christian, begging her to consider the contract. Then she cries more, realizes Christian knows no other way and neither does she (like she knows any way), and cries herself to sleep wondering if they can create a new path together.
Chapter 14: Even Fictional Graduations Are Super Boring
Christian is standing over Ana with a leather riding crop.
I didn’t skip a page. After nearly 200 pages of nitpicky angst and leg-shaving, did E. L. James finally hit fast-forward? If so, she skipped Ana signing the contract and all thought processes leading up to it.
Christian makes Ana smell the riding crop and suck on it, then he trails it all over her body and finally flicks it against her clitoris, which is finally mentioned by name but, in a complete 360 degree progression-regression maneuver, called the “sweet spot” in the next sentence. Ana instantly orgasms.
And wakes up, all sweaty and confused. Aw! Ana’s first wet dream. Does anyone else feel like Ana’s going through puberty before our very eyes? I suppose it’s yet another side effect of writing sexy fanfic about a teenager and then altering the bare minimum of text to pass off the book as original: The adult protagonist reads like a sophomore.
Ana’s stunned by the revelation that orgasms can happen in dreamland. She chalks it up to the oysters and her Internet research. Got that, girls? Shellfish + Internet surfing = sleepgasm. Let’s all eat shrimp, spend 30 minutes on Pinterest, then take a nap and see what happens.
Kate tells Ana she looks odd, and since she’s still wearing Christian’s jacket from the night before, I’m going to agree. Fluffy bunny jammies are aberrant, but men’s sport jackets are the latest in sleep fashions? Kate and Ana have one of those talks where Kate is nice and Ana tells her nothing, then sidetracks her with an offer of food/tea. Ana angsts around the kitchen: Christian’s idea of a relationship is more like a job offer! Don’t tell the cops that. Prostitution is illegal in Oregon and Washington. Don’t mention the car-for-sex deal, either. I don’t want to lose Christian, but I don’t want to get beat up because I’m such a coward! Christian already has her convinced that she’s a coward because physical punishment does not sound like an expression of love and respect to her. He is so manipulative! How is that erotic? She doesn’t want to pursue his “varied interests” but is considering giving in because otherwise, he will break off their relationship.
Who cares? I do not understand the Christian Grey obsession. He’s not nice to her. He doesn’t share her interests or even discuss them. All he wants to talk about is sex and remaking her into a submissive woman, although her innate whininess makes her a poor candidate. He gripes and rants at her endlessly. Why is she so stuck on him? I understand he’s “very attractive” and rich, but the drawing power of the hero should be his personality. Hot and rich are bonus material. He needs to have a personality so compatible or so explosive when put with the heroine’s personality that even if he went bankrupt and became horribly disfigured, she would still love him. Christian barely has a personality, and when he does show some character, he’s a jerk. I do not get it. I don’t.
Ana gets ready for graduation day, which is today! Whee! Her stepdad (who’s not married to her mom anymore but raised Ana and is her favorite) shows up and is shocked when Ana hugs him, because she never shows affection. He’s probably excited to see that his little girl’s outgrowing her sociopathic tendencies. Now he doesn’t have to make a point of telling people, “Don’t judge me by her; we’re not biologically related.”
They go to graduation. People wear caps and gowns. Graduation-type stuff happens. Too much mindless detail happens.
Christian steps onto the stage, and he’s wearing the Tie of Ties! The Tying Tie! It’s the tie he uses to tie Ana to the bed. She’s certain he’s wearing it specifically to remind her of their sexcapades. Never mind the fact that she’s his sixteenth submissive and he’s probably used every tie in the drawer for the same purpose at some point.
To one side of Ana, girls get giggly ogling Grey, but with less alliteration. Ana tells them he’s gay.
Let’s review. Asking a guy if he’s gay? Bad! Mortifying! Get the therapist! Get the smelling salts! Spreading rumors that the guy you’re involved with is gay? Totally fine! Who hasn’t?
Ana sits through speeches, freaking out because Christian’s not spending every second staring at her and therefore has obviously lost interest completely or is mad because she didn’t reply to his email last night. Panic! Panic! Panic!
Kate gives her valedictory address, like a boss. Ana notices Christian watching Kate and pouts because if Kate hadn’t been sick, then Kate would have been the one to meet and bonk Christian! And Kate wouldn’t give him the time of day because he’s creepy! And those two thoughts make no sense when strung together!
