What’s the Big Deal?: Fifty Shades of Grey Live-Blogging Edition, Chapter 23

I thought about setting some crazy goal like, “I will finish this piece of crap book before I move!” Realistically, I move in 10 days and I’m fried, you guys. So my crazy goal has turned out to be more like, “Ugh. I’ll do whatever.”

Let us soldier apathetically onward through the marshy wilderness known as…

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 Fifty Shades of What the Hell is Christian’s Problem Already, Ana left Christian behind in Seattle and went to Georgia on the pretext of visiting her mother, but as usual, Ana’s actions were really motivated by her desire for some time to obsess over Christian while someone else pays for her food, coupled with her driving need to run away from the man she thinks she loves. Her getaway lost its away when a phone conversation with Christian ended with Ana realizing…the call is coming from inside the bar. Also, the Cosmos are coming from inside the bar and a lot of them are now inside the Ana.

Chapter 23: Why My Mom Is Awesome and Ana’s Mom Sucks

When Ana explains to her mother that she’s jittery because Christian is in the bar with them, Mom is understandably confused as Ana has “neglected to mention Christian’s stalker tendencies.” I am now waiting for Mom to freak the eff out. He followed Ana across the country, literally, and somehow tracked her to the bar even though he has no (ethical) way of knowing where she is? No mom worth her salt is going to let this slide.

Ana’s inner goddess jumps up and cheers from her chaise longue. Chaise longue? Pom poms? Gymnastic routines? How does she have room for all this? Just how much empty space does Ana have in her head?

Oh. Right.

Ana is so happy Christian is here! No, wait, she is mad at him! But…she can’t be angry in front of mom! That would be admitting she has emotions. What to do?

Ana introduces Christian to her mother and is shocked when Christian greets Mom by her name, which Ana has never revealed to him. Apparently he did some stalker’s homework on the plane. Not only is he delving into Ana’s life without permission, he’s now invading the privacy of her friends and family. Okay, no, someone’s name is not private information, but does anyone believe he stopped at her surname? I bet Taylor has Mom’s measurements in his man-servantly day-planner just in case European lingerie becomes necessary.

Instead of asking why the hell Christian decided to fly across the country (again, literally! Washington state to Georgia, people!) to intrude on a family visit, Mom goes all fluttery-stupid as soon as he smiles at her. If the women in this family were superheroes, Christian would be their kryptonite. Somehow I don’t think anyone will ever accuse Ana of being a superhero, though.

Ana’s not sure whether to hug Christian or yell at him, so instead she asks the question that’s burning in my mind: “What are you doing here?” Yes, Christian, what are you doing following a girl across the continental United States and interrupting her Mommy & Me time? Excellent question!

Oh, well, you know, she said that she wished he were there, so he just came there. Also, he didn’t creepily track her to the bar. He’s staying in the hotel. Isn’t that a nifty coincidence? Or is it?

Mom invites Christian to drink with them. Let’s get this drunken whore party started! Christian gives an unnecessarily fussy drink order (down to: if you have this gin, I want this garnish, but if you have that gin, I want that garnish) and Ana orders another round of Cosmos, figuring that parentally sanctioned drinking won’t count as a violation of the contract that is not legally binding and that she has not signed anyway.

They chit chat about Ana’s new shirt (he flew across the country), catch up on Ana’s vacation news (without warning her), sip their drinks (to invite himself into the middle of family time,) and generally make googly eyes at each other (when she had already told him she did not want him there). Ana’s mom won’t stop staring at Christian, which Ana finds insulting because obviously the staring comes from Mom’s disbelief that her daughter could attract a man, not from the fact that Mom wants to find out if Christian is cougar-hunting. Things my mom would never do #1: Drool openly over my boyfriend. She might make a remark or two in private, but ogle him openly? Not unless I brought home Johnny Depp.

Finally Christian excuses himself, claiming he has “work to do.” Work? What work? Talking into the phone about Darfur and shitting or busting? Or finding Ana’s mom’s social security number? Of course, he doesn’t “want to interrupt the time you have with your mother.” Aw, that’s so thoughtful of him to fly across the country when he was specifically not invited so he could not interrupt Ana’s time with her mother. You know what would help him not interrupt their time? Staying in Seattle!

