Grey: Fifty Shades as told by a Garbage-Person, Chapter 3 recap

Welcome back, dear readers. We return to Grey jogging and fantasizing about Ana some more, because that seems to be literally the only thing he’s capable of doing, and unfortunately, it’s exactly as objectifying as all the other times:

Last night I dreamed of her. Blue eyes, breathy voice…her sentences ending with “sir” as she knelt before me.

This is, I think, the first time Grey has ever imagined the woman speaking, but of course the actual words she says aren’t important, only the token submission expressed at the end of her sentences. This is exactly what I mean, when I say that Grey’s really after a sex doll, not Ana herself; he doesn’t think about her character, just her body. Only ever her body. BDSM needs to be more personal than this, guys: if you don’t know a person well enough to properly monitor them in a scene, if you can’t gauge their reactions and predict what they would do under this or that stimulus, then how on Earth can they trust you to dominate them? How can you trust yourself? Grey doesn’t think about these things because they aren’t important to him, but a Safe, Sane and Consensual kink relationship must account for who both partners are as people.

This scene is also one paragraph long, which is troubling because it kinda shows how little planning and effort was put into the writing and editing of this piece. I’ve published books in the past, and my editor really did put my words through the wringer before handing them back to me, which is something I truly needed and which made my eventual novel so much better than it had been initially. I simply can’t square my image of the great editor I had with this idea that one could read over a single paragraph scene which contains absolutely no vital information and think “yeah, that’s acceptable.” My editor would have kicked my ass if I’d tried that; if there was any editing being done for this book at all, it was by someone profoundly lax.

Other evidence of this is that Christian’s back to just announcing what he’s feeling again:

The thought is disconcerting, so I ignore it and concentrate on pushing my body to its limits along the bank of the Willamette.

In the second scene- again, just a paragraph- Grey passes a coffee shop and wonders whether or not he should take Ana to one, completely bypassing the whole “will she go with me if I ask?” bit, not to mention the “will she actually be at the photoshoot?” part.

Maybe I should take her for coffee.
Like a date?
Well. No. Not a date. I laugh at the ridiculous thought. Just a chat—an interview of sorts.

Yes, taking a woman you’re interested in on a date? Sir, that is the height of madness! Interviewing her like an employer, gauging her suitability for what you have planned for her but will not even hint to her about? Perfectly normal!

The scene ends again, and I’m left wondering if this is at all what people want out of this novel; Grey takes the majority of the scene to set out that he’s going to eat and then shower. That literally takes up as much page real estate as “should I take the heroine out for coffee?” and I just cannot fucking fathom why that is. This is not the sorts of insight into the character that people want to read about, surely? E.L James will skip entire days worth of content where Christian obsesses over Ana, something that one could reasonably anticipate that the readers of this romance novel would want, but she’ll render his fucking breakfast habits with the same level of detail that she mentions the heroine in this scene?

What the fuck is wrong with this writer’s priorities?

Oh, and it’s not just the details and scene blocking that she sucks at, it’s also scene transitions too:

THERE’S A BRISK KNOCK on the door. I open it and Taylor stands on the threshold.

Really? This is supposed to hook me into the scene?

The big problem here is that every shred of plot-relevant information that was present in those previous two scenes could have been incorporated into this one in a way that easily enhances the characterization of Christian, without any major detriment to the flow of the piece: just have him come in from running- you don’t even have to say so, just say he’s out of breath- to find Taylor (his bodyguard, by the way) looking for him. In one single scene opening you’ve shown us what Grey was doing, gotten us to exactly the same place that James took two “scenes” to get to, and have laid easy groundwork for Christian to relate what he was thinking about on his run that held him up so long. In fact, you’ve now also made his internal turmoil more present in the narrative because you can show that he’s been out distracting himself with running so long that others have noticed and begun looking for him.

This has all been accomplished, by the way, without transforming the chapter into a jerky, stop-and-start abomination with a flow that’s dead in the water. You’d think that’d be important for a writer to consider.

Ugh. Anyway, it’s finally time for the photoshoot to happen, so the narrative wobbles vaguely that way. Can’t move too fast for the plot, after all; it’s so thin it might break its neck if we go too fast.

