Sunday, March 31, 2013


Book club? Like the type my Mom is in where they don't actually talk about the book just hang out and drink? No! Book club like the type where we actually talk about the book! Although drinking isn't frowned upon.

How it will work:

Every other Sunday (rotating with Will's Ender's Game posts) I'll do a small "thoughts on this chapter" post, maybe pose a few questions, and discussion about the chapter in the comments. I know, I'm asking a lot here. I'm asking you guys to read two chapters of a book a month, AND to then talk about it! But I think you guys are going to have just as much fun with it as I will!

Now, the big question, what book are we reading? Well, that's up to you! Sort of! I'll give you a list, and you can cast your vote in the comments, or on Twitter (@SnappyErika)! I'll announce the book next Sunday both on Twitter and here (a separate post from Will's next one, don't worry)! The first chapter will go up on April 14th.

So, the contenders!

How To Be Good By Nick Hornsby

This is one of the two books on the list I have already read, and it's a favorite of mine. Some interesting questions about morality, society. I adore Hornsby, but his treatment of female characters always makes me wonder.

From Amazon:

Katie Carr is a good person. She recycles. She's against racism. She's a good doctor, a good mom, a good wife...well, maybe not that last one, considering she's having an affair and has just requested a divorce via cell phone. But who could blame her? For years her husband's been selfish, sarcastic, and underemployed, writing the "Angriest Man in Holloway" column for their local paper.

But now David's changed. He's become a good person, too—really good. He's found a spiritual leader. He has become kind, soft-spoken, and earnest. He's even got a homeless kid set up in the spare room. Katie isn't sure if this is a deeply-felt conversion, a brain tumor—or David's most brilliantly vicious manipulation yet. Because she's finding it more and more difficult to live with David—and with herself.
 Yes Man by Danny Wallace

The other book on the list I have already led. I re-read books very rarely, but this is one I went out of my way to buy after I read it. Yes, there was a movie, but it's based on the concept of the book, not the book it's self. It's the type of book that happens when you decide to say fuck it and see where life takes you. Also it's based on real events.

From Amazon:

Recently single, Danny Wallace was falling into loneliness and isolation. When a stranger on a bus advises, "Say yes more," Wallace vows to say yes to every offer, invitation, challenge, and chance.
In Yes Man, Wallace recounts his months-long commitment to complete openness with profound insight and humbling honesty. Saying yes takes Wallace into a new plane of existence: a place where money comes as easily as it goes, nodding a lot can lead to a long weekend overseas with new friends, and romance isn't as complicated as it seems.

Yes Man is inspiring proof that a little willingness can take anyone to the most wonderful of places.

Cat's Cradle  By Kurt Vonnegut

I have not read this book before, but I am a big fan of Vonnegut, and any work of his promises some fun things to pick apart and look at the layers of.

From Amazon:

Cat’s Cradle is Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical commentary on modern man and his madness. An apocalyptic tale of this planet’s ultimate fate, it features a midget as the protagonist, a complete, original theology created by a calypso singer, and a vision of the future that is at once blackly fatalistic and hilariously funny. A book that left an indelible mark on an entire generation of readers, Cat’s Cradle is one of the twentieth century’s most important works—and Vonnegut at his very best.

The Girl Who Would Be King  by Kelly Thompson

The Boy bought me this book for my birthday, and it came in last week. Having never heard of it, or it's author, I was thoroughly confused why he went to the trouble to order it online. He explained that he read a review for it that said it handled feminist issues and tropes interestingly/well and that it sounded right up my ally. The back of the book makes me suspect he's right.

From Amazon:

A novel about two teenage girls with superpowers and radically different agendas, destined for a collision that will rock the world: Separated by thousands of miles, two young women are about to realize their extraordinary powers which will bind their lives together in ways they can't begin to understand. Protecting others. Maintaining order. Being good. These are all important things for Bonnie Braverman, even if she doesn't understand why. Confined to a group home since she survived the car accident that killed both her parents, Bonnie has lived her life until now in self-imposed isolation and silence; but when an opportunity presents itself to help another girl in need, Bonnie has to decide whether to actually use the power she has long suspected she has. Power that frightens her.

Across the country, Lola LeFever is inheriting her own power by sending her mother over a cliff...literally. For Lola the only thing that matters is power; getting it, taking it, and eliminating anyone who would get in the way of her pursuit of it. With her mother dead and nothing to hold her back from the world any longer, Lola sets off to test her own powers on anyone unfortunate enough to cross her. And Lola's not afraid of anything. One girl driven to rescue, save, and heal; the other driven to punish, destroy, and kill. And now they're about to meet.

So, cast your votes and tune in next Sunday to see what we're reading!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

50 Shades Darker chapter 11 in which Erika contemplated curling up into a little ball.

Last chapter in 50 Shades Darker! Ana and Grey went sailing and had dinner! Ana finally got a tour of the full house! Grey moved all of Ana's shit into his room without forewarning! Then they played pool (full of "stroking" of cues) and Ana made a bet with Grey that if she won, he took her back to the play-room and if he won he got to name his terms. The chapter ended with Grey saying he was going to spank her on the pool table before taking a shot that would WIN OR LOSE THE GAME!

So, Grey wins the bet. Shocking, I know.

He stands, and his mouth twists in a triumphant I-so-own-you-Steele smile.

Because that's different than normal how..?

He doesn’t look like a CEO—he looks like a bad boy from the wrong side of town.

I haven't known many CEOs but I admit that most of the business dudes I DO know generally never look like they might rob me. This is not the first time Ana has commented on Grey looking like he's from "the wrong side of town" and I'm not sure if this is supposed to add to his "universal appeal" (he can rock the straight cut, preppy look or edgy bad-boy) or if it's more of the "good girls like bad boys" because his behavior is really more problematic than anything else and EL James wanted to, at least occasionally, give him an exterior to match?

“Well, let’s count your misdemeanors, Miss Steele.” He counts on his long fingers. “One, making me jealous of my own staff. Two, arguing with me about working. And three, waving your delectable derriere at me for the last twenty minutes.”

It's good that they can have conversations about their relationship hangup's without it being a big deal.

When he turns and gazes at me, his eyes are burning. I stand paralyzed like a complete zombie, my heart pounding, my blood pumping, not actually able to move a muscle. In my mind, all I can think is—this is for him—the thought repeating like a mantra over and over again.

Zombies can move. That's part of why they are a very serious security threat. I am offended that EL James would belittle it like this. Wait- Is Grey actually a necromancer?! Ana was all "I WANT TO DO SOMETHING FOR YOU!" last chapter, Grey's response was to get annoyed at her for pushing herself to do things she isn't comfortable with. Her response? Push herself to do things she isn't comfortable with. :/

On his way over to me, he pauses at the small desk built into one of the bookshelves. Reaching over, he picks up a twelve-inch Perspex ruler. He holds each end and flexes it, his eyes not leaving mine.
Holy shit—his weapon of choice. My mouth goes dry.

Weapon of choice means preferred weapon, not the one you just happen to pick up. Given that none of the things in his play room were rulers, I would venture to guess that it is, in fact, not his weapon of choice.

Suddenly, I’m hot and bothered and damp in all the right places.

Which is way better than when Grey rolled a 1* on "seduction" and Ana shat herself.

Then he takes her shoes off like she's six and starts to undress her and Ana marvels at how much she loves him.

I step out of them, glad that I’m wearing these pretty, pretty panties

Every time I see "pretty pretty" I think of Pretty Pretty Princess

I'd comment on the gendered BS of this board game but I used to play with my brother and his friends.

“I want to be quite rough with you, Ana. You’ll have to tell me to stop if it’s too much,” he breathes.
Oh my. He kisses me . . . there. I moan softly.
“Safe word?” I murmur.
“No, no safe word, just tell me to stop, and I’ll stop. Understand?”

“We’re lovers, Anastasia. Lovers don’t need safe words.” He frowns. “Do they?”

I think this is an actual question, he isn't quite sure. Which makes me laugh. It's a sad sort of laughter, the type when your options are "laugh or cry" but laugh none the less. Considering this book is supposed to be so sex-positive I am saddened to see EL James painting BDSM as something loving couples can't do. It's only for the broken and dysfunctional, and in a book that's pretending to celebrate sexy and the kinky that's... hypocritical and makes me sad.

He leans over and picks up the cue.
Oh fuck, what’s he going to do with that? A frisson of fear runs through me.

No, I got my hopes up we might actually see something creative and kinky, but instead we just see him posing her as if he was doing a photo shoot for a calendar. YES UNDO YOUR SHIRT AND TRY AND SINK THAT BALL!

I flush, and my inner goddess grabs a rose between her teeth and starts to tango. Taking a deep breath, I try to ignore him and line up my shot.

Seriously, where the hell does Ana's inner goddess get all these chaise lounges, flowers, and fitness equipment from?

his fingers fisting in my hair

Does fisting mean something else in the UK? Because this is a terrifying mental image if it doesn't.

He hits me again—and again . . . and once more . . . harder this time—and I wince.
“Stop.” The word is out of my mouth before I’m even aware that I’ve said it. Christian drops the ruler immediately and releases me.
“Enough?” he whispers.
“I want to fuck you now,” he says, his voice strained.

I want to underline this because much to my shock it shows Grey seeking consent. Ana says stop, and there is no hesitation. He doesn't just stop, he drops the ruler and lets go. He then asks if he can proceed with other activities (well, tells her he wants to, but it's an implied question) and I'm kind of shocked to see that in this book.

I hear the telltale rip of foil

What the hell brand of condoms are they using? Trojan Extra Noisy?

I hear his groan of pure pleasure, and it stirs my soul.

Yes, apparently the soul resides in the snatch. Debate and search over! Whew! Also I think soul-searching is about to get a lot more fun.

“Yes . . . I’m fine. Lose yourself . . . take me with you,” I murmur breathlessly.


Oh fucking my . . .

I don't know why it has taken me so long to make this joke...

soul-grabbing orgasm that leaves me spent and exhausted.

Okay, so now we know the breed of dark wizard Grey is. Apparently he's a necromancer. Can't spell necromancer without romance!**

“You never fail, Ana. You are beautiful, bright, challenging, fun, sexy, and I thank divine providence every day that it was you that came to interview me and not Katherine Kavanagh.”

