What’s the Big Deal?: Fifty Shades of Grey Live Blog Edition, Chapters 18-20

I admit it: I had no clue live-blogging a book would be this hard. I don’t think it’s me. I think it’s 50SoG. The damn thing is slowly slurping away my life-force. I will read other books to avoid it. I will spend an hour hugging the dog to avoid it (not like I wouldn’t be hugging him anyway.) I will even go scrub the toilet to avoid it. Anything and everything in the world seems preferable to reading this book. I long for the first 8 chapters, when the idiocy seemed fresh and amusing. But I suppose complaining will not get me through to the end. Back to the live slog! I mean blog! And next time, remind me that I should only commit to long-term relationships with books I love.

Fifty Shades of Grey

by E. L. James

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

If you’ll recall, Chapter 17 ended with Ana breathlessly awaiting an expert gynecologist, who Christian summoned to his home on a weekend for the express purpose of putting Ana on birth control. Ana could have found her own doctor and gone on her own time, but she realized she could manipulate Christian into seeing her if she let him handle the particulars. Of course, if she would sign the stupid contract like she said she would, she would see him every weekend anyway.

Chapter 18: The Care and Feeding of Ana’s Hoo-Hoo.

The preeminent gynecologist in Seattle arrives. How does one track down a preeminent gynecologist? Internet reviews? Can you call some medical board and say, “Who’s the preeminent gynecologist in this area? Only the best for my sex slave’s vagina!”?

The preeminent gynecologist mentions twice that she only showed up because Christian paid her an obscene amount of money. Definite undercurrent of “everyone has a price” in this book. She examines Ana (for once Ana withholds details, thankfully) and puts her on the “mini pill,” or as we call it in America, the pill. Ana “can tell she’s burning with curiosity” about the nature of Ana and Christian’s relationship. I doubt that because: A. She’s a gynecologist. She prescribes birth control all day long. It’s no big thing. B. She’s a gynecologist prescribing birth control. She knows the nature of the relationship.

The doctor tells Christian how great Ana is and that he should take good care of her. Since Ana and the doctor didn’t have a single conversation in the scene, this remark is completely out of left field. Also, it’s unfathomable because Ana is a blinking moron.

Ana plays a “joke” on Christian: she tells him that they have to abstain from sex for a month on doctor’s orders. Okay, Ana, let’s go over this again: What you just said isn’t a joke, but an infantile attempt to get a rise out of Christian by telling him he can’t have the only thing he wants from you. Here is a joke:

Q: How many Anas does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Just ask Kate to do it. Ana knows very little about screwing.

See the difference?

Ana refers to Christian as “just sex on legs.” It’s not important, but I mention it because it reinforces my characterization of him as a giant Eye-penis in sneakers.

They sit down to a meal of chicken caesar salad, the food of love. Christian frowns when he finds out Ana’s on the pill and asks her if she’s sure she’ll remember to take it every day at the right time. Since Ana’s so astoundingly stupid that she can only survive by finding a rich man who will buy her things and force her to consume nutrition, Christian’s question is fair, but if he’s so worried about her ability to stay on top of contraception, he should stick to the condoms.

Christian decides to set an alarm so he can remind Ana to take her pill. Makes sense. I mean, he bought her that fancy BlackBerry, but why should she be expected to figure out how to set her own alarm? She’d probably wind up texting Mars or something instead.

Pushing aside the salad, Christian asks Ana to adjourn to the Red Womb of Pain with him even though she hasn’t signed the contract. He feels like breaking the rules “these days.” These days? How are these days different from any of the other days in which he did whatever the hell he felt like and didn’t care what anyone else thought or wanted? Ana says yes, and off they go, her inner goddess doing “pirouette after pirouette.” Oh, that’s why I’m nauseous! All that spinning.

Christian undresses Ana and braids her hair. Now she’s all ready for a bedtime story! Wait, no. Now she’s all ready to hear the expected procedure for the playroom: She should show up with her hair braided and wearing only her panties, then kneel in a certain spot with her legs spread and her hands positioned on her thighs. Ana thinks that she should be taking notes so she remembers all these detailed and complex instructions. Um…hair braided, panties only, kneel over there. Yeah, that’s a tough one. Maybe she can make up a mnemonic device? HBPOKOT. Hot Boys Prefer Orgasmic Kegels Over Time? Help her out here, folks. If she doesn’t study up, she’ll get spanked.

