Fifty Shades of Bile

OK, I’ll admit it.  It took me a few weeks, but I finally followed the herd mentality that I know I have, and went out and got the damn thing.

You know what I’m talking about right?  That stupid book.  No, not the Hunger Games.  That book is actually well written and worth the praise and popularity that it has garnered (though, in true herd fashion I didn’t get into that book until the movie had already broken all advance presale ticket records…though I suppose at least I didn’t wait until it was actually in the theaters).

That book that they keep calling Mommy Porn.  Ick, I hate to admit it.

Fifty Shades of Grey, I type sheepishly.  That one.

I bought it last week.  Everyone I know is reading the damn thing, and I figured I might as well just give in to the hype.  Sure, I’d read that the writing was kind of weak.  I’d heard that it originally was written and posted onto the internet as Twilight Fan Fiction.  Now, since I have already admitted what a trend follower I am, this would actually be a point in its favor; I loved the Twilight books.  Not great literature there, either, but compelling stories with at least passable writing.

Still, even after I gave into the impulse to buy the book, I resisted.  First, the bookseller asked if I wanted to buy all three at once:  “Most everyone does,” my little local bookshop lady told me.  But no, I responded.  “I am hoping I hate this book so much that I won’t want to buy all three, actually,” I told her.  This again flies in the face of my past history.  Hunger Games Trilogy:  8 days, three books.  Twilight:  17 days, four books.  The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon:  35 days, six books.   I am a voracious series reader, going all the way back to the Little House and Anne of Green Gables books of my childhood.  Is there any reason to think this Grey series will be any different?

God, I hope so.

I bought the book on Thursday and put it in a drawer.  I didn’t even want to leave it out where the kids or husband would see it.  Ick.  And all weekend long, I had no desire to read it, honestly.  But today, with a yawning day without much on my “to do” list, I gave in.  I opened the book.

Two hours and 124 pages later, I am still not impressed.  The writing is peppered with oddly big words and strangely chosen details, repeated phrases and obvious foreshadowing.  I actually exclaimed “this is really horrible” more than once.  Honestly, the only thing that kept me at it for two full hours was the very plain direction the story was headed in….and it took excruciatingly long to get there. And yes, knowing Bella and Edward’s story as intimately I do  (I am certainly not opposed to brain candy now and then), the linkages to the work that inspired this one are plain and clear.

There can really only be one reason these books are so successful.  It isn’t the likeability of the characters or the sweeping vistas painted with glorious language or the compelling story.  It is, of course, what everyone is saying it is.

It’s the sex.

That part, my friends, better live up to the hype!

On the Floor

“How does that feel?” he whispered into my ear, a whisper so soft it was more of a breath.

Oh, God.  This was what heaven was.

Ray and I were intertwined on Dawn and Todd’s living room floor, her steady breathing and Todd’s soft snoring reassuring us  from behind their closed bedroom door.  I could feel the smile on his lips as he taunted me with tiny movements, squirms and touches under the light summer blanket.  The intensity of the physical attraction between us was growing by the minute.  We couldn’t keep our hands off of each other, and stole moments away from everyone in the hopes of feeling that velvety thick pleasure just once more.   The sex between us was nothing like it had been in our few fumbling attempts back in our previous lives; maybe it was the sureness of the commitment, maybe it was my lessening fear and growing experience, maybe it was the things he’d learned in Europe, but everything seemed so much more intense and for the first time, beautiful.

I could feel a wet finger trace itself down the crook of my neck and a light touch of his lips to my ear.  “How about this?”

My body instantly relaxed and I strained to move in closer to his warmth.  This was exactly what I’d been missing, longing for something that I didn’t even know was gone.  This safe, warm, secure feeling of being absolutely connected with a person, being absolutely in trust of them in your most vulnerable state.  I’d missed being with boys, to be sure, over the last two years, to be sure.  I’d not had anyone to take me in their arms and tell me that this time, just this once, it was all about me.  Someone to turn their attention fully on me, to look and listen and want to ensure that I was taken care of.  I could feel the tension of the day, the meeting with Ray’s parents, the awkward reunion with his friend James, the weirdness of being on the defensive with my own friends and family; I could feel it all rush slowly down to my toes as something else welled up to take its place.