Room 601 is crowded with people, lights, and camera boxes, but I spot her immediately. She’s standing to the side. Her hair is loose: a lush, glossy mane that falls beneath her breasts. She’s wearing tight jeans and chucks with a short-sleeved navy jacket and a white T-shirt beneath. Are jeans and chucks her signature look? While not very convenient, they do flatter her shapely legs. Her eyes, disarming as ever, widen as I approach.

Yes, well, all women everywhere should be dressing in a manner that’s convenient for you, Christian. We wouldn’t want you to have to struggle for more than a second at a time in gaining access to their holes, after all. But hey, at least it makes a part of her body visually appealing to you, and really, isn’t that what all women should aspire to?

Christian briefly considers kissing Ana’s hand, but doesn’t, which is fortunate because if he did, he would most likely metamorphose, at a molecular level, into one of those fedora-wearing Nice Guys who call women “m’lady.” In fact I’m fairly certain the fedora would be another organ. Instead, he turns his attention to Kate, Ana’s friend from the first chapter who couldn’t make it to her interminable interview with Christian (lucky her!).

“Mr. Grey, this is Katherine Kavanagh,” she says. With reluctance I release her and turn to the persistent Miss Kavanagh. She’s tall, striking, and well groomed, like her father, but she has her mother’s eyes, and I have her to thank for my introduction to the delightful Miss Steele. That thought makes me feel a little more benevolent toward her.

So, like… Grey immediately seems to dislike Kate, the deliberate wording of “more benevolent” hinting that his initial reaction was negative, and this is an enormous problem that both books covering this period have, where every single woman that isn’t Ana is referred to by the narrative in strictly negative terms. I made mention of this in the last recap, but it bears further investigation since this is the first time another major- insofar as this book has major characters beyond Grey and Ana- female character, and the narration leans toward instant, baseless dislike. It’s not that these women are characterized negatively, though that would be a problem on its own; it’s that the writing asserts negative things about them without justification or even a reason to in the scene, aside from emphasizing the insanely jealous haze through which both of our protagonists conduct themselves.

This is lazy writing on its own, since simply demanding that the reader react negatively toward certain characters is unreasonable and dishonest to the story, but in this case it’s also lazy characterization, since this is really the extent of the effort put into making Ana seem at all palatable. Instead of constructing a character with interesting qualities who actually is a person worth liking who we want to know more about, E.L James commits to waging a prose war against every other female character in the piece, simply commanding us to dislike them via the bizarre, disjointed assumptions of the lead characters. Christian doesn’t like Kate, for no reason, and so we are supposed to be sealed off from liking Kate too, and thus forbidden from comparing her favorably to Ana.

Of course, the fact is that Kate is generally the superior character, exhibiting far more agency in her quest to get an interview and personal photo shoot with Christian than Ana does in the entire series, and all of Kate’s cool stuff happens before the book begins.

She has a firm, confident handshake, and I doubt she’s ever faced a day of hardship in her privileged life. I wonder why these women are friends. They have nothing in common.

Heh heh, you got all that from her handshake, did you? Or is this just more of your utterly baseless assumptions, that you’re going to stick to and let color your every interaction with this person for the rest of your dealings with her?

Seriously, I’m so tired, already, of Christian leaping to conclusions about people based on nothing at all, and then the book just sort of treating them as true despite getting no positive feedback regarding them. Let’s be clear here: he just met Kate, and yet somehow we’re supposed to take seriously his pronouncement that she has nothing in common with Ana, another woman whose interactions with him can be counted on one hand? More and more, this is beginning to read like an account written by an unreliable narrator, just petulantly demanding that we interpret events his way when it’s clear to see that they simply don’t match the tone he’s giving them; it’s kinda hilarious, since E.L James clearly was not going for that.

If she was going for anything at all; nothing in what I’ve read thus far indicates that she actually had any artistic intentions for this work, period.

Not to mention, of course, how completely unironically the billionaire who was adopted by rich parents accuses someone else of “never having faced a day of hardship.” Christian was adopted at four years old: when was the last time he ever had to do something particularly strenuous?