Christian chains Ana to the grid and tells her she looks “mighty fine trussed up.” Well, I reckon, pilgrim. He whips out a riding crop and reenacts Ana’s dream, right down to the worn blue jeans. Let me point out again that so far the BDSM in this book has consisted of a couple of tie-me-up-tie-me-down scenes, one spanking, and Ana’s wet dream. And now E. L. James is recycling a scene? Could she not pick up a porn magazine and get some ideas?

Ana also tastes “mighty fine.” Is this an attempt at a Yank accent? I don’t think Pacific Northwesterners are famous for their cowpoke talk. Are they? Seattle readers, I know you’re there! Chime in! Is James’s dialogue mighty fine, or is this the equivalent of me calling everyone “guv’nor” and claiming to be authentically British?

They do it standing up, and of course the earth moves and heavenly choirs sing and blah blah. After they’re done, Christian asks Ana if the riding crop hurt. She says no. May I quote from an earlier page? “The crop bites my buttock. Ow!” So…that wasn’t an “ow” of pain? Was it more like a Michael Jackson kind of “ow”? She was just adding to the rhythm?

In the aftermath, Ana notices little round scars on Christian’s chest and isn’t sure what they are. Oh, come on, Ana. He has scars on his chest? You’re not allowed to touch his chest? He was starving before he was adopted? Hello! Do you think maybe he was physically abused as a child? Her lack of intuition is one thing, but her lack of common sense continues to startle me.

Ana’s exhausted from the rampant sexing, but Christian is ready to go another round. He pulls out…cable ties! Ana realizes that when he bought all that stuff from her at the hardware store, he meant to use it for sex games! OMG! Ana! You’re so smart to figure that out 15 chapters after the readers did!

He binds her and takes her roughly from behind, after we hear the “now familiar tear of foil” from the condom wrapper. Now familiar is right! I’m sick to death of hearing about the ripping of foil wrappers. We get it! Safe sex! Every time! Enough with the ripping foil!

My favorite part of this sex scene: When Christian shouts, “Hold on, Anastasia!” as though they’re on deck in the middle of a hurricane. She’s just holding onto the bedpost, man, and exactly how hard are you thrusting that you’re about to dislodge her?

Ana is so exhausted from having sex two whole times that Christian has to lift her near-lifeless body and carry her to bed so they can get some sleep. And that’s what comes of eating nothing but the occasional salad!

Chapter 19: Meet the Panties. I Mean, Parents.

Christian wakes Ana and tells her it’s time to go to dinner at his parents’ house. She promptly freaks out because he’s just tied her up and beaten her, and now she has to meet his parents and act like everything is normal! How will she cope? The same way the rest of us cope when we meet the parents of the person we’re nailing every 20 minutes: Pretend sex doesn’t exist. Works every time.

Ana puts her (Kate’s) dress back on, but uh-oh, where are her panties? I hope she didn’t borrow those, too. Kate might get mad that she lost them. Oh wait, that’s right! Christian put them in his pocket during the sexcapading. But why hasn’t he given them back? Ana is “bewildered by my lack of underwear.” Yup, that’s why I never go commando: I’m worried about disorientation. Finally she realizes that Christian wants her to beg for her panties, but she won’t give him the satisfaction. Instead, she’ll daringly go undie-free in front of his entire family! That’ll show him! And them…and the rest of Seattle…

Christian feels “mighty fine” but is tacitly perplexed when Ana doesn’t ask for her panties. Instead, they discuss his love of Frank Sinatra. Sinatra…Springsteen…opera… He is, like, so deep and worldly. He’s also, like, 27. How does he own a major corporation? It seems all he does is listen to music and engage in sex games. He is the master of the 4-hour work week.

They dance. It’s boring. Ana enthuses over how playful Christian is. Yawn.

Time to head off to dinner! Ana starts to panic. “I’m going to see his parents, and I’m not wearing any underwear.” What, are they going to check? I’ve done the meet-the-parents routine, let’s see, five times in my life? Maybe four. Anyway, at no point did anyone look to see if I had on underwear, and one time I was wearing a short dress so checking wouldn’t have been difficult, just intrusive. But Ana’s terribly worried, because Christian has her panties and for the love of God stop saying panties!!! The word has lost all meaning! Plus, panties is a terrible word. Men have underwear, women have panties. It’s one of those sweat/glow things that manage to make women sound superior while actually undermining our image.