I actually think Kate and Grey might make an interesting read. There'd certainly be more ball punching. Also I'm getting tired of being told how awesome and special Ana is. I get it, okay? She's apparently George Takei after all.

“Tomorrow—when I go to work—can Sawyer just deliver me to the front door of the office then pick me up at the end of the day? Please, Christian. Please,” I plead.
His hands still as his brow creases. “I thought we agreed,” he grumbles.
“Please,” I beg.
“What about lunchtime?”
“I’ll make myself something to take from here so I don’t have to go out, please.”
He kisses my instep. “I find it very difficult to say no to you,” he mutters as if he senses this is a failing on his part. “You won’t go out?”

This is basically the entire scene. They're in the bath, he's rubbing her feet, it's a very gentle relaxed scene. Then Ana starts to beg to be allowed to go to work without adult supervision. Pleading, and has to sacrifice the ability to go outside for it.

I shower and dress quickly, wearing the clothes I set out yesterday: a fitted, gray pencil skirt; pale-gray silk shirt; and high-heeled black pumps

On rainy cold days I too like to dress in all gray. Really helps to tune into the misery around you.

She smiles and turns to make me tea.
Wow . . . this is so cool.

Wasn't Ana all uncomfortable about being waited on hand and foot before?

So Grey leaves and Ana chats with Mrs. Jones a little bit.

My cheeks pink with pleasure, and I want to bombard this woman with questions. She must know so much about Fifty, and although her manner is warm and friendly, it’s also very professional. I know I’ll only embarrass both of us if I start quizzing her, so I finish my breakfast in a reasonably comfortable silence


“Taylor, I’m sorry about yesterday and my inappropriate remarks. I hope I didn’t get you into trouble.”
Taylor frowns in bemusement at me from the rearview mirror as he pulls out into the Seattle traffic.
“Miss Steele, I’m rarely in trouble,” he says reassuringly.
Oh good. Maybe Christian didn’t tell him off. Just me, then, I think sourly.
“I’m glad to hear it, Taylor.” I smile

I appreciate this, actually. It shows Ana being compassionate and not awful, but Taylor's "I rarely get in trouble" doesn't sit well for me and I'm not sure why. So, off to work we go! Ana boots up her "e-mail program" and finds this gem.

From: Christian Grey
Subject: Boss
Date: June 13, 2011 08:24
To: Anastasia Steele
Good morning, Miss Steele
I just wanted to say thank you for a wonderful weekend in spite of all the drama.
I hope you never leave, ever.
And just to remind you that the news of SIP is embargoed for four weeks.
Delete this e-mail as soon as you’ve read it.
Christian Grey,
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. & Your boss’s boss’s boss.

So, this bothers me on a few levels. 1) why does she need to know this? 2) E-mail, even once deleted, on an internal server is likely still assessable. 3) He knows her e-mail is monitored and can send them to her phone.

Next up we get reminded that Ana has a super creepy boss!

“Good. As you probably remember, I’m going to that Commissioning Fiction Symposium in New York on Thursday. I have tickets and reservations, but I’d like you to come with me.”
“To New York?”
“Yes. We’ll need to go Wednesday and stay overnight. I think you’ll find it a very educational experience.” His eyes darken as he says this, but his smile is polite. “Would you make the necessary travel arrangements? And book an additional room at the hotel where I am staying? I think Sabrina, my previous PA, left all the details handy somewhere.”

Oh this is going to be hilarious and awful. I won't get into the angry e-mailing back and forth that ensues because there isn't a good way to do so without text-dumping on you, but here's the gist of it. Grey says no, Ana says fuck off this is my career. Grey says no more forcefully, and Ana tells him to fuck off again. So he changes how spending is approved within the company so Ana can't book a flight or hotel to go to the conference. A conference that could have been a very real opportunity to network for her. She also comments in his e-mail that "I hope you never ever leave" sounds like he's asking her to move in. His response is "Yes. Please."


I think my brain might be bleeding. Ana's first thought is that this is obscene, but we all know this will come back later, so I want to point it out. 5-weeks and he's bought the company she works for, started to isolate her from her friends, and is now going to start bullying her to move in with him. Elena also somehow magically got Ana's e-mail and once again is asking her to go out for lunch some time. Ana just forwards the e-mail to Grey.

Now onto lunch! Jack, being bogged down with a sudden increase in work because Ana isn't going to the convention with him (which makes very little sense to me since he had just asked her and it was in three days) and has to send her to go fetch his lunch. Being his personal assistant, this makes sense. So, off she goes. Breaking Grey's rule about never ever leaving the building alone. OH NO!

I sit and eat the chicken salad sandwich Mrs. Jones made for me. It’s delicious. She makes a mean sandwich.

Ana must be one of those people who loves all food, and it doesn't matter what you put in front of her. "A mean sandwich" is not chicken salad. AS A FOOD WIZARD THIS SENTENCE OFFENDS ME.

Of course, if I moved in with Christian, she would make lunch for me every weekday. The idea is unsettling. I have never had dreams of obscene wealth and all the trappings—only love. To find someone who loves me and doesn’t try to control my every move.

Says the girl who at the start of the first book had never been kissed or out on a date. Had she said "I always pictured myself leading a more modest life being married to my work..." because let's face it, editors are not well paid, I might understand, but this? This is downright unbelievable when we look at previous characterization. I'm also annoyed that that is all Ana ever wanted. No aspirations of family, or writing a book herself, or being an editor on the next great novel and being able to say "I had a hand in shaping that" or even a desire to travel and see the world. Nope! Just a boyfriend!

The phone rings, and Grey calls her out on leaving because he somehow knew she left the office for ten minutes to grab her boss lunch. Ana tells him to shove it. She has a backbone this chapter it seems.

“Suffocating?” he whispers, surprised.
“Yes. You have to stop this. I’ll talk to you this evening. Unfortunately, I have to work late because I can’t go to New York.”
“Anastasia, I don’t want to suffocate you,” he says quietly, appalled.
“Well, you are. I have work to do. I’ll talk to you later.” I hang up, feeling drained and vaguely depressed.

Ana then thinks about how he's so perfectly tragic and how she needs to show that she's his, but not going to sit at home waiting for him. Hnnnggghhh.

Ana finishes work late, where her boss hits on her and gets borderline touchy and I'm not going to copy-paste the scene because it struck close enough to home for me that I found it really uncomfortable to read. Ana tries to maneuver away from him and he keeps leaning in, brushing hair etc. It isn't until he starts asking about her boyfriend and she says his name that he backs off. Ana is pleased that Grey's name evokes such power, I'm depressed she had to use it to get this guy to back off. Grey will later tell Ana that Jack has a reputation, none of his personal assistants have lasted longer than 3 months and he slept with them all.

I want to say that this would be totally unreasonable. I want to say that HR would notice and Jack would be fired. However SIP is constantly referred to as a "small company" and in smaller environments the pressure on women to just shut up and deal with it can be much worse because things get personal. People talk, y'know?

Grey picks Ana up after work, and they finally get around to the elevator sex. Although Grey presses the "stop elevator" button, and... no one responds. If you hit the stop button, some service team will buzz in being all "Yo everything a'ight dawg?" but that doesn't happen. Grey also knows "the code to restart the elevator" and more and more I wonder what world this is set in. Then it's onto dinner and Ana and Grey, both wound down from fucking away their stress, have a SRS TALK.

I sigh, emboldened by my glass of wine. “You really have to let me fight my own battles. You can’t constantly second-guess me and try to protect me. It’s stifling, Christian. I’ll never flourish with your incessant interference. I need some freedom. I wouldn’t dream of meddling in your affairs.”
He blinks at me. “I only want you safe, Anastasia. If anything happened to you, I—” He stops.
“I know, and I understand why you feel so driven to protect me. And part of me loves it. I know that if I need you, you’ll be there, as I am for you. But if we are to have any hope of a future together, you have to trust me and trust my judgment. Yes, I’ll get it wrong sometimes—I’ll make mistakes, but I have to learn.”

Hi Ana's backbone! I missed you!

“And if you can do that—give me that—I’ll move in with you,” I add softly.
He inhales sharply, surprised. “You’d do that?” he whispers.
“But you don’t know me.”

D-did Ana just use moving in with him as leverage for him to back off on her career? While setting no boundaries of what that would look like? How does "I will move in with you which will give me less freedom if you give me more freedom" make any sense?! YOU HAVE BEEN DATING 5-WEEKS! Also, Grey isn't commenting on the 5-weeks thing, but on that she doesn't know how dark and fucked up and awful he is. I think both are fair points to make. Ana also comments throughout this chapter that she'd like to run away to get some space and think (You know, like she did when she went to Georgia and he followed her there) but there's always another dose of Grey and his magic-peen to distract her. I'm shocked and frankly started at the utter lack of responsibility on Ana's part here. Also did EL James just... forget, that Ana was supposed to live with Kate and her brother? Will Kate and her brother ever be plot relevant again? Probably not!

And so ends our chapter- except for Taylor bursting in to say that Elena is on her way up. dun Dun DUN!!!! Tune in next week to see if I start drinking through these posts again!

*For those of you who are not table top nerds, to use skills you often have to roll a 20 sided die. Rolling a 20 is just auto-win, and a 1 is auto fail.
**Line stolen from editor number 2 (Aka Mad Scientist Alex).

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ender's Game, chapter 1, part 2, in which we immediately give up on all reasoned morality

(Content: violence.  Fun content: a familiar fruity friend.)

Ender's Game: p. 2--8

Welcome back, friends new and old, to the first proper Ender's Game post, in which we are introduced to our hero and immediately question his heroism!  And by 'question', I mean 'leaping panda of upper Uganda, what the fuck are we reading'.  I'll be coming back again and again throughout the book of whether and when Ender is supposed to be considered a hero and when he's not.  It's super flipfloppy, which is both interesting and terrifying for a whole parade of reasons yet to come.  Anyway!  Time for the first flip.

With the ground rules of the universe set, we meet Ender Wiggin, six years old and hauled out of class one afternoon to have his military-issued spinal chip removed.  The chips aren't discussed again in the books (that I've read) and never really explained here, but the implication is basically that Battle School candidates get wifi'd into a neural network where someone else can monitor them for screening purposes.  The monitor gets to see/hear/feel everything the kid does.  This quickly introduces us to the idea that the government/military gets to do pretty much whatever it wants for the sake of saving humanity and possibly the rest of Earth.