It’s round about now that Jose appears, our Jacob counterpart to Christian’s Edward, in the Twilight fan-fiction this entire boondoggle originally was, and this is literally the first set of lines that come out of his appearance:

“This is José Rodriguez, our photographer,” Anastasia says, and her face lights up as she introduces him.
Shit. Is this the boyfriend?
Rodriguez blooms under Ana’s sweet smile.
Are they fucking?

The only possible interaction that Christian seems to be able to envision for men and Ana is penises, slipping into wet holes. Every. Single. Man, that he has seen her with thus far, his only thought has been of sex. Are they having sex with her? Have they dared to touch Christian’s property?! What is the status of their penises, viz Ana’s vagina?

He needs to know right now, damn it!

Well, game on, kid.

So… is anyone else bothered by this? To my knowledge, Jose is the only person of color in the entire series, and Christian develops an immediate habit of calling him “kid,” and “boy.” I mean, that’s condescending enough just on its own, but when it’s applied to the only non-white cast member exclusively…

Christian immediately gets incredibly standoffish to Jose, and since we only have Christian’s point of view to tell us that Jose responds in kind, and I completely refuse to trust his view, all we can really be sure of is that Christian begins this meeting by being kind of an asshole. That he takes absolutely everything that Jose does as a “challenge” only shows that he’s interacting with the man in bad faith, based on suspicions that he has in his own mind that Jose is not party to, nor has he influenced them in any way. Christian is acting out his possessive fantasies regarding Ana, inflicting them on an unsuspecting world and, in the fine tradition of confirmation bias, spinning every reaction he gets to them as evidence that he is, in fact, right.

The man even takes the fucking stage lights turning on as some form of attack on him, seemingly.

Then we get some more insipid assumptions from the man of the hour:

As the glare recedes I search out the lovely Miss Steele. She’s standing at the back of the room, observing the proceedings. Does she always shy away like this? Maybe that’s why she and Kavanagh are friends; she’s content to be in the background and let Katherine take center stage.
Hmm…a natural submissive.

At least this time Christian prefaces his weird ruminations with a “maybe,” but you know what? This is so perfectly symptomatic of the sickness at the heart of this book, and it’s not the abuse, really, because it goes deeper than that. The true rot that’s corrupting this narrative at every turn is more fundamental: it’s a staunch refusal, on the part of each and every character, to actually communicate with one another.

I mean, I guess this is partially a symptom of the fact that the majority of these people are just meeting each other for the first time, but then again that hardly stops them from wanting to fuck each other senseless, so it’s not really an excuse. The problem is that these people lack the maturity and willingness to frankly discuss their desires in a productive way; instead they find themselves ruminating pointlessly on what they think might be going on in the other’s head, based on nothing, and working from that. It’s a book where a bunch of clueless assholes fire blindly into the night and hope a relationship emerges.

Open and clear communication is such a cornerstone of BDSM, but any communication is key to relationship building- how are you going to have a romance novel where none of the people involved interact with one another?- so it’s so very baffling to see such reluctance to do so baked into the characters at a fundamental level.Grey even goes out of his way to lie to Ana to obscure his interest in her, and from memory Ana is just as evasive regarding her interest in him; the two protagonists are just locked in these little boxes where they refuse to truthfully communicate any of their thoughts to the world at large, while simultaneously being angry or disappointed that everyone else doesn’t already know what they’re thinking. It’s a narrative-scale act of passive aggression that essentially leaves us reading about an echo chamber. Nobody can grow or evolve, because nobody is willing to begin the process of information exchange to allow that to happen.

Christian thinks that Ana is a “natural submissive,” because he won’t talk to her about what she likes and dislikes just in general, let alone sexually, and he refuses to consider any of the information he knows about her outside of the little prism through which he can interpret the world as he prefers to see it. She’s a natural submissive because he would like it if that were so, and he doesn’t know any better, and so he constructs an ad hoc rationalization of why she is that way, no need to consult reality to confirm or anything, it’s just so, now. Did we really need for this entire book to be written just so we can know that Christian Grey constructs elaborate fantasy scenarios in his head and then expects the rest of the world to conform to them absolutely? Is that truly the sort of insight that should have been granted into this character?