Ana is grateful that the dress she borrowed from Kate is so long. I’m sure Kate will be grateful that Ana free-bushed in her dress.

On the way, Ana asks Christian where he learned to dance and finds out that he was taught by Hester the Molester, which is what I’m calling his former Dom because I don’t like calling her Mrs. Robinson. Mrs. Robinson was a cougar, but she was a cougar who respected the age limit for statutory rape. Ana mopes. Hester the Molester taught him to dance. Ana can never teach him anything because she can’t do anything cool because she sucks at life. Poor Ana. Whine whine whine.

They arrive at Christian’s stunningly perfect family home. Ana remeets Christian’s mom and meets his dad, Carlisle Carrick. She also gets bull-rushed by Christian’s bouncy and quirky little sister, Mia, who is so clearly a rip off of the perky and insane Alice from Twilight that I cringe. Mia has to be told to calm down, like an unruly Labrador. Poor thing got all the personality in the family. Kate’s here, Elliot’s here, look everyone is here, let’s all make pointless small talk.

Seeing Kate, Ana suddenly realizes that Christian didn’t really want her to meet his parents! He just didn’t want her to find out that Kate met his parents through Elliot and get upset that Christian didn’t ask her, too, so he was forced to bring her along. Phew, negative self-esteem levels restored. That one was close!

When Ana hears that Elliot will be joining Kate in Barbados (and Kate grins, shocking Ana with her lack of dignity, the trollop), Ana mentions that she might go to Georgia to visit her mother. Christian raises his hackles and throws a short hissy fit at Ana as soon as they get a moment alone. Over dinner, Kate mentions Ana and Jose’s trip to the bar for the express purpose of pissing Christian off further, which of course works.

Some blond chick with pigtails named Gretchen serves them food (and probably passes out some beersteins) while trying to flirt with Christian, which makes Ana jealous. In case you’re wondering, yes, we already had this scene. I should get a dollar back. I’m rereading the book and I’m not even done yet.

Boring talk, boring talk, boring talk. Baseball, moving, who’s visited Paris and who hasn’t. Ana tries to decide if Kate is in love or lust with Elliot but can’t tell. Ana can’t tell the difference between lust and love? You don’t say. Christian tries to put his hand up Ana’s skirt and she closes her legs, which is probably good policy when you’re sans underwear in a dress.

Christian takes Ana for “a tour of the grounds,” which translates to I’m going to fireman-carry you to the boathouse, where I will spank you and have sex with you.

Isn’t that how these family affairs always go?

Chapter 20: Christian Has a Vagina.

Christian hauls Ana up to the boathouse attic, which is decorated in a nautical theme (NO WAY!) and lit by halogen bulbs, because that’s important. I’m still sketchy on what the main characters look like, but at least I know what kind of light bulbs are illuminating their foggy faces!

Ana asks Christian not to spank her and starts kissing him. He’s confused. He’s also angry with her for saying no to him, also known as you didn’t let me finger you in front of my parents. No one has ever dared say no to him before! Wow, good thing Ana’s the first girl he brought home to Mom and Dad, or Christian might have started a history of extremely gross and awkward family dinners.

Since she doesn’t want to be spanked, Christian decides to go straight for the sex instead, but she’s not allowed to have an orgasm! Because that’s totally controllable. Speaking of controllable, Christian grabs Ana’s crotch and tells her, “This is mine…All mine.” No, I’m pretty damn sure her genitalia are hers. Her body is hers. Tell him, Ana! Tell him we are no longer owned by patriarchal overlords! And Ana says? “Yes, yours.”

Yes, yours?! What is THAT?! What’s next, fittings for a chastity belt? I’m disgusted. That, right there, is the reason I’m having such a hard time finishing this live blog project: the farther I get in the book, the more turned off I am, and I just don’t want to finish it.

But don’t worry, I will! So you don’t have to!

Rough couch sex with plenty of condom description ensues. Afterward, Christian warns Ana not to touch herself because he wants her to be frustrated. “That’s what you do to me by not talking to me, by denying me what’s mine.” Not talking to me = Not telling me every single thought that pops into your head. What’s mine = Your body…you didn’t think it was yours, did you?

And then he puts the condom in his pocket! Ew! He knots it closed, but still. I think I’d say, “So…just keep the panties. Or launder them or something. I think you just got them a little…sticky.”