All of a sudden, I heard movement in the bedroom where Dawn and Todd slept, and a light flicked on.  Oh, goodness.  Here we were, completely in the most awkward of positions, only a blanket covering the obvious situation going on between us.  I kept my eyes closed and body still and feigned sleep.  I could faintly feel a chuckle welling up in Ray’s chest underneath me.  He knew that I had a horrible, horrible problem with what I called “PDA”:  public displays of affection.  Whenever there was any chance we would “get caught”, I would hop away from him like he was on fire.  But I couldn’t possibly hop away from him now without making a obvious situation even more embarassing, so I stayed put where I was, as if right on top one another was a normal way couples fell asleep.  So I stayed still, perfectly still.

The water ran, a glass was put back on the counter, the light flicked off and the bedroom door closed.  I could hear the bed creak as whomever it was got back into it.   I stayed still, just a few more seconds, before I allowed my breath to exhale and laughed quietly in the dark.  “Do you think they really thought we were asleep?”  I asked hopefully.

“Not on your life,” he answered.  “I think it is now my personal mission to see how loud I can make you be.”

“Ray!” I hissed through clenched teeth.

In a few more minutes, I breathed his name again, very, very differently.

Maybe

What I find most remarkable about my thinking back then as I waited the interminable hours between when I knew what was going to happen and when I could tell Joe what was going to happen was that I honestly didn’t think at all that he might want something different than I did.  Or anyone else, for that matter.  I was so resolute and sure in my thinking of how this would all play out, so matter of fact in my rose colored view that this would all be fine that it honestly didn’t occur to me that anyone else would see it any differently.  I would keep going to school, at home.  I would go to school at the commuter college (the one where I’d turned down the full scholarship not six months ago…I wondered if it was still good), I’d live at home, my mother and sister would help, Joe would come with me, it would all be fine.

Joe was quiet when I told him the news.  He had to have been expecting it by this point, but clearly it still was the end of the fantasy that things were still Just The Same.  He sat quietly on the corner of my yellow sofa in our common room and grew white.  He asked what I was planning on doing.  Of course, this question, the mere phrasing of it, bothered me.  What was *I* going to do?  Was this now *my* problem?

“I don’t want to get an abortion,” I told him firmly.  “I just can’t do it.”

“But you said, you said a few days ago that you were thinking about it,” he hoped out loud.

Ouch.  I honestly had thought he’d have the same reaction that I would here.  That while this was clearly not ideal, it was not the end of the world.  That we loved each other and we would get through this.  We’d both been through horrific problems with our families; this was something that we both could handle.

I tried to find him behind the wall that suddenly seemed to have formed behind his eyes.  “Now that I know it’s real…that it is a life…I just…can’t,” I tried to explain.  “I can’t kill our baby,” I said helplessly, hoping that he would start to come back to me.

He looked lost.  After a long silence, he said:  “Well, do you want to get married?”

Honestly, I blew this one.  I should have handled this one differently in hindsight.  Here was Joe, clearly distraught, clearly unhinged, offering the thing that he feared the most to me.  I should have considered it.  I should have realized that this was his way of demonstrating his commitment to me and trying to deal with it as best he knew how.

“Um…I don’t want you to marry me because you think you have to.  I want you to marry me because you want to.   We can do this.  I’ll go home, you’ll come home on the weekends or something, and after we’re both done with college and have our degrees, we’ll get married then.”  At the time I thought this was a very magnanimous thing to say, to let him off the hook.  I suppose perhaps he took it as a rejection, but I thought I was being very real, very pragmatic.

“But we could live with my mother, we could both go to school there.,” he offered.  It was true, she’d moved to another university town, not far away.  I considered this and quickly (probably too quickly) dismissed it.

“Joe.  Think about that.  Your mom has to work, and we don’t know anyone else there.  If I moved back home, I’d have my mother, my sister and my father there, plus friends.  I’d have more of a support network.  Doesn’t that make more sense?”

He frowned.  “I can’t go back there.  I can’t live with my grandparents full time.”

This was true.  I couldn’t ask him to do that.  I knew how much he hated living there for the few short weeks he’d had to before.  “Well, maybe you could stay here, and come home on the weekends.  Would that work?  Just until we’re out of school?  That’s only three years, it’s not forever.”

“Maybe.  Maybe that would work.”  He reached over and hugged me, trying to be reassuring.  But it wasn’t reassuring at all.  There was no amount anywhere of “Don’t worry, everything will be OK,” anywhere to be found in him.  Instead, I could tell that there was an awful lot he was thinking and not saying.  My disappointment was likely obvious, but I too was not putting that into words.  I thought that we’d be a team, that we’d get through this together.