Christian’s presumptuousness is irritating enough on its own, but in this case it also refers back to this utter nonsense about dominants being able to sense what women are “naturally submissive” in a sexual sense just by looking at them, like it’s all just instant submission, just add dominant cock. It’s not only lazy kink writing- it’s basically telling the reader instead of showing, which is like a cardinal writing sin in general- it’s flat out dangerous in many ways, as it reinforces certain assumptions that newly kinky people- and a certain stripe of predatory dom- might have about the way kink operates, namely that who you are outside of the bedroom, hell, even just how you look, informs the role you were destined to play in kink.

A quick stroll through reality demonstrates that this is… nonsense. Some of the most assertive people I’ve ever known have been almost exclusively sexually submissive in the bedroom, and some of the quietest, least assertive people I know turn into dominant beasts behind closed doors. I am a quiet, shy person in my real life, but my kinky tastes run near exclusively dominant; Grey would have had exactly the same cues with me as he has with Ana, the same disinterest in being the center of attention, the same discomfort with prolonged eye contact in public and so on, only the conclusions he drew from it would be totally wrong, because you can’t determine a person’s sexual tastes from their non-sexual behavior. It’s simply not possible: sure, there’s probably plenty of people who are meek and also sexually submissive, but human experience is varied and strange, those two categories don’t actually connect in any real way. All this book is telling new kinksters is that the guy who wanders up to you at your first play gathering, or messages you through a kink site, and says you were “born to wear a collar,” or some shit, is saying a totally cogent thing and is fine to hang out with, when in reality that guy is at the very least insanely presumptuous, and at worst is being outright predatory.

You want to know the way you ascertain whether or not someone is sexually submissive? You ask them. Which, as we’ve already established, Christian will never do, because he’s too engaged with his fantasy Ana to care what real Ana thinks, and would rather railroad her into it without any prior hints that this is his intention.

This whole book is fucking garbage.

As if to illustrate my prior point perfectly, Christian proceeds to stare at Ana, having decided in his mind that if she breaks eye contact first it means she’s a submissive and is slavering over his wonderful trouser dachshund, and begins telepathically ordering her to do so. Becoming uncomfortable after being stared at by a creepy loon with presumably very intense telepathy eyes, Ana does break eye contact, and being that Christian has already decided what that means, without any consideration of possible alternatives, he smugly tells her “good girl” in his head.

Is this what other women find sexy in their men? That he’ll just imagine some potentially sexy things about them and then just get all silently smug without telling them about it? How is that satisfying?

The photo shoot ends literally one sentence after this with the most jarring transition I’ve ever read; Christian seriously is just like “and then we’re done,” and that’s that. My ladyfriend does professional photography, so I know it takes some time to get pictures taken like that, so I’m genuinely wondering how much time has passed in that exchange of a few sentences, and why James opted to not even intimate that anything had happened at all. I know I said earlier that she takes too much time discussing trivial bullshit and not enough focusing on things people might actually want to read but come on: a photo shoot with a pair of new characters is at least somewhat interesting. Christian eating breakfast alone is not.

Christian shakes hands with every new character- who we have heard literally nothing from since they were introduced, continuing with the theme of James just assuming that everyone has read the previous books and thus knows who these people are- and we get this lovely little tidbit about Jose:

“Thank you again, Mr. Grey.” Katherine surges forward and shakes my hand, followed by the photographer, who regards me with ill-concealed disapproval. His antagonism makes me smile.
Oh, man…you have no idea.

So, Christian thinks that Jose is interested in Ana, and proceeds to gloat about attempting to steal her away from him. All for the crime of daring to be interested in the same woman as a man he’s never met.

Charming.

Grey asks Ana to walk with him, and his continuing interest in her is noted as “surprising” her, which just goes to show that merely thinking a lot about a woman, and pulling out all the stops to present to her that you have no interest in her while attempting to see her more, doesn’t actually transmit an effective message to the woman in question. Demonstrating yet more skewed priorities, James proceeds to write Christian’s inconsequential dialogue to Taylor in full, while relegating his asking Ana out for coffee to a silent notation, despite it being the focus of the scene.

Her long lashes flicker over her eyes. “I have to drive everyone home,” she says with dismay.

