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50 Shades of Graduation

Warnings: The Fifty Shades series is extremely sexually explicit and involves BDSM. Because of that, and because they are not exactly well-researched or high-quality literature, I will mention things such as abuse, rape, rape culture, male dominance, sexism, relationship violence, and consensual BDSM. Also, the books began as Twilight fanfic, so I will be mentioning Twilight (which is a major squick for a lot of people just by itself).

Welcome to another installment of 50 Shades of the Worst Book I’ve Ever Read.  In today’s episode, Ana graduates.

Before the ceremony, Kate asks Ana about her date with Christian.  I think the response Ana doesn’t share with Kate is pretty telling:

What can I say? His HIV status is clear, he’s heavily into role play, wants me to obey his every command, he hurt someone he tied to his bedroom ceiling, and he wanted to fuck me in the private dining room. Would that be a good summary?

The only thing she can find that’s “safe” to tell Kate is that Christian doesn’t approve of her car and that he’s fussy about food.  Ana, honey, listen to yourself.  If you are afraid to tell your roommate/best friend about what really happened on your date, then you have good reason to be concerned.

Ana goes on to compare this relationship to a job offer, saying it’s not how she imagined her first romance.  Newsflash: That’s because it isn’t a romance.  She acknowledges this, but says she wants more.  She doesn’t want to “jeopardize” what he’s offered (seriously, what has he offered? Looks to me like he’s getting all the good stuff and she’s getting all the crap, except for her impossibly perfect orgasms).

This next sentence makes me want to scream.

—deep down, it’s the canes and whips that put me off.

Right.  Not the fact that he wants to control how you eat, what you wear, what kind of car you drive, your electronic communication, and what you can and cannot tell your friends about your relationship.  No, instead, Ana’s worried about her low tolerance for pain.  That is, until her damned inner goddess turns cheerleader on her and reminds her that she would just be living out the erotic dream she had about it.  Because the dream-version would be just like the real thing, of course.

Whatever.  Kate leaves, Ray shows up.  Several pages of stupid ensue.  First Ana complains that he’s too observant, then she says she loves him because he’s said he’s proud of her.  Ana is driving me nuts with her back-and-forth on all the people in her life.  Does she love them or hate them?  I can’t tell at this point.

The description of the graduation ceremony is about as long and dull as an actual graduation ceremony.  I don’t blame Ana for being distracted all throughout.  At least we don’t have a transcript of the speeches in their entirety.  We’re forced to sit through Ana’s internal monologue the whole time, though, and I’m not sure that’s much better.  It just gives one more opportunity for us to understand how comparatively unattractive Ana is.  Are we supposed to feel sorry for her, or think it makes her “relationship” with Christian that much more awesome?

At last we begin to see a bit of what makes Christian tick, though.  We’re peeling back the layers of his traumatic early life.  The problem is, it has the opposite effect on Ana than it should.  Instead of going, “Oh, my god.  Now I know why he’s so creepy and stalky and wants to control me!” she thinks, “Poor baby.”  She’s now a lot more willing to go along with whatever he wants because she believes she understands him.

Ana, honey, that’s what these guys do to suck you in.  He’s made you feel like you can’t possibly traumatize him further and that you can be the one to heal his wounded soul.  But you can’t do that, sweetie.  He needs a good therapist, not a sex slave.

Up next, we see more of his ongoing abusive behavior.  Keep in mind, this has nothing to do with the sex contract or Ana becoming his sub.  She hasn’t agreed to it yet, but he’s treating her as though she has.  Christian bullies Ana about the fact that she hasn’t emailed or texted him.  So, the other night, he’s mad that she’s not getting enough sleep because she’s emailing him.  Now he’s mad that she didn’t spend graduation day making sure to email or text him.  She absolutely cannot win.

He is also continuing to try to control the people with whom she associates.  He still isn’t fond of José and is unhappy that he’s the one helping Ana with her car, although that may have had as much to do with the way Ana phrases it as anything else.  Did the rest of you all giggle like mad when Ana says,

José regularly services it for me.

I probably would have overlooked that one if it weren’t for the context of the story.