“We’ll be OK, right?” I asked.

“We’ll be OK,” he reassured me and kissed my head.  But I couldn’t see his eyes as he said it.

The Stick

It was like a scene from a movie.

I went to the bathroom every fifteen minutes looking to see if my period had started.  After several days of this, I knew that it was time to find out what was going on.  I went, alone, on a 10 degree day, to the slightly off campus drug store.

I am the girl that to this day can’t buy her own condoms and feels funny buying tampons when there’s a guy at the checkout counter.  Every time a person I thought I might know went down the pregnancy test aisle near me I moved away, as if I was only curiously looking at the different types.

There were many different brands.  Back then they didn’t have pee on a stick tests; you had a tiny little lab kit that you had to work with.  You didn’t get two for one packs and they weren’t cheap.  Of course I am, which meant I was looking for the cheapest kind.   I found one that had the word Blue in the title and took it up to the counter.

You can see this coming right?  Not only was there a peel off coupon (that’s why I picked that brand), but the price wasn’t on the test (this was before price scanners).  They had to call “Price Check” and someone had to come and verify my 11.99 story before they’d let me walk out of the store, wallet lighter, face twenty shades redder.

I went back to my dorm room and surreptitiously read the instructions cover to cover.  The test indicated I’d need to use “first morning urine”, as that would have the most concentrated amounts of the pregnancy hormone (which I prayed, of course, that wasn’t present).  I told my roommate Karen and of course Joe that I would be performing the test the following morning, a Saturday.

After a night of tossing and turning in my top bunk, I finally got up at five and snuck into the shared bathroom to perform the test that I hoped would mean my life was not about to change.

I had to pee in a small cup and mix in a few chemicals that would turn the urine blue.  Then, I was to put a stick with chemicals on pads on the end in the liquid.  If the two pads were different colors, even if they were say a very light blue and a very dark blue, that meant you were pregnant.  If both pads stayed white you weren’t pregnant.

I performed the test quietly and sat next to the cup on the floor of the bathroom.  You had to wait five minutes before reading the test.  I was alone; the dorm was unusually quiet, even for five am.  I tried to distract myself by counting the tiles or looking at the mold we needed to clean in the shower stall.

Finally, I pulled out the stick.  I stared at it, in disbelief, numb.  There was absolutely no disputing the results.

One pad was whiter than snow.  The other was a bright, beautiful shade of aqua blue.

I was pregnant.  Eighteen, a freshman in college, unmarried, and pregnant.

What on earth was I going to do?

Late

“I think I might be late.”

I uttered the words nervously to Joe one cold January morning in a practice room.  We were both furiously practicing for this term’s auditions.  I was disappointed with my placement last trimester, and so I wanted to prepare as much as possible for the one performance that would determine my position for the entire winter term.

Joe looked at me.  “Really?  How can that be?”  I knew what he meant.  We were religious about using protection.  We were very careful, always using condoms, always well before any contact was made.

“Well, I know that nothing is 100 % reliable.  It’s probably nothing, though.  I do feel like it is coming any minute.  But it’s just so odd, because I’m never late.”  I didn’t mention all of the other things that were nervously adding up in my head:  the insane amount of tiredness that had suddenly been hitting me, the nausea that overtook me on the way up to his mom’s place, the urgent need to use the bathroom that had also hit me then.

He was quiet for a minute.   “What would you think we should do…you know…if you were?”  It was the unthinkable.  I couldn’t even let my head go there.

“I don’t know.  I really, really don’t know.  I mean, maybe I could get an abortion?   I’m not sure if I could.  I just don’t know how I’d feel…hypothetical is totally different than reality.”

I’d always considered myself pro choice.  My high school position papers were always firmly on the right to choose.  That being said, when I converted to Catholicism the year before, I knew very well the Church’s position on abortion.  It gave me pause.  I’d seen friends of my sisters go both ways; one who gave her baby away, and one who aborted.  I knew my mother had given a child up for adoption.  That was the one avenue I was sure I couldn’t take.

Joe looked at me, uncharacteristically filled with tension.  “Well, we don’t know yet.”

“No.  I suppose if it doesn’t show up soon, I’ll have to take a test.”  God, I hated the thought of having to go to the slightly off campus but not nearly far enough for my taste drugstore to buy a home pregnancy test.