The easily resolved nature of this excuse- how hard is it to give your keys to Kate, Ana?- and Christian’s untrustworthy narration combine to make me think that this “dismay” he’s detecting in her is anything but. More and more, this feels like the diary of a man attempting to get with a woman who is uncomfortable around him, while he’s unable to register that fact. And of course, Christian has all the money in the world with which to enforce his presence on the unfortunate young lady:

“Taylor,” I call after him, making her jump. I must make her nervous and I don’t know if this is good or bad. And she can’t stop fidgeting. Thinking about all the ways I could make her stop is distracting.

He doesn’t know if making her nervous is good or bad?

Well, let me clear that up, then. It’s. Fucking. BAD.

Maybe, in a specific BDSM context, making a woman nervous is a good thing. But Ana is not Christian’s sub. Ana does not even know that Christian is kinky, and Christian absolutely does not know if Ana is. From Ana’s perspective, Christian is just a guy; she does not have a relationship with him beyond a few meetings, they are not romantically or sexually involved in any way, nor does she have any indication that Christian is interested in these things. There is absolutely no sense in which making a woman in that position nervous around you is a good thing, something that Christian would know if he had any shred of empathy at all.

Ana accepts his invitation after Christian put pressure on her to do so by committing his staff to doing the thing that was preventing her from accepting right in front of her, and she trots off to deal with that. While Christian is waiting, we get some more nonsense ruminations:

What the hell am I going to say to her?
“How would you like to be my submissive?”
No. Steady, Grey. Let’s take this one stage at a time.

God, yeah, why would you want to say that? That would be a frank and honest expression of your intentions toward her, how crazy would it be to do that?

I mean, I get it, that would be surprisingly blunt, but it’s not as if Christian isn’t trying to skip vital steps in the process of getting to know Ana before jumping into bed with her anyway. Hell, he’s planning to interview her and present her with a sex contract; simply asking is positively genteel next to that.

How long is Anastasia going to be? I check my watch. She must be negotiating the car swap with Katherine. Or she’s talking to Rodriguez, explaining that she’s just going for coffee to placate me and keep me sweet for the article. My thoughts darken. Maybe she’s kissing him good-bye.
Damn.
She emerges a moment later, and I’m pleased. She doesn’t look like she’s just been kissed.

Well, I mean, how would you know? She hasn’t set off the Kissing Flares or anything.

At the elevators I press the call button and almost immediately the doors open. A couple in a passionate embrace spring apart, embarrassed to be caught. Ignoring them, we step into the elevator, but I catch Anastasia’s impish smile.
As we travel to the first floor the atmosphere is thick with unfulfilled desire. And I don’t know if it’s emanating from the couple behind us or from me.

Hey, sometimes elevators just smell bad.

I’m relieved when the doors open again and I take her hand, which is cool and not clammy as expected. Perhaps I don’t affect her as much as I’d like. The thought is disheartening.

Dude, have a little care for the kind of effect you want to have on the woman, because when I see sweaty palms, I don’t think “gagging for the D.”

They head out to a coffee place, and for some reason every step of the journey is described to us, as well as Grey taking Ana’s coffee order, because we were all desperately wanting to see that happen from Christian’s point of view, obviously. She declines his offer to get her some food, so of course when he actually goes to order, this happens:

“I’ll have a coffee with steamed milk. English Breakfast tea. Teabag on the side. And a blueberry muffin.”
Anastasia might change her mind and eat.

It’s their first time out together, the first time they’re in a remotely equal position, and he’s already trying to control what she eats. Those who have read the other novels know that this is a recurring theme with some… interesting undertones that may or may not be intentional (Ana, who in this novel doesn’t eat much and is always being told to eat, is often the name given to sufferer’s personifications of anorexia) but it’s interesting to see it start out so damn early. For someone who constantly worries that Ana might not be into him, he sure has no qualms overreaching with her whenever possible, as if that’s likely to help.

For some reason the narration then decides to stop and render a one-sided conversation between the barista and a monosyllabic Grey in its entirety, and again, I’m utterly mystified as to this book’s sense of priorities; I’m fairly sure that people wanted to see more of Christian and Ana together, from his perspective, or perhaps relevant scenes from his life that inform who he is as a person, but I don’t recall any screaming outcry to know what, exactly, he talked about with the cashier in that one coffee shop scene. I don’t know why this gets special treatment- seriously, it’s just small talk- while the photo shoot, which could have been used to give some good insight into Christian around these new characters, went by at such a blisteringly fast pace.