As noted before, this is a core bit of the story: the idea that anything can be justified in order to save the world. The first themes, as mentioned last time, are already basically about how special Ender is: he is a Bespoke General made of prototypical Masculinity and Femininity for a single purpose (save the world) and everything that he does or that is done to him to facilitate that goal is justified.  The next theme is this: Ender Wiggin is smarter than them. Them in this case is basically everyone.  He knows how adults lie and uses that so effectively that you might as well never lie at all.
"Andrew, I suppose by now you're just absolutely sick of having that horrid monitor. Well, I have good news for you.  That monitor is going to come out today. We're going to take it right out, and it won't hurt a bit." Ender nodded.  It was a lie, of course, that it wouldn't hurt a it.  But since adults always said it when it was going to hurt, he could count on that statement as an accurate prediction of the future.  Sometimes lies were more dependable than the truth.
(Spoiler: it hurts like wonderfuck and they have to give him muscle relaxant drugs that nearly kill him, which is a reminder that these people are doing terrible things to kids, but is not otherwise relevant to the plot.)

Ender gets picked on in class because he's so special, but he's also so smart and helpful that his enemies accidentally compliment him when they text him dancing insults on his tablet at school.
He was the one who had figured out how to send messages and make them march--even as his secret enemy called him names, the method of delivery praised him.
This will continue forever.  Ender will always be the smartest person in the room.  And that means that a most common burden he will sag under will be the knowledge that he knows the best way to do things but must keep quiet to avoid embarrassing or enraging the senior people who are in command.  (Honestly, Ender's Shadow is a relief just because Bean sometimes points out Ender not being perfect.)  People hate Ender for being so awesome, on a regular basis.  The remainder of chapter 1 will be about what happens to folk like that, because we meet a boy named Stilson, who taunts Ender for being a Third (a government-requisitioned third child, in a society where population controls normally limit families to two kids). Ender doesn't know yet that the military wants him; he thinks his monitor was pulled because he has flunked their psychological testing.

I said this chapter was actually pretty well-written, and I'll take a moment now to explain that.  Card uses a style of writing that I try to mimic in my fiction as well, in which the narrative treats the reader like everything is normal.  When it talks about Ender picking up his desk and walking away, it doesn't stop to explain that a 'desk' is basically a tablet computer that the school has issued to all the students, despite Ender's Game having been written decades ago when the tablet computer was thoroughly the stuff of speculative fiction.  The story doesn't stop to explain that the monitor chip in the back of Ender's neck was put there when he was three (or any age; it's not specified) so that the military could screen him for training potential for the Battle School; it just tells us that his monitor has been removed and everyone knows (the other kids gossip a bit) and this must mean he's 'washed out'.  We're not told these things, but we're given enough implied hints from the narrative and the other characters' remarks that we can piece it together.  This isn't easy to pull off--plenty of authors in both science fiction and fantasy try and just end up with an incomprehensible mess that loses any normal reader.  When it works (and here I think it does) it's deeply immersive (and in keeping with last week's theme, it's a great way of making the reader feel smart).  My point in this analysis isn't to deny that Card knows how to write.  Just that sometimes people use their powers for evil.

So, school lets out, Ender dawdles a bit because he doesn't want to go home (this is fair, as we'll see in chapter two) and when he's finally prodded out of the room by his teacher he finds bullies waiting.
His monitor wasn't perched on his neck, hearing what he heard and seeing what he saw. They could say what they liked. They might even hit him now--no one could see them anymore, and so no one would come to Ender's rescue.
Ender's never faced actual violence before this moment, and isn't sure if he might now.  The leader of the bullies is just called Stilson, and he taunts Ender with stuff that's realistic playground fare, including of course "bugger-lover" (THE SUBTEXT, IT BURNSSS USSSS), and then he gets surrounded and they start pushing him back and forth.  I'm sure a few of us have been in that position--I was, at that age, and as I recall, my brilliant escape plan involved ninja kicks, for which I later (I am not making this up) attempted to plead temporary insanity.  A six-year-old gets surrounded, there's a good chance they'll lash out.  I get that, and I don't think there's anything wrong with self-defence.  So: Ender tries to even the numbers by taunting Stilson into facing him alone, and they let him go:
And as soon as they did, Ender kicked out high and hard, catching Stilson square in the breastbone. He dropped. It took Ender by surprise--he hadn't thought to put Stilson on the ground with one kick. It didn't occur to him that Stilson didn't take a fight like this seriously, that he wasn't prepared for a truly desperate blow.
For a moment, the others backed away and Stilson lay motionless. They were all wondering if he was dead. Ender, however, was trying to figure out a way to forestall vengeance. To keep them from taking him in a pack tomorrow. I have to win this now, and for all time, or I'll fight it every day and it will get worse and worse.
Ender knew the unspoken rules of manly warfare, even though he was only six.
 The rules have to do with whether it's okay to hit a person when they're down (the rules say no) but first I am left struggling to know what to make of the above.  The bullies are just there to pump their egos up by literally pushing a little kid around.  Ender, for some reason, is instead fighting for his life right from the start, and I cannot fathom why.  He's been wearing a monitor for at least a couple of years.  No one would dare attack him lest they face a military-spurred response.  He's been bullied, definitely, but in a verbal and social way.  He's been certain of food and shelter to a comfortable American middle-class degree.  And yet somehow he has this animalistic defensive instinct.  This is, presumably, one of the inborn traits that makes him the Greatest General Of All Time, but it's terrifying and I don't know what should happen to our sympathy for him.

So Ender lays into Stilson, systematically kicking him in the ribs, crotch, and face, finally spattering blood from his nose.  He tells the other bullies that if they try to come after him again, he'll do worse to them, and then walks away.

What in all of the fuck.

No, wait, let me try that again.

That's better.

Ender's response to being threatened with schoolyard violence is to destroy a 7-year-old child and walk away.  This is our hero.  I can still be compassionate for him, but in the sense of 'he needs help'.  He needs professionals with a non-patronising manner and soothing background music.  Spoilers: that is not what he's going to get.  Mother Wiggin will have a similar reaction in a couple of chapters, but Ender is going away to learn how to be an even better destroyer.  In space.

But part of what scares me here is that I don't remember being horrified the first time I read this, and that makes me think that I didn't see anything grossly unreasonable about Ender's response, and that makes me think that this might be more realistic than I'd like to believe.  I don't think I could have really devoted myself to this degree of violence at age six, but I might have been philosophically on side.  What about y'all, readers?  Were you peaceable kids, or one rough day away from Lord of the Flies?  Later in the book, the military folks will explain that they need to train young commanders because only kids have the rapid learning and creativity that they need, but I think there's a solid alternative interpretation here that they want to capture that youthful spirit of cheerfully mangling a helpless opponent.

Well, not that cheerfully--as he waits for the bus, Ender tearfully recriminates himself by saying that, with his monitor gone from his neck and thus no one watching, he is "just like Peter", his brother.  I am not sure that's a legitimate comparison, Ender!  To the best of my knowledge, your brother has not ruined a life yet!  But this is all very tight third-person, with us seeing the world the way Ender does it, and we'll see how Ender sees Peter next time, as we get into chapter 2.

Also, quick poll: do y'all care about spoilers?  There's a point or two in this chapter where we don't get the whole story until much later in the book, and I wasn't sure if I should make reference to those, or if we should save the surprise for later.  I'm sort of keeping the spoilers out for now, but if you don't care, let me know for future reference.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

News and merch snarking

What? No 50 Shades post this week? I can write on my birthday but not on a random Wednesday? Am I still hung over from my birthday? Shockingly, no. I'm dealing with some health stuff which is making life more stressful and difficult (I'm fine, for those of you about to ask) and that is taking away from my ability/will to write. Don't worry, I'm not going on hiatus, either.

The new (temporary) posting schedule:

Sunday and Thursday.

I will aim to continue doing 50 Shades posts on Thursdays, but I just don't have the time to commit steadily to it. If anyone is interested in doing a guest post and doing a chapter for me (much like what The Boy did) this would be a great time to make that offer. Just sayin'. You can contact me via e-mail ( in the comments, or on Twitter (@SnappyErika). Every other Sunday will be Will's Ender's Game deconstructions, the next one of which will be this Sunday! Are you excited? Because I am.

For those of you who don't want to remember all that, if you follow me on twitter I tweet new posts so you can have it all conveniently delivered through your twitter stream!

And now, since I can't leave you guys hanging, here are some 50 Shades inspired merch for your pleasure and my suffering.

There is an actual cook book called 50 Shades of Chicken. This upsets me on many levels. Several of which are because I am a cook. Would you guys want to see me hate-review it?

The merch is apparently aimed at teenagers despite being a very adult book. Although why do they keep being all HANDCUFFS WOOO when we have yet to see any? And don't responsible BDSMers tend to use soft restraints as to metal handcuffs?

Cocktails which are naturally made with (50 Shades of) Grey Goose. I'm not sure which upsets me more. The pun or the fact that I didn't come up with it first.

And let's not forget etsy.

Also on etsy, a onsie. Because it's important to plant little psychological landmines for your kids in their baby photos.

I'm not even going to bother linking to the handcuffs and linger. They're too obvious.

You guys can see Will on Sunday, and I'll be back next Thursday! As always, comments are loved, and thank you all for your patience with the fluctuating schedule! Hopefully things will get sorted out quickly and I can go back to pumping out a bajillion words a day no sweat!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I think we should be friends

Hello!  So, Erika the Over Queen of the blog is still hungover and not able to prepare a Tuesday post (because obviously the party was only on Saturday and that is not nearly enough recovery time) so instead, for those of you who are still all "Who is this guy with all the Ws in his name and what makes him think he should be on this blog", we now have a chance to get to know each other better!  But this is also a busy month for me and I have not lately blogged a bunch (the second Ender's Game post will go up next Sunday, though!) and so for your amusement and judgment I offer the following, which was previously posted on my original blog under the title "The Comrade Sector".

(Content: screwed-up gender dynamics, heterocentric discussion of sexist concepts.  Fun content: Klingons and daguerrotypes!)

(Alternate titles for this post included The Ally Territory, The Companion Realm, and Eight Rules For Dating My Non-Age-Specific Fellow Sapient.  [Edit: also, Salacious Tortoises would have been a good one.])