“When were you due?”

I thought back.  I never kept very good track, because I was always so regular.  But I certainly knew it should have been here before now.  “Um, I remember thinking that it should have been here around Christmas, maybe a few days afterwards.”

His eyes grew wide.  That meant I was a whole week late.

I gulped.  “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” I responded, nervously.  He took my hand and squeezed, and got up to go back to his practice room.  He smiled that smile that he knew would erase my fear and closed the door behind him.

Home from College

It was time for Christmas Break.

Joe and I were both going back home to work and earn a little more to put in each of our bank accounts.   He had lined up a horrible construction job for the three weeks of break, a back breaking schedule of physical labor that started early and ended late.  I was going back to Burger King, working the early shift that started at 6 and ended at 2.

It was a welcome break for me.  I had gotten so intensely unhappy worrying about my grades, which ended up as passable for most but subpar for me.  I ended my first term with a 3.5 GPA; for someone who had graduated as class valedictorian, this was upsetting and disappointing.  I was constantly feeling unsure of my choice of majors; the music classes I was taking were not coming naturally to me.  But I vowed to persevere and keep going forward.

Joe was less happy about the break.  The job wasn’t his first choice, but he needed the money.  Also, he’d have to spend the break at his grandparents’ again, as his mother was just moving into her new place nearer to the university.  We’d both be going up to help after Christmas, together, but for now he was stuck down here without her as a buffer.  I told him we’d try to spend as much time together at my house as we could.

I was looking forward to the alone time with him.  At college there were always people around; we each had three roommates.  I wasn’t interested in ever getting caught in the middle of a compromising position, so we weren’t having sex nearly as much as one would think a couple together away at college might.  Plus we both were driven students, so we spent most of our time together studying, not making out.  We both had goals and were not interested in derailing the other one from theirs.

We spent those weeks enjoying each other.  My sister was hardly ever there, and my mother always worked late.  We spent nearly every afternoon we could making love.   We’d missed this beautiful part of our relationship; while we loved each other and respected each other, our physical chemistry had been on the back burner so much that we were on fire when we finally got home.  The more we did it, the more we craved each other.

It was good to be home.

A Hot Summer Night

My mother was spending a weekend up north at her friend’s cabin on the lake.  This is what people do in the summer in Michigan, they all go up to cabins on lakes in the proverbial lands labeled “Up North”, which means they are somewhere north of the outer ring suburbs.

She often did this.  She would leave on Friday afternoon or maybe early Saturday morning, and come back Sunday evening.  Sometimes my sister was around, and sometimes she wasn’t; I had friends over and had my one and only drinking party one weekend when she wasn’t.

Joe’s mother sometimes did a similar thing.  She had a boyfriend, and he had a place out on the western side of the state near Lake Michigan.   She too would disappear, leaving Joe alone for an overnight, all summer long, every other weekend or so.

One weekend, both of our mothers plans coincided.  And we quietly made plans to Do It.  We agreed to spend the night at his apartment, since at my place my sister might show up.  My sister might not have much to say about me spending all night out (I might just be at a girlfriend’s), but she might have something to say if she heard such goings on while she was home.

The difference between my only other partner and Joe were extreme.  With Joe we discussed everything ahead of time, talked about the protection we’d use, planned for it, and even worried aloud about the trauma I might experience since the last time I’d had sex it was not consensual.  He was kind, thoughtful and in a total surprise to me, a virgin.   It was mature, and honest, and thoughtful, and equal.

We’d gone pretty far in our two months together prior to this moment, so I was rather surprised at how fearful I was during the experience.  I cried so much I couldn’t breathe; and poor Joe quietly talked to me and soothed me through all of it.  He was so kind and so thoughtful that I couldn’t believe it.   I was honestly scared, and rather than take it personally or have a problem with it, instead he genuinely wanted to help me through it and understood that it wasn’t about him.

And then, finally, after four hours of soaking his sheets with snot and tears and shame, we did it.   Joe’s quick breathing and sheer joy was palpable.  I wanted to do it, I told him, over and over as the tears kept coming.  I wanted to be able to do this with him, and I was sure that once I got through this first time, I would be fine.  The happiness I saw in him as we shared the moment together was a gift that I treasured.

We tried again the next morning.  It was so much different than anything I’d ever experienced.   The sensations I felt were so intense that I wasn’t sure they could be real.  This was not dirty, or wrong.  This was what heaven must be like.

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