By the way, this day is still going on.  Eventually, Kate spills it to Ray that Ana is seeing Christian.  When Ana confronts her about it, she says she wants to help with Christian’s commitment issues.  What the hell, Kate?  Not that long ago, you were calling him creepy!  What happened to that?  Maybe she started feeling sorry for him after his “I was hungry once” speech too.

I’m going to leave you with what I think is the most disturbing exchange in the entire book thus far.  Ray is about to take Ana to lunch and asks Christian to join them, which he declines to do.  As he is about to leave, he and Ray have this conversation:

“Likewise,” Ray responds.  “Look after my baby girl.”

“Oh, I fully intend to, Mr. Steele.”

Riiiight.

 

All in the family

So, dance camp is officially over, and we’ve settled on the kids’ new studio.  (For those of you who don’t recall, their former studio closed in June.)  It has been an emotional roller coaster, trying to decide what we’re doing in the fall.  Like anything with parenting, it’s hard not to worry and second-guess.  I’ve been back and forth, weighed the pros and cons, and factored in the kids’ feelings.

The problem for me has been that after six years at the same place, it felt like home.  The staff, students, and parents were like family.  It was the perfect storm—the right place, time, and people.  For us, it was as near to perfection as we could have hoped.  There is no way to recreate that, no matter how long we search or how hard we try.  I worried that we would end up settling for second best, or even something that wasn’t good at all, just because we needed to find something.

The truth is, though, that I had to lay my own feelings aside and make a decision with the kids, instead of for them.  We ended up deciding that the place where they had camp was the right one, and here’s why:

1. From the minute we walked in the doors, the kids felt at home.  Jack said he knew where everything was, because he’d taken a class there before.  Sarah was excited because the studio has expanded since then, with a whole new room.  They had fun exploring the territory.

2. The other parents put me at ease.  They talked about how much they like it, how happy they are there.  They were warm and friendly as they welcomed us.  And there was not one “dance mom” among them.  In fact, one of the girls was stressed because she didn’t have the same clothes as the other kids.  Her parents took her outside and talked with her about how it was okay, and they helped her relax.  She likely has a highly competitive spirit, and her parents were wonderfully caring with her while talking her down from her ledge.

3. The kids bonded with their teachers.  This, to me, is significant.  These are the people who will be teaching them.  It’s important that they like and respect them.  The instructors seem to go out of their way to generate an inclusive environment.  For example, after the first class, the kids said they had their songs lined up for the mini-performance on the last day.  Both kids used the word “we” when describing the process of choosing the songs.  I don’t know if the classes actually chose their own songs or if the instructors did, but my kids had the sense that the students were part of the process.

4. The kids bonded with their classmates.  Again, this is important.  Sarah came home to tell me that another girl shared her snack, so she was going to share hers the next day.  Both of them said the other kids are nice and that they’ve made friends already.  I had the chance to talk to one of the more outgoing girls about the classes she takes.  She listed 4 styles and said she loves dancing there.  I know this says more about the parent than the studio, but the girl was polite and respectful, as well as enthusiastic about dance.  I like that there are kids like that for mine to interact with.

5. Jack gets to keep his previous teacher.  Hooray!  One of his instructors will be there this fall, and he wants to take her classes.  For Jack, this is critical.  With his ADHD, he needs people who understand him and can handle his quirks.  We know how good she is and Jack trusts her.  Believe me, this is huge.

6. The kids will have two recitals next year, and we know there won’t be a conflict.  Jack is thrilled to be back to Irish dance after a year away.  Sarah is itching to start.  They won’t have to worry about the scheduling.

7. It has my friend’s stamp of approval.  I have a friend who’s been there for several years, and he says it’s great.  I like that someone I know personally can speak from experience and tell me it’s good.

8. The woman who owned their previous studio will be teaching a class there.  It’s for adults, so the kids won’t be in her class.  But just knowing that she endorses it is big, too.

So there you have it.  I can’t predict the future, so I have no idea what will happen after next year.  But at least for now, I can stop worrying.  My kids, at least, are happy, which makes me happy too.