This really does feel like E.L James stream of consciousness writing, without even a single editing pass before it hit shelves. She just writes whatever, and then I guess it’s in the book forever, now.

It also serves the purpose of making Christian look like a vicious ass who can’t interact with other human beings if he wants to do something else instead, and I doubt that was what was originally envisioned for this guy. But seriously, there’s no other way to take a man hissing at a barista who’s just wishing him a good time in the city, since he’s visiting. He’s just being horrible for no reason, without commentary on how uncool that is. It’s like they took the least important part of the book and turned it into an opportunity to make Christian look like more of a horrendous douche. Why would they do that?

And then they have tea, which is endlessly fascinating, I know.

As she tells me she likes her tea weak and black, for a moment I think she’s describing what she likes in a man.

That… that just sounds like she’s describing Urkel.

Christian decides to use this time to grill Ana further, as though he didn’t get enough information on her from the background check he ran, so he asks her if Jose is her boyfriend, and I’m starting to get kind of irritated that this keeps happening, because if Christian actually wanted to know, he could just ask her if she has a boyfriend in general, instead of going down this ridiculous checklist for every single man she knows. He could ask one question instead of asking fifteen million ones that signal his intentions even brighter than ever, but I think this is just down to E.L James not really having a handle on writing a smart character who probably would have picked that up on his own, and so she just cycles through the same three or four topics endlessly, in the process undercutting the very notion that Christian is smart.

She laughs. At me.
At me!
And I don’t know if it’s from relief or if she thinks I’m funny. It’s annoying.

Because nobody should take you anything but seriously, as you stalk women in hardware stores and try to send telepathic kink messages to them.

“The way you smiled at him, and he at you.” You have no idea, do you? The boy is smitten.

Whew! Get a load of that completely natural speech pattern from a 27 year old American dude! “And he at you,” because that’s totally what some guy from Detroit would say.

She eyes the blueberry muffin as I peel back the paper, and for a moment I imagine her on her knees beside me as I feed her, a morsel at a time. The thought is diverting—and arousing.

Okay… look, I shouldn’t have to say something this obvious, but muffins are not sexy food. They’re crumbly-ass stain nightmares that leave you all sticky when you eat them. I cannot imagine a less sexy scene than someone holding a rapidly disintegrating chunk of muffin out to someone else and watching them suffer under the deluge of crumbs and blueberry fragments as they attempt to eat it, and then presumably spend the next fifteen minutes picking muffin out of their hair and clothes.

No amount of collars or dirty talk could make that sexy.

Christian again asks if Paul from the last chapter is her boyfriend, and I don’t know what he hopes to accomplish with this. Is he hoping to catch Ana out in a lie, where she admits that actually yes, he is? Or does he just not remember something about the girl he has apparently spent the last day pining for relentlessly? What is actually the point of all these little digressions?

“I find you intimidating,” she says, and looks down, fidgeting once more with her fingers. On the one hand she’s so submissive, but on the other she’s…challenging.

Oh, that’s a good sign. I know that in Ana’s mind she’s super into him and so on, but that’s not something that Christian knows, or even suspect, given how much he bounces around and doubts himself in her presence. To him, this should be an absolute red flag that the way he’s acting around her is achieving precisely the opposite effect to the one he wants, this should prompt him to really reflect back on his actions and maybe change so that he can…

Yeah, okay. I could not get through that with a straight face. We all know that’s never going to happen:

“You should find me intimidating.”

‘Scuse me, bucko? She should? That’s what you want in your subs, is it? Intimidation?

Because that’s absolutely not what you should want in a submissive, least of all one that you’re only just getting to know, if she indeed turns out to be sexually submissive. Intimidation leads to fear of displeasing your dom, it leads to you not using your safe word even when you should. An intimidated sub won’t say a word her dom won’t like, she won’t give properly reflective reactions when she’s played with, she’ll persist with things that hurt her too much because she doesn’t want to displease the person she’s afraid of.