On to Mom’s reaction. Now, if my mother and I were in this situation, the conversation would go like this:

Mom: So…why did you ask him to fly all the way out here? I thought we were going to spend some time catching up!

Me: Oh my God, Mom, I don’t even know how he found us! He also upgraded my tickets to first class, which is sweet, except I didn’t tell him my flight number.

Mom: Okay. I’m dialing 911. Let’s go hide in the bathroom until the cops get here. Bring your Cosmo.

What does Ana’s mom do? Oh, she invites Christian to dinner, because who doesn’t want a deranged stalker to come over for roast chicken and conversation? Also, she heads for the bathroom, obviously for the sole purpose of letting Ana and Christian talk. Things my mom would never do #2: Leave me alone with a deranged stalker.

As soon as Mom’s gone, Ana and Christian start sniping at each other over Hester the Molester while simultaneously getting all hot and bothered. Christian denies having a sexual relationship with Hester the Molester at present, Ana calls her a domineering child molester (yup), and Christian insists that the relationship helped him. Rather than continue the discussion, Christian offers to flee back to Seattle, where he should have stayed in the first place. Ana tells him to stay but also tries to explain that just as he gets jealous because she hangs out with her purely platonic friend Jose, she gets jealous when Christian hangs out with the crone who used to statutorily rape him. With spanky-spanks. Christian defends himself! He went out with her because they are friends! He did not mean to upset Ana! Okay. And that’s different from her friendship with Jose because…? Clearly Christian subscribes to the When Harry Met Sally bullshit school of “men and women can’t be friends because sex.”

Ana asks why he and Hester the Molester parted ways. Oh, that? Her husband found out.

Okay. So. She seduced and dominated him at 15, AND she’s an adulteress. I completely understand why their friendship has endured. She is quite a prize, if you’re into that Desperate Housewives kinda thing.

Mom walks back into the conversation just as Ana’s about to ask if Christian loved Hester Molester. They lie to Mom and tell her everything’s peachy, and Christian heads off to his hotel room, leaving Ana without answers. Big shocker.

Mom immediately starts blathering about what “a catch” Christian is. Oh, there’s a catch, all right, Mom. Mom’s advice is to go talk to him! Obviously they have something special together! He flew thousands of miles to see her! Isn’t he wonderful?

Things my mom would never do #3: Observe that a man has flown thousands of miles to see me when he was not invited and make me feel like I’m being rude.

Ana and her mom have a pathetic “He loves you!”/”No, he doesn’t love me” angstfest. Ana’s mom actually utters the phrase, “Go to him!” and tells Ana where her housekey is hidden and to have safe sex. Things my mom would never do #4: Encourage me to go have sex with a deranged stalker. Ana suggests they finish their drinks first. Mom says, “That’s my girl!” Things my mom would never do #5: Praise me for turning into a total alcoholic. Well, all right, Ana’s mom probably doesn’t realize that Ana’s had a drink in her hand since chapter 5, so maybe we can let that one slide.

Ana goes to Christian’s hotel room, which we all expected her to do. Otherwise, they would miss the opportunity to do it in his hotel room.

Christian is “working.” You know what that means: he’s chattering incomplete sentences about “redundancy packages” into his phone. Do you know, I don’t think there’s actually anyone on the other end of the line? I think as soon as he hears Ana approach or knock, he whips out the phone and starts “working.” Otherwise she’ll figure out that he’s made his billions and is locking himself in a conference room to play HALO all day.

Ana describes the hotel room — “ultramodern, very now” — and grabs an orange juice from the minibar. I wish Christian had some weird idiosyncratic character trait that caused him to buy her extravagant gifts but force her to pay for her own coffee and juice, as that would be amusing and fit in with his general jackassery, but alas. Idiosyncrasies take creativity to develop.