This is one of those subjects that makes it hard for me not to just profane for a while.  I have been spending time (any amount is too much) on parts of the internet where 'The Friend Zone' is treated as an established and accurate concept, and now I just want to reboot the world.  On the plus side, it's also providing me with a fascinating new perspective on the way I view people.

I've mentioned before that one of the reasons I love the heroic villain archetype is that they are doing the right thing even while not feeling like it.  They protect people they don't particularly care about and they stand up for ideals that they think are just daydreamy nonsense.  This is what I feel like most of the time, because while I'm a long-run optimist (I believe that people will eventually transcend their current widespread and colossal failures) I'm a short-run pessimist (I believe that on the road to that transcendence we will oppress, harm, and in various ways kill uncountable multitudes of people and things) and I have unreasonably high standards for folks.  I tend to think of myself as being misanthropic by nature, and continually try to remind myself not to act like it.  And yet the internet, in its signature style, teaches me things that were not the things I expected to learn.

And one of those things is that I'm way less misanthropic than some of the chuweros out there subscribing to supposedly mild and mainstream concepts that are actually totally awful.  And the Friend Zone will here act as our exhibit A.

The definition is simple: a woman (occasionally a man) is said to have 'friendzoned' a man (occasionally a woman) when she spends time with him but rejects the possibility of a romantic relationship, which the man was interested in.  Once it happens, there is no escape from its sorcerous boundaries, no matter how the man may entreat for a fresh trial to prove his suitability.

Or, in normal-person talk, ladies only date dudes they want to date, and callously disregard the dudes they don't want to date who nevertheless want to date them.

I grew up in the age when home video game consoles exploded, and so was bombarded with the insistence that this new form of media would corrupt and ruin the young and completely remove their appreciation of daguerrotypes and that sort of thing.  Is this the reckoning that was foretold?  Do people now believe that relationships have terrain hazards?  If you mistakenly equip the Hylian Shield as you're heading up the river valley, the octorok will shove you off the ledge and you'll land in the friend zone and have to start over?

All of the things wrong with this framework require some effort to disassemble and fully appreciate.  It presents the idea that forming a relationship is, from the dude's perspective, the task of continually avoiding 'getting friendzoned' until some kind of romantic connection can be made.  It's an inherently adversarial concept like something out of Klingon rituals ("Women roar.  Then they hurl heavy objects.  [The male] reads love poetry.  He ducks a lot.") and it repeats the same eternal stupid thing about men wanting (especially sex, but often generalised into 'affection') and women withholding (see previous).  But beyond that, it also implies that a woman can want to friendzone a guy but not be able to until he does something to justify it.  It has to presume this, because otherwise it would have to accept reality, which is: if a woman doesn't want to date a man, then she won't (voluntarily).  There is no complicated process, there are no rules, and there is no rigid categorisation; no one is getting a forehead stamp and sorted into the Non-Dating Cabinet.

Or, in abnormal-person talk: if the friend zone existed, it would be immediate and unstoppable.  You can't dodge it, you can't ward it off - you don't get put in it; it simply eminent-domains the ground under your feet. 

But some people apparently see a personal benefit to operating on this nonsensical framework (elsewise they wouldn't be parroting it to each other), and as near as I can tell, it's about the externalisation.  It lets a person reclassify what they did (or have done, or are doing) that made them an unsuitable date and turn it into something that was done to them.  And this is a particularly important reclassification to pull off if you are a Nice Guy.

The Internet Nice Guy, of course, is the guy who is sweet and caring and giving but women just won't date him because they're only interested in jerks.  At least according to his webpage.  In reality, it turns out that he's a self-important self-entitled guy who thinks that not actively burning down orphanages puts him in the top 1% of humanity and just can't understand why women don't reward his awesomeness with Naked Fun Times.  He's already spending all of his time hanging out with them and only doing what they want and trying to make them completely dependent on him for their emotional needs - what more is he supposed to do, explicitly say that he is attracted to her?  MADNESS.  If he did that, he would just get friendzoned!  Do you expect him to fall for such an obvious ruse?

At this point, I may sound like I'm constructing strawmen and chastising them for their dealings with strawwomen, but it's honestly not that difficult to find examples.  Erika linked me to another blog's post on friendzone concepts, and lo, but the second comment from the top was a guy explaining that Some Women really do manipulate guys and use the dudes' "honest mating attentions" for personal profit which they have no intent to compensate the dude for.  Check it out.  That's a direct quote: "honest mating attentions".  I couldn't make this up if I tried. So: do I have a low opinion of my species as a whole?  Often.  Am I insufficiently sympathetic to others' pains?  Probably.  But am I as much a misanthrope as that guy?  No.  Because that guy believes that women are heartless selfish manipulators and men are conniving fools who are trying to trade for sex but are being hornswoggled by the evil women's superior treachery.  That is what some quality misanthropy looks like. Now, as a socially-awkward person myself (and note that when I talk about Nice Guys, I refer to a group I was previously part of) I do like rules, and I think the desire for rules is part of what makes Nice Guy philosophies and frameworks like 'the friend zone' so attractive to dudes: it purports to take a complex system and reduce it to a simple series of laws, interactions, and consequences.  Never let it be said that I am unwilling to provide good rules to replace bad ones.  Here are some actual rules that serve well:
  1. If a person does not want to date another person, then they won't.  Attempting any strategy that might subvert rule 1 makes you a bad person.  (Trying to actually be a person they would want to date is a somewhat more complicated grey area; even if New You can be sustained, it's still generally a better plan to try with someone else.)
  2. Person A, if treating Person B like a friend when Person B has only ever acted like a friend, is not doing anything wrong.
  3. Acting like a friend purely for the purpose of getting something from your supposed friend makes you a bad person.  (This was true when it was the jerks in school ingeniously absorbing the kid whose family had a pool, and it remains true now.)
  4. If a friendship is all one-way, then it's not a friendship, it's indentured service.  Ditch 'em.
But there's a second aspect to this friendzone concept - its inescapability - that needs to be dealt with separately.  The premise is, again, that once a person has been identified as a friend rather than as a Potential Naked Fun Times Compatriot, the process can never be reversed, and it is impossible to go from being close friends to romantic partners.  Or, more importantly, dudes will claim that women will use their existing friendship as an excuse not to start dating.  So, keep in mind:
  1. If a person says they don't want to date another person, the most probable answer is that they don't want to date them, never have, and never will.
  2. It is possible that a person legitimately believes that, regardless of their possible attraction to you, the potential failure of a romantic relationship is too great to risk the consequences for the friendship.
  3. Ask yourself if you can, if nothing else, imagine a friendship with [member of whatever gender(s) you're attracted to] that you valued so much, in its platonic form, that you would hesitate or turn them down if they propositioned you.  If the answer is 'no', then chances are good we've just identified why your friend didn't want to date you from the beginning.*
  4. No one needs an excuse in order to not date someone.  Therefore, if you have had what you believe to be An Excuse deployed on you: it was for the sake of sparing your feelings and the other person simply doesn't want to explain that, while you're fun to hang out with, they might rather make out with a galapagos tortoise.
I have had a lot of female friends.  I have been attracted to some of them.  I have broached the subject of dating sometimes.  I have sometimes been turned down; I have even had things which I suspect were Excuses deployed on me.  What is the correct response here?

Move on with your life.

Which is bleedin' difficult sometimes, I know.  Great Jaddeth Below, I know.  When I refer to myself as a 'former Nice Guy', I see parallels with 'recovering alcoholic' - with destructive behaviours, we might never stop wanting to backslide, we might have to work constantly to be better than ourselves.  I may never stop wanting to be Romantic Comedy Guy.  But resisting that is the definition of winning.  (And sadly there are no cookies for basic decency.)

I used to dislike stories that made it explicitly clear that Our Heroes could never really win - that they would just right this injustice, push back evil this time, and then some day it would come back, and they would fight it again, or someone else would have to do it, forever.  But I get it now.


*Gracious, I almost let a post go by without a footnote.  Well, it occurred to me on rereading this rule that the 'you' here might just be a polysomething person of the sort who doesn't feel any particular need to maintain hard lines between platonic and sexual relationships, and that may be just fine on its own; I'm not saying you're a horrible person.  But I hardly need to tell someone who has a robust set of sociosexual ethics that the turning-you-down person may not be comfortable getting into that, so I think the rule stands on its own, both in its judgey and non-judgey forms.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

50 Shades Darker Chapter 10 in which Erika writes a post on Pi day.

Guys, I want you to know how much I love you. I love you so much that I am spending my last few hours as a 24 year old (and first few as a 25 year old) working on this post and spending time with this book. I AM DOING THIS ON MY BIRTHDAY!!! FOR YOU!!! And Pi day. Happy Pi day. *ahem* onto the post.

I'm trying something a little different this week. There's a lot of filler and boring in the last few chapters, so I'm basically going to give a quick recap and then pick apart the interesting bits. It should make the posts shorter and less rambling. Maybe.

Alright, so what happens in this chapter? Ana and Grey sail around some more, come back to shore, grab dinner, drive back to his apartment where she finally gets the tour, and then they play pool where Ana makes a wager with Grey over it. More about the wager later.

There's a lot of "ILOVEYOUANDNEVERWANTTOLEAVEYOUARETHEBESTESTEVER" in this chapter. It remains as tedious as ever but I'm sure it's to underscore when they inevitably break up again at some point in this book. Ana also keeps going on about how Grey is such an awesome lay, but there's actually some evidence given this time.

He is an exceptional lover, I’m sure—though, of course, I have no comparison. But Kate would have raved more if it was always like this; it’s not like her to hold back on details.

I appreciate the effort to explain this one, but does he really need to be both objectively beautiful and and objectively good lover? Sex is different for different people, and awesome that you found a good fit, but not everyone would fit with Grey. Can we please see "different strokes for different folks" somewhere in this book? Anywhere? For a book that's supposed to be all about BDSM there is shockingly little acknowledgment that there is no such thing as objectively good sex.

We also finally get to learn a little bit more about Taylor!

Like that he sleeps and has a first name.

“Does that poor man ever sleep?”
“He sleeps.” Christian quirks an eyebrow at me, puzzled. “He’s just doing his job, Anastasia, which he’s very good at. Jason is a real find.”
“Jason Taylor.”