Sure enough, he now chooses to return her underwear. Ana feels triumphant. She has “gained a small victory over the panties.” That’s right, it’s a small victory, but with luck, she can build on the momentum and defeat the panties once and for all! Someone call an editor to save that sentence!

Alice Mia interrupts their tête-à-tail, which Christian now refers to as “Showing Ana my rowing trophies.” At least he didn’t say, “I was just showing her my mizzenmast.” They go back to the house to say goodbye, and Ana gripes at Kate for antagonizing Christian. Kate defends her actions, saying that she wants Christian to get angry so Ana will see what he’s really like and ditch him. Oh, Kate. Brain-having, self-respecting Kate. How sweet that you think Ana is like you and will walk away from a bad relationship. No, my dear, she knows exactly what Christian is like, and it only makes her more determined to meet his impossible standards. Give up. No intervention in the world will stop this train wreck.

In the car, Ana confronts Christian with her suspicion that he only brought her to meet the ‘rents because he felt trapped into it. Christian gives her a lecture about her self-esteem, Ana realizes he asked her to go because he wanted her to go, and suddenly all is magical. Except now Christian wants to go with her to Georgia to meet her mother. Ana tells him she’s going because she wants a break from him, so…no. Stay, boy. Stay.

During yet another tortuous discussion of whether Ana can possibly stand to become Christian’s sub, Ana thinks that she thinks that she loves him. Ugh, here we go. A couple of dates, some sex, a lot of fighting, stalking, and manipulation, and suddenly she’s in love! Oh, and don’t forget the Audi. The Audi probably helped. Anyway, prepare for Ultimate Whining. It’s coming. On the plus side, she also finally gets it through her thick head that “He’s not a hero; he’s a man with serious, deep emotional flaws.” Yes! He’s a psycho stalker! Run! But no, she’s wondering if she can’t somehow save him from his dark and lonely road with her love.

No. Because he is a psycho stalker. Only meds and cognitive behavioral therapy can save him from his dark and lonely road.

Ana agrees to sign the contract. Which she already agreed to do. And then didn’t do. Christian tells her to think it over and decide after she goes to Georgia, which she may or may not do.

They go home and head for the bedroom. She’s exhausted, but he insists they have more sex before they go to sleep. Ana asks if she can touch him. He tells her no. She asks why. He gets all blustery and tells her to just go to sleep. Instead, she goes to the bathroom to indulge in her favorite hobby: staring at herself in the mirror. Then she moves on to her second-favorite hobby: using Christian’s toothbrush.

Christian comes in with his pajama pants “hanging off his hips in that way” that still remains unspecified, trying to make peace, mostly by whining. Ana tells him he can spank her if he’ll tell her why she can’t touch him. Christian finds this deal more than fair, so he trots off and comes back with a shiny new pair of Ben Wa balls. He offers to insert them, spank her, have sex, and then tell her his secrets…if she’s still awake, that is. But honestly, at what point during the sex toy spank-fest is she going to fall asleep?

He asks her to suck his (Ben Wa) balls and then sucks his own (Ben Wa) balls. Ana finds this procedure “sexier than the toothbrush.” Wow, sexier than sharing a toothbrush! What a bold claim.

He inserts the balls one at a time. I make a ploop! ploop! noise in my head. He makes her fetch him a glass of water so she can experience the balls, then puts her over his knee and spanks her. Ana is lost to exquisite sensation, but not so lost that she can’t continue obsessing about her panties. Why has he left them on? For goodness sakes, wench, you spent the last chapter whining about not having them on. Decide already!

He yanks the balls out (ploop! ploop!) and slays yet another innocent foil wrapper. Moan, thrust, repeat. Orgasms. Yawn.

In yet another recycled scene, Christian rubs lotion on Ana’s fanny. When she presses him for the promised information, he tells her his biological mother was a crack whore who died when he was four. He doesn’t explain the scars. He doesn’t explain why she can’t touch him. Ana’s satisfied anyway. I’m irked but unsurprised. As long as Ana can picture Christian as a sad orphan who needs her nurturing touch, she can justify putting up with his bullshit. She’s going to save him! She’s like Jesus! A female, stupid, horny version of Jesus.

Twenty chapters down, six more to go! See you next time for more of the interminable babble that is… Fifty Shades of Grey.

See the lab coat, stethoscope, and matching shoe/dress ensemble? This lady doctor is definitely preeminent.