A whole page of business babble. Christian hangs up and Ana jumps right back into the Hester the Molester conversation like she didn’t just unexpectedly waltz into Christian’s hotel room without preamble.

Christian didn’t love Hester the Molester. And we all heave a collective sigh of relief, because we were all holding our breath to find out, because we care sooooo much. Yeah.

Well, that solves that issue, apparently. On to the sex! Ana was mad, and Christian finds that sexy because he doesn’t “remember anyone but my family ever being mad at me.” Paging Dr. Freud!

Ana’s desire starts “pooling, unfurling…everywhere.” I would hate to be the maid assigned to room 612 in the morning. “Oh mah GAWD, we-all are gonna need a mop in hee-yah!”

Ana knows they should talk, but…The Sex! Nothing is more important than The Sex!

Like any dog, Christian can smell blood, and like any dog, he has no shame about bodily functions, so he asks Ana point-blank if she’s menstruating. Not in those words, of course. No, he asks, “Are you bleeding?” which could mean anything from “Are you menstruating?” to “I just stabbed you in the ass with a letter opener. Why aren’t you screaming?”

They head off to take a bath together. Christian has set up a romantic bathtime scene with candles in the time it took Ana to have a 30-second conversation with her mom and suck down the rest of her Cosmo, which only supports my theory that he didn’t pick up the phone until Ana showed up. He directs her in undressing, possibly because it’s sexy and possibly because he’s justly worried that she’ll forget how. In the middle of the scene, he drops my current favorite for Least Sexy Line in Book: “I’m going to have you in the bathroom, Anastasia.” 1. Stating the obvious. 2. Since when is having someone in the bathroom a worthwhile sex goal? 3. She already went down on him in the tub several chapters ago, so bath-play is nothing new here.

Christian makes Ana stand in front of a mirror and tells her to “See how you feel.” Look at this intangible sensation in the mirror, Ana!

He takes her hands and guides her in stroking herself, which I had the impression he didn’t want her to do, but whatever. You guys know what Ana has to say about this: “how arousing…It is so erotic.” And here’s an extra fun new sentence: “Truly I am a marionette and he is the master puppeteer.”

Truly, indeed. He manipulates and controls her every move and she never, ever does the same to him. Ahem.

Just when the mood is getting mellow and romantic, Christian asks Ana those words every woman longs to hear… “When did you start your period, Anastasia?”



…………………What? You’re asking now? Really? Even a gynecologist has the good grace to ask that question before the pants come off. For a master seducer, Christian sure sucks at setting and maintaining a sensual atmosphere.

And then he…

***Okay, listen up, any squeamish people in the audience. Christian is about to do something that may repulse, disgust, and/or nauseate you. I said “Ewwww!” so many times, my housemate finally walked across the hall and asked me what on earth was going on, and then I couldn’t bear to tell him. He’ll have to read the blog like everyone else. Also, we’re about to talk about menstruation, so if that bothers you, just scroll to the next asterisks and read on from there.***

And then he has her brace herself against the sink and pulls out her tampon.

Ewww! Ew-ew-ew-ew-ew-ew-ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

Why did no one warn me about this scene? Why has this scene not gotten review coverage? Why did I have to walk into this scene completely blind? Why, God, why?!

Don’t get me wrong, I have no issues with menstruation. No, that’s not true. I’m a woman, of course I have issues with menstruation, like, “Why do I have to do this?” I’m not squeamish about it, is what I mean. I’d love it if the rest of the world would stop making me feel like I should be squeamish about it. I would love it if my boyfriend did not get that deer-in-the-headlights look just because I say I’m having cramps. I mean, I don’t understand what goes on in your pants, either, mister, but you don’t see me getting all last-cigarette-before-the-firing-squad if you mention the subject.

However, it’s one thing to be an adult about a natural bodily process. It’s another to assume ownership of that process.

Ana’s still a newly-minted non-virgin. Not only has she never had sex during her period, she’s never even discussed her period with a man, or, knowing Ana, anyone at all. She had never even been to the ob/gyn until Christian forced her to start birth control pills. Is Christian sensitive to her feelings? No. He doesn’t ask if she minds having sex during her period. He doesn’t reassure her. He just uncorks her like a bottle of wine — obviously, red wine. Sorry, I had to.