This is a book and a half into the series. The cast is rather small, and we probably see/hear more about Taylor than many of the other characters. It has taken that long to confirm that yes, he sleeps, and his first name is Jason despite probably being more front and center than Kate. We know tons about Kate! Taylor however is the help. He's invisible. I've noticed walking the halls of my own place of work, when I'm in uniform, people just look through me. They brush past me, they drop doors behind them in my face, they just... don't realize I exists*. Leaving work, in my own clothes, people smile and nod, they hold doors, they actually acknowledge I exists. Why? Classicism and privilege would be my best guesses. In uniform, they think I'm lower class than them. Out of it? I could be their co-worker! Hell, they probably assume I am. I feel Taylor is falling into the same trap I do. When he's working, he isn't a human being with wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings. He's the hired help. He is an object to be used as the owner desires. We are supposed to see Ana's warmness to him as benevolent. That said, Ana will pick a random trait, decide a person reminds her of someone else, and therefore she likes them (which she has done at least twice now) so not sure how much stock I should put in that.

I remember when I thought Taylor was his first name.

A whole five minutes ago.

Jason. It suits him—solid, reliable. For some reason it makes me smile.
“You’re fond of Taylor,” Christian says, eyeing me with speculation.
“I suppose I am.” His question derails me. He frowns. “I’m not attracted to him, if that’s why you’re frowning. Stop.”
Christian is almost pouting—sulky.
Jeez, he’s such a child sometimes.

This is not being a child, this is being a jealous controlling jackass. When it was every man ever eyeing up his woman, it was obnoxious, but there was some tangible reason for Grey to be getting so huffy. This is consistent, but terrifying. Ana simply liking a person is enough to merit Grey's wrath. Is Taylor going to go missing in the next chapter? Ana will go onto tell Grey that she likes Taylor because he takes good care of Grey. However Taylor and Ana will banter a little bit later which will merit both of them getting chewed out by Grey. Taylor's telling-off is off page, but I suspect Grey ripped off his shirt and just screeched for a while. I don't see Grey just making Taylor vanish, which is almost a surprise. I suppose because Grey has some very real control over Taylor he doesn't feel the need to banish him straight-away (and Taylor, having been endlessly useful, is given a chance to keep his job despite Ana taking a liking to him on that merit alone).

I also want to talk about Ana and Taylor's banter. She makes a crack that she was "Mrs. Taylor" earlier. The conversation is joking around with that. On one hand, I think it's innocent enough, on the other, telling someone you enjoyed pretending to be their wife? Yeah that's flirty, and she is well aware of how little it takes to piss off Grey. I'm not saying Ana should have to police herself, but her surprise at Grey's reaction is frustrating.

“Don’t be friendly with the staff or flirt with them. I don’t like it.”
Oh. Good-bye, carefree Christian. “I’m sorry,” I mutter and stare down at my fingers. He hasn’t made me feel like a child all day. Reaching down he cups my chin, pulling my head up to meet his eyes.
“You know how jealous I am,” he whispers.
“You have no reason to be jealous, Christian. You own me body and soul.”

All of these reactions make me sad. Ana being totally okay with being made to feel like a child? Grey making his jealousy her problem? Ana's response to it being to calmly reassure him that he owns her? Sad now.

Another thing that keeps coming up this chapter is Grey's friendships, or lack there of.

“Is he your friend?”
“Mac? He works for me. Helped build The Grace.”
“Do you have many friends?”
He frowns. “Not really. Doing what I do . . . I don’t cultivate friendships. There’s only—” He stops, his frown deepening, and I know he was going to mention Mrs. Robinson.

He changes the topic, and their next conversation is this:

“Can I ask you something?” I decide on a fact-finding mission.
“Anything, Anastasia. You know that.” He cocks his head to one side, looking delicious.
“You don’t seem to have many friends. Why is that?”
He shrugs and frowns. “I told you, I don’t really have time. I have business associates—though that’s very different from friendships, I suppose. I have my family and that’s it. Apart from Elena.”
I ignore the mention of the bitch-troll. “No male friends your own age that you can go out with and let off steam?”
“You know how I like to let off steam, Anastasia.” Christian’s mouth twists. “And I’ve been working, building up the business.” He looks puzzled. “That’s all I do—except sail and fly occasionally.”

Not even in college. He's just always been so busy working! Here's the thing, in any field, networking is important. I wouldn't have gotten a few of the gigs I've had in the past if not for some connections I had been lucky enough to make when I was younger. When you're fresh meat, no one really wants to bother with you, having someone who's known in your field saying "No, they're worth it." not only gets you in the door, it will be protection against abuse.

I was once hired somewhere based entirely on recommendation, and almost immediately after they had huge budget cuts and I had to be let go. I had left another job to go there. As my boss explained what had happened and apologized, he said he had already put a few calls in for me. He confessed he wouldn't usually do that for someone who had been there a week, but because he had taken me on because of my connection, he felt he had to take care of me. Also remember what I do, I'm a cook/baker (this was when I was exclusively a baker, which is a much harder field to get into, still not that hard). A field where jobs are fairly plentiful and turnover is high. However I've enjoyed a great deal of privileged due to other people stepping up on my behalf. When it comes to something like business? It's all the more vital.

Kitchens will let you get away with a shit ton of terrible behavior so long as you're good at what you do. The people who stepped in for me didn't do it because I was great at what I did, however. I was too green to be, they did it because they liked me. You can be a talented, hard worker, that only gets you so far most of the time. At the end of the day, people won't want to work with you if you're a diva.

So, I find it perplexing and ridiculous that Grey is sitting there saying he was too busy being married to work to have a social life. His social life should have been a part of his work. He should have a few work buddies he goes out with when they're in town from time to time. He should have to jet off to charity golf tournaments being run by so-and-so. He should be taking on interns to win favors down the road. I don't even work in business, yet I understand how that game works. I also find it interesting that he keeps saying "I have no friends except for Elena" and, to prove my point, she was the one who enabled him to start his business to start with.

I'd buy into Grey having no friends if we saw him being super close to his family. We see he loves them, but keeps them at a distance. If he was too busy being friends with his family, that would make sense, but he isn't. No, we see him deliberately keeping people at a distance, but (apparently) he can be incredibly likeable and charismatic with the flip of a switch. Does this sound like a narcissistic sociopath to anyone else? I get that romance authors like to flock to this trope a lot. The loner who only cares about the girl and all that. From a psychological standpoint, Grey not having any friends at all who he hasn't had sex with should be a huge fucking red flag for Ana to run like fuck.

I have to talk to him about his expectations, about his, um . . . needs.
“Anastasia, what’s wrong? Tell me.”
I glance up into his concerned face.
“Tell me,” he says more forcefully, and his concern evolves into what? Fear? Anger?

He knows something is wrong because she's shifting and looking at her hands. Grey, are you awesome at reading people to the point of being psychic, or do you suck at reading people to the point of being socially inept? Your mind. Make it up.

I take a deep breath. “I’m just worried that this isn’t enough for you. You know, to let off steam.”
His jaw tenses and his eyes harden. “Have I given you any indication that this isn’t enough?”
“Then why do you think that?”
“I know what you’re like. What you . . . um . . . need,” I stutter.
He closes his eyes and rubs his forehead with long fingers.
“What do I have to do?” His voice is ominously soft as if he’s angry, and my heart sinks.
“No, you misunderstand—you have been amazing, and I know it’s just been a few days, but I hope I’m not forcing you to be someone you’re not.”

I actually like this. Grey has been trying so hard to be a good guy and be the type of guy she wants to be with, and Ana wants to return the favor. We are seeing Ana trying to be in a give and take situation! And Grey, in his trying so hard not to force her into anything she doesn't want, is missing the point and just getting so frustrated that she still feels she has to do this, rather than seeing it as he wants to. It's a very human and understandable miscommunication- don't misunderstand, Grey's still being a dick here, but he's being a dick in a way that is realistic.

I like Ana saying "Well, he's making all this effort, I want to do something, too." You see the trope of the perfectly devoted and loving boyfriend and the woman who does nothing often enough, I like seeing Ana own up that there's an imbalance at the moment. None the less, I am frustrated by Grey's first response to Ana saying "Let me meet you halfway" is "MEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMEMETHEWHOLEWORLDREVOLVEDAROUNDMEANDMY50SHADESOFFUCKEDUPNESS" and I think this is important. Grey has this nasty habit of making everything about him. Ana is talking about him, but his response is much more self-centered than it should be. Further proof of being a narcissist? Grey goes on this rant about how he still wants to beat the hell out of her and that will never change, but he's finding it easier than he thought he would not to. We then get this:

“I know.” His lips curl in a reluctant smile. “Neither did I. But let me tell you, Anastasia, this is all new to me and these last few days have been the best in my life. I don’t want to change anything.”
“They’ve been the best in my life, too, without exception,”

Have any of you ever broken up with a significant other, and gotten back together? The first bit is always amazing. All the problems you had before are obviously things you'll work through and things will be different! For the first while, they are, but slowly (or quickly) you go back to being who you were. It's like the newyears resolution of relationships. That is how this reads to me. Ana will go on to reflect that actually, she wants to go back to the playroom but her leaving him after the last time has traumatized Grey into wanting to do it again. I am frustrated. Why can't she be all "how about we just go slow? I kind of liked it and I want to do it again, if you're not too freaked out?" oh, right, because women can't do something like talk about their sexual wants and urges. They have to wait passively until a big strong man figures out magically what they want and like! This is why so many people have bad sex! YOUR WORDS! USE THEM! Also, seriously, I want this approach to sex in my erotica. I want people who can just say what they want- and get it.

“But it hardly seems fair. It can’t be very relaxing for you—to be constantly concerned about how I feel. You’ve made all these changes for me, and I . . . I think I should reciprocate in some way. I don’t know—maybe . . . try . . . some role-playing games,” I stutter, my face as crimson as the walls of the playroom.

Again, holy shit, Ana is being decent. She reflects after this how hard it is to talk about sex at all (which when you're still new to sex is doubly true) and she's still trying really hard to compromise here. Grey's response? Also suspiciously decent.

“Ana, you do reciprocate, more than you know. Please, please don’t feel like this.”
Gone is carefree Christian. His eyes are wider now with alarm, and it’s gut-wrenching. “Baby, it’s only been one weekend,” he continues. “Give us some time. I thought a great deal about us last week when you left. We need time. You need to trust me, and I you. Maybe in time we can indulge, but I like how you are now. I like seeing you this happy, this relaxed and carefree, knowing that I had something to do with it. I have never—” He stops and runs his hand through his hair. “We have to walk before we can run.”