After Kate finishes, Christian rises, and Ana flips out: “Holy shit, Christian’s going to give a speech.” Well, yeah. He’s the commencement speaker. That’s why Kate wanted to interview him. That’s how he and Ana met. Are we actually surprised that the commencement speaker is going to speak at commencement? Yes, yes, we are!
Christian talks about wanting to end world hunger because he once went hungry. Ana quickly realizes he must mean before he was adopted, as a preschool-age kid. Poor Christian! What did those monsters do to him before the Greys rescued him? Ana is outraged!
I’m outraged, too, but not because of the child starvation. I’m outraged that Christian telling an auditorium of strangers something he wouldn’t tell Ana in the course of ordinary events was the the entire point of this dull, extensive graduation scene. She asked him about his food issues in the last chapter! He could have told her then. I did not need to read about Ana’s favorite professor and how hard it is to find a parking spot at her school.
Everyone lines up so Christian can hand out diplomas. I’ve never seen a commencement speaker hand out the diplomas. Shouldn’t some university admin person do that? I admit, I’m not the most experienced when it comes to college graduations. USPS handed me my diploma. Why? I skipped my college graduation ceremony. Why? Because graduations are boring. Just like this chapter.
Christian gives Ana her diploma and holds up the line to gripe at her for ignoring his email. Need space? Too bad! Christian doesn’t, and he’s the only one who matters!
After graduation, Kate tells Ana that Christian told her to tell Ana that he wants to talk to her. And then they pass notes and make out under the bleachers. Okay, not that last part. He does pull her into the men’s locker room and bitch at her for not responding to his emails or phone calls, most of which Ana didn’t realize existed because she’s busy graduating, Christian, you dumbass. He thought she died in a fiery car crash because she wasn’t talking to him, because of course only an untimely death would keep her from him. Ana makes the mistake of telling him the car came from Jose’s family and that Jose services it regularly. Ana, don’t say “Jose.” Don’t say “services.” Definitely don’t say them in the same sentence in front of Crazy Pants. He gets all huffy and Ana asks him why he’s being a jackwagon (not in those words), and we get to the heart of the matter. He’s not worried about her, he’s frustrated because he wants an answer from her and can’t handle delayed gratification. He puts her on a 24-hour deadline.
Then he stiff-arms Ana into introducing him to her stepdad.
Along the way, they meet Kate’s brother Ethan.
Kate’s hot, nice, family-oriented, worldly, educated brother. So there are more like Kate back at home? They make them in male? And he’s a Kavanagh, so he’s not as rich as Christian but still wealthy enough for Ana to mooch off of. Can we switch heroes? Why is this book not about the Kavanaghs?
Then Kate introduces Christian as Ana’s boyfriend and spoils the moment. Thanks, Kate. Ana’s stepdad also hears it with a bit of surprise. Christian gets all ugg woman is mine ugg ugg at Kate’s brother, then extends his hand to Ana and says, “Ana, baby,” causing her to go all gushy because he said something halfway nice and go to his side immediately. Exeunt Kavanagh siblings.
Ana’s stepdad starts off with the third degree but instantly changes his tune when Christian talks to him about fly-fishing, his favorite hobby. Stepdad is too easy. I hoped he’d be more like Liam Neeson in Taken and kill Christian after skillfully beating him up. Alas!
When they get a moment alone, Ana tells Christian naughty spankings aren’t enough for her. She needs romance! He dodges the request by pressuring her to try his contract. She agrees, completely at random, then freaks out for a couple of pages as her subconscious screams at her and her inner goddess does a bunch of weird gymnastics. Her inner goddess is some kind of cheerleader, I think. Pom poms and acrobatics, all the time.
Ana goes home to find three missed calls and two missed texts from Christian, as well as two more emails. She writes back asking if she can come visit him, but instead of letting her come to his hotel where they’ll have privacy, Christian insists on coming to Ana’s apartment so she won’t have to drive her horrible deathtrap of a car. Also known as the car she’s been driving death-free for years.
We’re officially past the halfway point. Only 187 pages to go! Will I survive? Will Ana’s heinie survive? More importantly, how did we get halfway through a book about BDSM without any sign of BDSM except one ass-slap and two uses of The Tie That Binds?
Check in next time and see if we unveil any answers in Chapter 15, or as I like to call it, “Is this really not over yet?”