Every heterosexual man should strive to be comfortable with the female body. (Gay guys, y’all are off the hook. You have other crosses to bear.) However, being comfortable does not translate to taking possession without so much as a by-your-leave.

I’m deeply disturbed right now that women all over the country are savoring this book as some sort of ultimate sexual fantasy. Christian never asks. He takes. As far as I can tell, that’s what women find so arousing about this book. To those women, I say:

Are you serious? Tell me you are not serious. You don’t honestly find it sexy to discard any attempt at a dialogue of equals in favor of “Come on, baby, you know you want it.” Please tell me that kind of relationship isn’t what you want for yourselves. Please tell me it isn’t what you want for your sisters, your friends, your daughters, your granddaughters, even your grandmothers. Please tell me you are not looking at that respectful, loving partner I sincerely hope you have and thinking, “If he really felt passion for me, he’d stalk me relentlessly and take away my choices. He’d assume he has as much right to take out my tampon without permission as a mother has to remove a baby’s dirty diaper. If he loved me, he’d treat me like I needed to be controlled, like he couldn’t trust me, like he was mentally, physically, and morally superior to me. Why, oh why, am I in such a stagnant pit of being allowed to be my own person?”

Don’t even try to tell me, “Oh, it’s just a harmless fantasy for grown women to indulge in!”

Do not tell me that when I have been approached several times at the public library by teenage girls asking where they can find Fifty Shades of Grey.

Do not tell me that when I have received an email from a friend asking just how bad Fifty Shades of Grey is, because her sister-in-law is a high school teacher and got upset when some of her teen female students brought copies to read during class.

Do not, do not, do not tell me this crap is harmless fun, and if you do, prepare to see whether Christian Grey can effectively spank your ass after it’s been handed back to you on a platter.

Sex, sex, sex. Ana feels herself “quicken,” which I assume she’s using in the “get excited” sense of the word and not the “get pregnant” sense of the word, since she’s on the pill now.

Orgasms, mutual collapse, some namby-pamby pillow talk. Then Ana remembers: “I’m bleeding.”

Christian asks her, “Does it bother you?”

I… He… I hate you, Christian. I completely, overwhelmingly hate you! You’re asking her now, after the fact, when it’s not a matter of “Are you okay with this?” but rather a matter of “Did I just traumatize you?” I hate you. You suck. You have reduced me to a complete lack of words for my feelings toward you beyond “I hate you” and “you suck.” That’s how much I hate you. That’s how much you suck.

Ana decides she’s not bothered by having sex during her period, and I’m glad she’s so mature and open-minded about it. I wish I could say I’m surprised that she’s not bothered by the “Oh hey let’s just pull this string” maneuver, but I don’t think Ana has any surprises left for me. She’s a total loss.

***Okay, we’re done talking about menstruation!***

For no earthly reason, Ana has a sudden epiphany that Christian’s scars are from cigarette burns. No. Really? Once again, you guys, Ana has proven herself a real Poirot and proven us to be slackers. When she brings up her fascinating realization, Christian gets standoffish and snaps at her. Ana asks if Hester the Molester gave him those scars, and Christian says he can’t understand why Ana has to “demonize her.” Yeah, I hate it when people ascribe all sorts of awful behaviors to pedophiles just because they’re pedophiles. Where’s the justice?

Ana suddenly feels awkward that they’re having a nude, bloodied, post-coital argument, when “neither of us has anywhere to hide, except perhaps the bath.” Wait, just how deep is this bath, and how long does Ana plan to hold her breath while hiding in it?

They both hop in the tub, Christian giving Ana the silent treatment, Ana handing it right back to him. Exciting, no? We’re really getting somewhere! They’re playing the Quiet Game! They have finally reached the maturity level of first graders.

Finally Christian tries to explain to Ana that Hester the Molester’s “love” distracted him from his bad-boy ways and kept him from becoming like his birth mother, which could mean he was turning into a crack addict, a whore, or a crack whore. We don’t know which one, you guys. We just don’t know. Anyway, thank God he had the love of a pedophile to save him.