Grey realized he was over using his black magic and toned it down so Ana wouldn't become immune. Or this is one part that EL James wrote decently. Ana and Grey are actually talking to each other. Although there is a certain level of Ana's insecurity screaming here, what with the whole "I MUST do something for you or you'll be unhappy and leave me!" I like that Ana wants to treat Grey as well as (she believes) he is treating her, but at the same time she can't accept he is doing what he is doing simply because he wants to, and no "payment" is needed. This feels kind of like "cookies for the bare minimum of decency".

Who knew he could be so sweet? Did he?
When I glance at him, he, too, looks lost in thought. It strikes me then that he never really had an adolescence—a normal one anyway. I shake my head.

He wouldn't have had a normal adolescence simply because of the insane wealth and privileged he grew up with. Just sayin'.

“You are not allowed out of here alone. You understand?” he snaps.
“Okay.” Jeez—keep your hair on. But his attitude makes me smile. I want to hug myself—now this man, all domineering and short with me I know. I marvel that I would have found it so threatening only a week or so ago when he spoke to me this way. But now, I understand him so much better. This is his coping mechanism. He’s stressed about Leila, he loves me, and he wants to protect me.

 THIS. Stockholm. Or just buying into the "he hits because he cares"? If someone is doing something that scares you it doesn't matter why they do it. You need to listen to that instinct, and you need to honor it and run. Also, his reasons for being scary? ALSO SCARY!

“Don’t pout.”
“Why?” He’s even more amused.
“Because it has the same effect on me as I have on you when I do this.” I bite my lip deliberately.

She was into him when he was all traumatized while she was touching him, and she's into him when he's pouting. Ana is also creepy. Maybe that's why she thinks nothing of him scaring her before, she's been making people uncomfortable before we met her for so long and enjoying that she assumes it's a normal part of daily interaction?

Canonically, this is where they fight about Taylor, but we already went over that. So we'll move onto Ana getting her shit together for work the next day. She realizes that "her" room is totally empty! The closet full of those beautiful clothes! Her iPad! The Blackberry! All gone!

Oh no! Christian has taken me at my word and disposed of the clothes. Shit.
My subconscious glares at me. Well, that will be you and your big mouth.

I'm surprised that Ana has warmed up to the outlandish things he has been doing to feel regret so quickly over seeing them gone. I don't blame her. If I had had time to come to terms with getting a shit ton of awesome clothes I'd be a little heart broken over them vanishing (I like clothes, okay? They're fun. It's one of the few perks of being a lady.) but I am surprised given her previous resistance. She realizes her electronics are gone and wonders if Leila stole them? Obviously not. She has yet to do anything directly to Ana, but I suspect she'd be more likely to trash than steal her shit. She wants to scare Ana right now (I think) and/or Grey. Stealing isn't scary. Leaving it ruined is. Oh, shit, you were here in my space with access to me/my things and have the ability to do violence. Now I feel unsafe here. Vs Where the fuck did I put my iPod? See the difference?

I open the walk-in closet door. My clothes are here—all of them—sharing space with Christian’s clothes. When did this happen? Why does he never warn me before he does things like this?

Yeah, that really is something that he should have given you some warning about. This also seems like a super rapid switch from "I WANT YOU TO HAVE YOUR OWN CORNER" to "I WANT YOU IN MY CORNER AT ALL TIMES!" I think I'm getting whiplash? He will later ask her if she's cool with it, which would be nicer if he asked first instead of doing it and asking as an after thought, but, well, this is the most I can actually expect from Grey. I mean, sure, it's easier to say "no" BEFORE the person has gone and put in a bunch of effort, and force them to do more things to reverse their previous actions, but... He's learning?

He also adds on that he doesn't have nightmares when she sleeps with him. I find this a little odd. I'm more likely to have weird dreams when there's someone else in bed with me because there is another person adding sensory input to my sleeping self. The sound of someone snoring in my dream can make things super weird. That said, sleep, like sex and religion, is one of those things that can vary drastically from person to person.

“I wish I knew where she was. She’s evading all our attempts to find her when she needs help.” He frowns, and my earlier pique vanishes. I put my arms around him. Folding me into his embrace, he kisses my hair.“What will you do when you find her?” I ask.
“Dr. Flynn has a place.”

Grey will point out her husband has washed his hands of her and her family is in a different state so she's ALL ALONE! Here's the thing, if I went missing? Let's pretend that I only have my parents in a different province. If I were to go missing, there would still be a man-hunt. My parents would come to town to look for me** my friends would be looking for me, I imagine my employer would even put in some token effort.

Was Leila an unemployed, anti-social woman who had alienated her entire family? How is there absolutely no one besides Grey looking for her? Seriously, how do the police not know about it? My employer would at least do that much! And even if there is no one but Grey, if I am to believe Ana, he has an absurd amount of power and wealth. How can one normal woman repeatedly avoid being found by a team of elite professionals? How could she be in the apartment and hide so well that no one found her? Is Leila actually a fucking mercenary ninja? OH SHIT LEILA IS TOTALLY A MERCENARY NINJA WHO'S BRAIN IS ADDLED FROM BLACK MAGIC! She really is dangerous!

He stares at me with complete incomprehension. “But Leila—she’s out there,” he pauses. “I don’t want you to go to work.”
What? “That’s ridiculous, Christian. I have to go to work.”
“No, you don’t.”
“I have a new job, which I enjoy. Of course I have to go to work.” What does he mean?
“No, you don’t,” he repeats, emphatically.
“Do you think I am going to stay here twiddling my thumbs while you’re off being Master of the Universe?”
“Frankly . . . yes.”
Oh, Fifty, Fifty, Fifty . . . give me strength.

I don't know if I even need to say anything here. He will continue to go on and say that he would have paid for Ana's everything. He get's angry. He gets shouty. And he wondered why Ana was worried when he bought her company? He could have her fired tomorrow and force her to stay home.

What does he mean? He’s going to support me? Oh, this is beyond ridiculous—I’ve known him for what—five weeks?

I want to underline this, FIVE WEEKS. This whole book apparently spans 5 weeks (I assume she's counting from them dating, not actually meeting, so the book would be a bit longer). So they had been dating a month when they split and realized they totally loved each other and wanted to be together forever.

I don't even. I DON'T EVEN.

The compromise they make is that Sawyer, the other security dude, will go to work with Ana. That will be delightfully awkward for the rest of her office, but she really doesn't have a choice.

“Sawyer will come with you.”
“Christian, that’s not necessary. You’re being irrational.”
“Irrational?” he growls. “Either he comes with you, or I will be really irrational and keep you here.”
He wouldn’t, would he? “How, exactly?”
“Oh, I’d find a way, Anastasia. Don’t push me.”
“Okay!” I concede, holding up both my hands, placating him. Holy fuck—Fifty is back with a vengeance.
We stand, scowling at each other.
“Okay—Sawyer can come with me if it makes you feel better.” I concede rolling my eyes. Christian narrows his and takes a menacing step in my direction. I immediately step back.

FUCKING RUN ANA! RUUUUNNN! I don't even have anything to say here, I feel this passage speaks enough for it's self. He advances on her and she shrinks back. That's just- no. No. This shit does not belong in my erotica. I don't care if he's supposed to be so passionate that he struggles to control himself- not okay.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“You didn’t. I was just getting ready to run,” I quip.
“Run?” Christian eyes widen.
“I’m joking!” Oh jeez.
He leads me out of the closet, and I take a moment to calm down. Adrenaline is still coursing through my body. A fight with Fifty is not to be undertaken lightly.

GET IT BECAUSE SHE BROKE UP WITH HIM AFTER TRYING TO RUN AWAY FROM HIM SO NOW HE'S SCARRED! Also, note how he once again makes it about him. Ana's scared and upset. She's trying to deflect with humor and he gets his back up that quickly. He also ends things by abruptly changing the topic again.

The tour is really an excuse to get them into the "balls room" *snrk* so Ana can try to shark him. They start a game with lots of gentle pool cue stroking and Ana makes a bet with Grey. If she wins, he takes her back to the playroom, if he wins, he gets to name his price. This seems like a win win for Grey to me. So the game is going almost shot for shot (they're both good. Ana because Jose taught her, Grey because he's Grey) until!

“Top left-hand.” I take aim over the black, hit it, but miss. It skirts wide. Damn.
Christian smiles a wicked grin as he leans over the table and makes short work of the two remaining solids. I am practically panting, watching him, his lithe body stretching over the table. He stands and chalks his cue, his eyes burning into me.
“If I win . . .”
Oh yes?
“I am going to spank you, then fuck you over this billiard table.”
Holy shit. Every single muscle south of my navel clenches hard.
“Top right,” he murmurs, pointing to the black, and bends to take the shot.

That's the end of the chapter, in an attempt to create a cliff-hanger, but we all know he'll sink it. He will use his evil wizard powers to will the ball into the pocket. As always, comments are loved! And if you can't get enough of me with twice a week posts, you can follow me on Twitter @SnappyErika!

*This is not everyone, there are some people who won't shut up, but I definitely think the whole "dress as cleaning staff/cooks/delivery guys to infiltrate a building has something to it.

**My sister lives in a different country. My Father commented once he was so glad that I had grandparents in town because every now and then when he tries to call and doesn't get me the first time or so (I often don't hear my phone/leave it in my locker while at work) he worries. He can reassure himself that if it went on too long he could call my grandparents to come check up on me. When my sister fled the country, she knew no one, and not having that "in case of emergencies" life line made him anxious.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Stigma around Therapy

People react different to you telling them about a horrible experience. Some people just gape and obviously have no idea how to respond, some start trying to tell you what you can/should react, some deflect with humor, and some look around a little nervously and ask if you've maybe considered therapy of some stroke?

It's interesting, watching them do it. They always lower their voices and glance around conspiratorially, they talk about how they were/are in therapy, or someone close to them was/is. Some will tell you that it isn't necessarily a life time commitment, and that it's not a failing.

Despite the fact that anyone who suggests therapy will say almost the exact same thing, it still feels like you're a failure if you actually do something about it. What, you mean I can't just get through this with heroic will power? I cannot just drag myself through by the bootstraps?

