I first heard about 50 Shades of Grey on twitter–a couple of summers ago. I told my friend (at the time, we have since parted ways) about them and she bought them, read them, and them bought another set and had them shipped to me.
At the time I thought it was a lovely gesture. Only one other person has ever bought me a book. Well, maybe two other people and as a kid all I really wanted for presents WERE books.
I tried to read them. After finally graduating with my B.A. in English Lit (in 2010) I just sort of stopped reading. Not on purpose. I kind of stopped doing everything that required thinking because I just. didn’t. want. to. think. But these books arrived just about the time I was missing reading so I cracked open the first one.
I didn’t like the heroine. I found her grating. I kept waiting for the book to catch a rhythm, for me to stop being aware that I was reading. I became increasingly aware that the author of these books had read very little actual literature as she seemed to bandy Thomas Hardy’s name about whenever she needed a literary reference. Only Thomas Hardy.
But somehow I finished that first book. See, I thought maybe because I had gone so long without reading that I had killed some brain cells required to enjoy it. I could see that the books were poorly written but I LOVE romance novels plus all these women on twitter (some of them quite intelligent) plus some ladies I actually knew were all agog over these things so I really believed they would get better.
So I started book two. I actually got over half-way through that one, to the point where Christian Grey emotional shatters which is the point where I should have really been interested. But I could not read any further. I actually hated Anastasia Steele by this point and I felt like I was doing some kind of unpleasant manual labor just by forcing myself to read.
A few months went by and I decided to try again. Maybe I was in the wrong frame of mind the first time.
I started feeling offended for struggling authors everywhere, especially authors of Romance novels. I can name several Romance novelists who would PhD’s and you can tell by their writing. Yes, there’s often pages of sex scenes so explicit and ridiculously described that few beings could read them aloud without bursting into giggles but there’s also careful attention to detail, likable characters, and I can actually FORGET that I am reading or breathing, for that matter. This 50 Shades stuff looked like an editor never touched it yet the author was the top earner in books last year.
Back to that friend who sent me those books. We no longer speak because we couldn’t stop fighting. I realize now that NONE of my other friends would have ever bought me those books because they had more respect for my intellect than that. There are other things about that friendship too, that upon recollection make me realize this is one instance in which me telling someone to “fuck off” worked out for the best.
I’ve spent my life trying to find just a few friends who “get” me and I’ve been lucky in that respect. I don’t think it’s fair to myself, or to others for me to put effort into relationships with folks who do not and cannot understand/accept/respect certain parts of me.
But I suppose that former friend did me a favor because I can contribute to the 50 Shades conversation. And it gives me something to write about.