Ana is glad he’s opening up to her and points out that she prefers his honesty to his completely successful attempts to distract her with sex. Christian explains that he has a hard time discussing his feelings except with his therapist and with Hester the Molester.

Oh, no. Christian. You just talked her down from a jealous fit, and then you go and say that? No brains, folks. I do not believe this guy could make billions of dollars in real life.

To make matters worse, he admits that he and Hester discuss his relationship with Ana, and that she gives him advice! Hm, suddenly his insane behavior makes more sense. Perhaps he has no clue how to relate to women outside the bedroom, so he’s asking ol’ MILFy Hester, and she’s jealous enough to give him bad advice that will derail his relationship with Ana. If that’s the case, she has seriously underestimated Ana’s relentless stupidity.

When Ana keeps pushing the issue, Christian tells her to stop before he spanks her, as though she’s a child having a tantrum and not a woman with legitimate concerns about her relationship. Well, actually, her concerns aren’t terribly legitimate, as she’s mainly worried that Christian and Hester still have a thing, when she should be worried that Christian talks to his ex about their relationship instead of talking to Ana.

Then he gripes at her for not answering his email, and she reminds him that there’s not much point emailing someone when they show up in front of your face. After all, when was she supposed to email him? While they were having a face to face conversation? During the tampon scene? From the tub?

Christian wants Ana to be honest about her feelings, since he went first. She tells him she’s still not into the whole contract idea, and he agrees that she’s not good at submission. She admits that the spanking wasn’t bad, but that she felt uncomfortable getting pleasure out of an unpleasurable activity. Christian agrees that it “takes a while to get your head around it.” Hm. Exactly how long does Stockholm Syndrome take to set in? He also explains that he needs to control her because “it satisfied a need in me that wasn’t met in my formative years.” What need? I don’t remember needing to spank people when I was a child. Anyway, Ana is comforted to realize the BDSM lifestyle is a kind of therapy for him.

She’s a goner for sure. He just hit her where she lives: If I do this spanking thing, I’ll be helping him! I’ll be saving him with my love! He’ll be redeemed by me, and I’ll be worthy of him, and he’ll be worthy of me, and we’ll be, like, all totally worthy together!

They spend about 10 more seconds trying to talk about a serious topic (the fact that he tells her not to defy him but then tells her to keep challenging him), and then it’s back to sex, sex, sex. They do it in the tub. Christian looks “hot.” They have meh-gasms.

Finally the lovebirds hit the sheets, where Ana wants to talk again. Good! You get him back on topic and you iron this stuff out, Ana. I’m sick of all this wishy-washing, no one ever saying what they mean.

Oh. Wait. She wants to talk about their favorite movies, because it’s integral to the plot to know that Christian loves The Piano.

The topic goes back to sex, and Christian reveals that while he has had 16 submissives, he’s had sex with many more women than that. In fact, he doesn’t know the exact numbers, although he assures her it’s in “the tens.” Not the teens, the tens. That could be anywhere from 19 to 90. Apparently Christian used to go to some sort of BDSM boot camps to train as a Dom, and he got to “practice” with women training to be subs. I don’t think he got the fundamentals down. You know, like getting your partner’s consent? I’m pretty sure that’s a biggie.

Disappointed that she can’t shock Christian except by wearing his underwear, not wearing her own, being a virgin, and saying his name (huh?), Ana agrees to go back to the Red Room of Pain and play hide-the-crop again next weekend. Elated, Christian promises her a surprise, which I’m sure will be large and expensive, and then tells her good night. Well, not so much tells her good night as “commands” her: “Sleep.” As though she’s a voice activated gadget, Ana powers down for the night and all is well.

Oh, gosh. I’m powering down for the night, too. Is it possible Christian’s having an effect on me, too? Oh wait. I’ve been awake for 17 hours. I’m probably just tired.

Tune in next time to find out whether Christian prefers Always or Kotex!