When I was younger, my thought was: no matter how awful something got, I would get through it, because that was my only option. I had to keep going, and sooner or later I'd emerge from the other side. I might come out a mangled and broken mess, but I'd come out, and then I could put myself back together! As I've gotten older and had to deal with more responsibility and bigger issues, I've come to realize that my issues are almost never singular, and that reaching the "broken and mangled" stage of things had much bigger consequences than my own feelings. So now I find myself trying to learn how to juggle all these big important issues and keep myself healthy and happy as I do so. It's not easy, and I know it isn't easy for anyone, but for some reason, doing something to take care of myself like therapy almost feels like a failure. If I was stronger I could do it all without breaking a sweat/suffering any long term emotional damage, right? That is obviously a reasonable thing.

Wait, no it isn't, hm. Well then.

The strange thing about my ongoing struggle with stopping and asking for help is that I've done it before. When I was... 14? I was dealing with some things no kid ever should, and I knew I was in way over my head. So I reached out, said I was in a bad way and could really use some outside help. Shockingly, and without any begging or drastic measures, I got it. I was in counseling for about a year and it was by and large an awesome and positive experience. I would also discover a bit down the road that my parents had lied to my siblings about where I went every Wednesday after school and said I had joined a club.

When I was in therapy, I didn't talk about being in therapy. I didn't really think anything of it, but it just seemed like it wasn't something you were supposed to talk about. Finding out that my parents had either just not said a word, or outright lied to my siblings about it, would later on reinforce that thought. People who suggest it now lower their voices and make sure no one else is listening. They're afraid to be overheard. They're ashamed. People are nervous when they suggest therapy because they know the potential insult that lies within it. As I got older, I wouldn't be surrounded by people talking openly and honestly about therapy, and the people who did talk about their mental illnesses and various treatment plans? They were weird, or crazy, or desperate for attention, and reams of other not-so-nice things. As I got older therapy went from being a way to call in a ringer when shit was getting tough to something only undesirables did.

When I reached college, no one talked about things like therapy or mental health maintenance because in high school those people had been the weird messed up outcasts. We were all scared to speak up, and it all fed into this culture that mental health issues are something to be ashamed of, which keeps us quiet about it when that's basically the worst thing we can do about it. We stigmatize these issues, which makes people who are suffering afraid to speak up which leads to the whole "ruined broken mess" situation I described earlier. When you're already hurt and vulnerable, speaking up about your hurt is hard. We have however made and nurtured a culture where it practically an act of heroic courage to do so, let alone talk about it.

There have started to be cracks. Campaigns to de-stigmatize mental health problems, to normalize talking about these things, but until you've stood on the side of the fence where you actually need that help but are scared to ask for it, it's hard to really understand the depth of the problem. I know my situation could be so much more drastic and dramatic, and I don't think even having been where I am and have been I grasp the entirety of its depth. So, I'm going to do my part and speak up. I know alone my voice won't do much to chip away at the foundation that this toxic culture is built on, but if enough of us speak up, maybe it'll make a difference.

My name is Erika, I'm 25, hold down a steady job, am self sufficient, and able to maintain healthy functional relationships. Life has been happening to me in such a way that I need to call in a ringer to help me deal with it. The simple decision to actually seek help is already helping. I am not ashamed, even if I am scared.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

50 Shades Darker Chapter 9 which is boring.

Last chapter we left Ana and Grey with Grey confessing, naked, wet, and shivering*, that he did, in fact, love Ana. He even used his words like a big boy (after she asks him point-blank) and even says that dirty l-word**.

I cannot contain my jubilation. My subconscious gapes at me open-mouthed—in stunned silence—and I wear a face-splitting grin as I gaze longingly up into Christian’s wide, tortured eyes.

This seems like a reasonable way to behave in the face of someone traumatized.

It’s such a liberating realization as if a crushing millstone has been tossed aside. This beautiful, fucked-up man, whom I once thought of as my romantic hero—strong, solitary, mysterious—possesses all these traits, but he’s also fragile and alienated and full of self-loathing.


And I know in this moment that my heart is big enough for both of us. I hope it’s big enough for both of us.
BITCH DO YOU KNOW OR DO YOU JUST HOPE?! Also, how the hell is one heart going to pump blood for two people?

So Grey figures now it's time to bone. You know those people who always cry? My Mom and her side of the family are like that. They're happy, they cry. Sad? Cry. Hungry? Still crying. I think Grey's like that, but instead of crying, he gets horny. Upset over his ex being missing? Has sex with his girlfriend. Angry at his girlfriend for having boundaries? Has sex with her. Just had a lovely romantic evening out? Sex. Huge confession and pushing of his own boundaries? Sex. Funeral? Probably still sex. (WW: I've heard that post-funeral sex is pretty normal. Erika clarified that she meant sex AT the funeral.  This seems plausible for Grey.)

However despite the fact that they totally want each other Grey stops to towel Ana off and wrap a towel around her hair because this is a reasonable and sexy thing?

Grabbing a towel, he wraps it around his waist, then takes a smaller one and begins to gently dry my hair. When he’s satisfied, he swathes the towel around my head so that in the large mirror over the sink I look like I’m wearing a veil.

Is this all just so we can have some weird creepy "almost like a wedding" thing? Or was that just the best way EL James could describe a towel wrapped around Ana's head? So Ana returns the favor and dries Grey off, and we get more boundary pushing.

I wipe his back beneath the faint lipstick line, which is still visible. I hadn’t gotten round to washing his back.

WHAT THE FUCK HOW DO YOU THINK LIPSTICK WORKS? (WW: Lipstain?  Henna?  Osmotic contact poison?)

“Whole back,” he says quietly, “with the towel.” He takes a sharp breath and screws his eyes closed as I briskly dry him, careful to touch him only with the towel.

Okay, seriously? Again with this? Can we not get a break from all the boundary pushing? I get it. He loves and trusts Ana and wants to let her in (even though it's only been like, a month?). Now give us a break from bashing us over the head with it.

Ana then decides, since he's taking all these big steps, she gets to push and (using his hands) dries his chest off.

His face darkens, but I ignore his reaction and put my arms around him.

And this is why I'm saying Grey needs to be consistent with his boundaries for a while. Ana was starting to understand, and he went and changed them, without really communicating what he was doing, and now she's pushing. This? This is not cool Ana. Oh, right, but it's totally okay since he doesn't shove her off, right?

I reach for his hand, which he willingly entrusts to me, and guide it up to his chest to dry it, sweeping the towel slowly, awkwardly across his body. Once, twice—then again. He’s completely immobilized, rigid with tension, except for his eyes, which follow my hand clasped around his.

Know what this reminds me of? A girl who doesn't want to have sex yet, but doesn't want to tell her boyfriend "no" after doing so so many times and thinks having been on board with oral sex means she should really just be okay with the whole kit and caboodle. Ana is affected by his reactions but she doesn't stop. This is getting into assault territory. Just because a woman is the one doing it does not make it any more okay, and does not make it romantic.

My subconscious looks on with approval, her normally pursed mouth smiling, and I am the supreme puppet master.

Your subconscious is cool with your boyfriend being epically uncomfortable because it means you get to seize some power? Awesome.

His anxiety ripples off his back in waves, but he maintains eye contact, though his eyes are darker, more deadly. Showing their secrets maybe.
Is this a place I want to go? Do I want to confront his demons?

If they are only held back by him being soggy, I think you would have already.

“I need you, Anastasia,” he whispers.
“I need you, too.” And as I say the words, I am struck how true they are. I cannot imagine being without Christian, ever.

More and more my theory about indoctrination ala Mass Effect seems reasonable. 

So they bone, off page, and I imagine it's off page because it's gentle tender love making, not kinky fucking, and I am officially confused as to what EL James thinks people reading her book are looking for. I want to see all of the sex, James. All of it. No, instead we get Ana and Grey basking in the afterglow.

We lie together, me on my front hugging my pillow, he on his side, and I am treasuring his tender touch. I know that right now he needs to touch me. I am a balm for him, a source of solace, and how could I deny him that?

Because it's your body and no matter what therapeutic needs you meet that gives him no right, claim, or stake on it?

They banter a bit, talking about how tee hee Grey CAN be gentle! Unlike when he had sex with Ana the first time. There's some strange language in here, Grey refers to it as "stealing her virtue" while Ana presses that no, she fucking wanted to. I'm not totally sure why she is. Is it because we need to be reminded that Grey didn't pressure her into it? Is it because she needs to remind Grey she is there of her own volition? I'm not sure, but it feels awkward that this far in, with Ana constantly telling the reader how much she adores Grey, and Grey how she isn't leaving, why the author would feel the need to underline this.

They then dissolve into talking about how Grey owns Ana. Again. Because people are property! Then it's off to talk about his real Dad!

To spare you all the pain, basically Grey doesn't know who his real Dad, but it wasn't "the crack whore's pimp". He actually calls his birth mother a crack whore. Repeatedly. Ana, realizing that maybe this topic would put him in a foul mood (because she had yet to figure that out), starts asking about her surprise. Ana makes my head hurt. She's so inquisitive and she never waits for things to come up naturally--not that there's anything wrong with broaching a topic, but the girl has no sense of timing.

As we dress, I notice that we move with the synchronization of two people who know each other well, each watchful and acutely aware of the other, exchanging the occasional shy smile and sweet touch.

Really? Because the people who I know well and am comfortable around I don't smile at shyly. I'm pretty blase about them being around me. Person walking by with a pot of boiling water at work? I just scoot closer to the counter. Old room-mate sitting around drinking beer in his underwear? Cool, pass me one bro. The Boy doing naked jumping jacks? Typical Tuesday.  This is not how two people who "know each other super well" act, this is how two people still in the early stages of a relationship act. Just--no. No.

And I don’t know if it’s the momentary distraction of his sheer perfect looks or the knowledge that he loves me, but his threat no longer fills me with dread. This is my Fifty Shades; this is the way he is.
.... We just have to recognize each other’s needs and accommodate them. I can do that, surely?

Congratulations! You've figured out how all relationships ever work! (WW: I am still busy being terrified by the phrase "his threat no longer fills me with dread". The threat is still there, she's just not dreading it? Grey has taught her to suppress her self-preservation instincts?)

Christian taps the side of his nose and winks at me conspiratorially, looking like he’s desperately trying to contain his glee. Frankly, it’s very un-Fifty.

Except when he did it when you went gliding. I MEAN I WONDER WHAT THE SURPRISE COULD BE?!

“Do you have any idea how happy you make me feel?” he murmurs.
“Yes . . . I know exactly. Because you do the same for me.”

 I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

We're delayed from finding out because Grey decides he needs to buy Ana a new car RIGHT NOW! Not another Audi (something Ana teases him about) because he wants to get her a different car than what all of his submissives had.

Troy Turniansky, the salesman, is all over Fifty like a cheap suit. He can smell a sale. Weirdly his accent sounds mid-Atlantic, maybe British? It’s difficult to tell.
“A Saab, sir? Pre-owned?” He rubs his hands with glee.

No car salesman acts like this ever. Just, no. This is how you blow a sale. He knows this.

So then there's some bickering about the color of the car.

Christian makes a face—canary yellow is obviously not his thing.
“What color do you want me to have?” I ask as if he’s a small child, which he is in many ways. The thought is unwelcome—sad and sobering at once.

It is not sad and sobering because he is a grown ass man who is acting like a child because his girlfriend didn't magically pick the right color (first no to black because it isn't visible, then no to yellow because it isn't cool enough). Ana is not a firm person, so this sort of compromise doesn't mean much to her (which will probably work well for them long term) but I just find it icky. I get that Grey is supposed to be anal retentive, but come on.

Of course, Christian wants me safe. It’s a religion with him, and like the zealot he is, he listens intently to Troy’s well-honed patter. Fifty really does care.
Here's the thing, he said no to the yellow car. I remember in highschool listening to some teacher explaining how we'd all get screwed on insurance on our first cars. He said avoid red, black, or grey. They have the highest insurance, but white and yellow have the lowest because they're the most visible. Yellow specifically. If he was that concerned about her safety, he would have never bought her red for her first car (because psychology shows that red is most likely to induce road rage) and would have opted for yellow to start with. He sure as hell wouldn't have said no to yellow when she offered it up.

So he buys her a convertible, because that's what she wanted (she didn't ask, naturally, but Grey magically noticed Ana's reaction when it was mentioned) and off they go for lunch!

Have I ever felt this comfortable in his company before? I don’t know.

You should. You've only been dating him a few months.

I am less nervous of his moods, confident that he won’t punish me, and he seems more comfortable with me, too.

Want to know what the only thing more obnoxious than a couple in the nervous first throes of lust is? A couple just getting out of that into the ZOMG WE'RE SUPER SERIOUS AND IN TRUE LOVE! stage.

Onto the marina we go (are they about to ruin waterfronts and boats for me? Please don't ruin waterfronts and boats for me, EL James. They hold an inexplicable place in my heart, and it's (almost) my birthday. Don't do it!) where they go to a bar in the marina and the guy working there (presumably the owner) knows Grey by name.

Dante gives me a friendly smile. He’s black and beautiful, his dark eyes assessing me and not finding me wanting, it seems. One large diamond stud winks at me from his ear. I like him immediately.

Ana doesn't usually give very deep descriptions, but mulling him down to two words and saying he's checking you out (and then still liking him) seems offensive to me. She reduced her hairdresser to small, silly, and gay (and loved him for that, too). I think Ana just likes people when she can view them as caricatures as to people. Only her precious 50 Shades is allowed to be complicated and have depth. Everyone else has to be an easy to digest cartoon.

Ana also freaks out when Grey lets her order her own drinks and food (she just gets what he does, but the fact that he lets her choose is significant).

We talk through our meal, as we never have before. Christian is relaxed and calm—he looks young, happy, and animated despite all that transpired yesterday. He recounts the history of Grey Enterprises Holdings, and the more he reveals, the more I sense his passion for fixing problem companies, his hopes for the technology he’s developing, and his dreams of making land in the third world more productive.

He also grills her on favorite books/music and her own past, and my only thought is "Isn't this usually first date stuff?" followed by "WHY THE FUCK IS E L JAMES GLOSSING THIS OVER?!" SHOW DON'T TELL MOTHERFUCKERS. 

So they finish lunch and frolic off for Grey to show her his massive boat (named after Grace, his Mother). So he has a helicopter, a glider, like thirty cars, and at least one giant ass boat. Does he have a hot air balloon, too?

So he shows her around his boat. It's big. It's fancy. I'm bored.

It has a king-size cabin bed and is all pale blue linen and pale wood like his bedroom at Escala. Christian obviously chooses a theme and sticks to it.

Ugh. She's the first girl he's ever taken on the boat (aside from his family) and he mentions christening the bed (groan) but first: to cast off! He actually makes Ana wear a life-jacket which is making me giggle a little. I mean, they're going to bone on this boat with the captain in the other room, but will he make her keep the life jacket on during? God I hope so.

Once more, I am dazzled by Christian’s expertise. He’s so competent. Is there nothing that this man can’t do?

Cook. Form a meaningful relationship without the help of black magic.

Slowly, Christian eases The Grace out of her berth and toward the marina entrance. Behind us, a small crowd has gathered on the dockside to watch our departure. Small children are waving, and I wave back.

What? What is this I don't even- No. Just no. Fuck you, I'm not even touching this. So more boat stuff, and as someone who grew up on a waterfront and boats (small motor boats, mind) even I'm bored. Besides, small litter laser sail boats are way more fun. You are IN that shit. However you really can't have sex in one of those things.

Yes, you’re a lucky bitch, my subconscious snaps. But you have your work cut out with him. He’s not going to want this vanilla crap forever . . . you’re going to have to compromise.

Yeah, by doing things like letting him tie you up. Things you've liked in the past. Woe is you. So more sailing, then banishing Mac (the captain) to some cove once they've docked in the middle of nowhere. Now Grey has said that Ana is the first girl he's ever taken on the boat, but it was made by his company. It's this big showy thing. Leila has access to the internet. I'm not saying she could accurately predict he'd go fucking sailing, but the fact that there was NO security sweep first, or no questions to the captain if anything seemed strange, seems, well, reckless. I mean, this is obviously the calm before the storm, but: consistency?

Christian grabs my hand and practically drags me into his cabin, a man with a mission.
Now he stands before me, exuding his intoxicating sensuality as his deft fingers make quick work of the straps on my lifejacket. He tosses it to one side and gazes intently down at me, eyes dark, dilated.

 Awww, he took the jacket off!

“Strip for me,” he whispers, eyes burning.
Oh my. I’m only too happy to comply. Not taking my eyes off his, I slowly undo each button, savoring his scorching gaze. Oh, this is heady stuff.

Oh, golly gee, I am like, so totally aroused.

I want to be sexy for this man. He deserves sexy—he makes me feel sexy.
Okay, it’s new to me, but I’m learning under his expert tutelage.

So, maybe this is just me, but when I was younger and still figuring out sex and my relationship with it, wanting to be sexy for someone never worked that well. I could put on the lingerie, I could slip him my panties, but it always felt awkward and uncomfortable and that shit showed. I was trying to emulate what I had been told was sexy. It wasn't until I wanted to be sexy simply because I wanted to be sexy, for myself, I suppose, that I started to figure it out. I do believe sex and sexuality are intensely personal things that vary drastically from one person to the next. Having said that, I do think it's normal to ease into it, and be awkward and clumsy about sex at first. Ana has waited until she's a little older to have sex, and living in a world where sex is such a big deal and bombarded on us constantly, I'm surprised other than maidenly virtue she has had no hang ups about her own performance. I suppose she's gaining confidence by simply seeing she can turn Grey on? I dunno, but it strikes me as odd, and a little disappointing. If she has to be a super virgin, I really want to see a super virgin. I want to see her handle his dick too roughly. I want to see him have to tell her what he wants. I want to see her trying things she's seen elsewhere because she has some pre-conceived notion of "sexy" that may or may not be at all functional.

I step out of my jeans and stand there for him in the lingerie he’s paid for, but I no longer feel cheap. I feel his.

Through this whole strip tease Ana keeps talking about how she's so comfortable because she knows he loves her. She talks about being "his". I can't relate, to be honest. I have never felt like I belonged to anyone besides myself (because that's the way I've wanted it) but I know that I might be the odd one out this time. Still, I find it interesting that we keep seeing things being drawn back to it. It's almost feels like "sex is okay after marriage" but instead it's "everything is okay if he loves you" which has some very obvious and toxic undertones. I've commented before that some of Grey's behavior, and Ana's mindset, scream "abusive relationship" and I think this is a nice, neatly packaged example. 

“You’re getting so bold, Ana, so brave,” he whispers and clasps my face with both hands, bending to kiss me deeply.

She is, actually. I kind of like it. We're being shown a woman who is taking charge of her sexual wants, and (so far) not being punished for it. That is awesome! Yes! Grab him by the balls and make him beg Ana! Go for it!

“Oh, I want you so much, baby,” he breathes, and steps back suddenly to remove his jeans and boxers in one swift, agile move.

I just picture him wearing tear away pants and boxers here.***

“What’s wrong, Ana?” he murmurs and gently strokes my cheek with his knuckles.
“Nothing. Love me, now.”

Love me now? This sounds awkward at best. When I'm being bratty and demanding affection from The Boy I will flop down next to him and demand he love me, to which he sighs and absent mindedly pats my head. I do this because I know it is ridiculous and that's how we roll in this house. Seeing it played straight makes me uncomfortable.

he takes one of my nipples in his mouth and softly suckles.

Suckles? Really? Are you trying to turn me off EL James? Because it's working.

and I glory in the feel of his touch

How do you glory? I don't understand. I DON'T UNDERSTAND

I shift back, taking him in my hands, and I just can’t resist him in all his glory.

Are you glorying, or is he? I AM CONFUSED. ALSO STOP SAYING GLORY.

The feel of him in me . . . stretching . . . filling me—I moan softly—it’s divine. 

Stretching? Stretching?! Ow.

I touch him—sticking to the boundaries


And then they both come simultaneously, because that is how sex works always.

*Only one of these things I'm sure isn't true, and even then...
**No, not lesbian, the other L-word. No, not lesbians- augh, never mind Scott.
***In high school there was one guy who actually wore tear-away pants. He and I had a flirtation going, and I remember one day passing him in the halls. I smiled and waved, he smiled and froze mid-way as one of his friends sprinted by, grabbed his pants, and kept going. Rather than turn beet red he held up a finger in a "one moment please" gesture and just took off after the guy.