Moreover, as I’ve had to point out so many times in this damn entry, Ana is not his sub yet. Even if he wanted his subs to be intimidated, at this point she’s just a woman that he’s met a few times. Her being intimidated is literally the last thing that a person in Christian’s situation, wanting to get in her pants, should want. Unless he’s intimating that he wants her scared so that he can pressure her into sex later, which, I mean…

You don’t want her intimidated. You shouldn’t want anybody intimidated, frankly, but then…

Yeah. She should. There aren’t many people brave enough to tell me that I intimidate them.

So, this tells us two important things: the first is that Christian is a complete sociopath who actually wants people to be afraid of him. The second is that he takes a lack of overt acknowledgement that he does intimidate them as a sign that he does intimidate them, but they’re too afraid to say so… which makes him look like one of those internet tough guys obsessed with convincing himself that actually everyone secretly thinks of him as the tough dude he thinks of himself as.

“Yeah, everyone’s afraid of me, because I’m strong! Look at that guy, not in any way signalling that he’s intimidated… he so scurred!”

Ridiculous.

Grey goes on to begin grilling Ana about her family, for the most frustrating reason:

Of course I know all this from Welch’s background check, but it’s important to hear it from her.

No, if it was important to hear it from her, then you wouldn’t have run the background check at all; you would have just asked her in the process of getting to know her normally, like a respectful person would do. Unless you mean that it’s important to hear all this from her in the sense that you don’t want to let slip any information you couldn’t know on your own, and hence reveal that you’ve been spying on her, but in that case the move is so vile and calculating that it’s actually better to think that he’s just profoundly insensitive, an implication that is only confirmed by his next question:

“Your father?” I ask.
“My father died when I was a baby.”

Christian already knows this, since it showed up on the background check. What he doesn’t know is how Ana feels about it. But that’s sure not going to stop him from bringing it up like it’s nothing, no matter how traumatic or saddening it might be for Ana, because Ana’s feelings don’t actually matter to Christian, least of all when he’s trying to obscure the fact that he’s spied on her so she won’t get freaked out on him. I mean, he just says this, busts out this incredibly loaded question when he wants Ana to like him, when one could reasonably assume that she would have some very complicated feelings on the issue…

“I don’t remember him,” she says, dragging me back to the now. Her expression is clear and bright, and I know that Raymond Steele has been a good father to this girl.

Oh, okay then. Never mind. I guess it would be too much to ask for Ana to have nuanced feelings on anything, especially when there’s Christian Grey to moon over.

Hey, you know what we haven’t had for a while? Mindless sexist pablum!

She’s one of the few women I’ve met who can sit in silence. Which is great, but not what I want at the moment.

God, ’cause those women, always being such huge chatterboxes, am I right? Just yak yak yak, eh Christian? Good thing you know how to put a stop to that, eh? Eh? Eh?

And it’s with great pleasure and a smirk that I remind her that she’s interviewed me already. “I can recollect some quite probing questions.”
Yes. You asked me if I was gay.

Oh, you don’t like probing questions do you, Christian? Like, say, asking someone about their father when you already know they’re dead?

Or are we just talking about the sort of probing questions that let you continue to assert your Manly Manliness credentials to the reader over and over in the most homophobic way possible?

She straightens her shoulders. “Tell me about your parents,” she demands, in an attempt to divert the conversation from her family. I don’t like talking about mine, so I give her the bare details.

Oh, she should probably just run a background check on you then.

Christian goes over the single sentence version of who his family is, and the one sided nature of this “interview,” continues to irritate me. Ana mentions her aspirations to travel to England one day, citing all the famous authors that came from there but also never once venturing outside of the literature one might find on a high school reading list to do so, and Christian yet again assumes that the entirety of British literature can be boiled down to the romances… although I will grudgingly admit that he’s aided in this notion by Ana’s list, in a way.

Here’s the proof I needed. She’s an incurable romantic, like her mother—and this isn’t going to work. To add insult to injury, she looks at her watch. She’s done.

The man acts like his time is the most important asset in the world, and yet someone else merely being aware of how they’re spending theirs is an insult to him. If they don’t want exactly the same coldly sexual relationship with him that he wants with them, if he finds them fuckable but they want romance instead of on call booty calls, this is an injury, in his mind. Ugh.

Despite having apparently made up his mind that Ana isn’t into what he wants from her, that “this isn’t going to work,” he continues to act as though he’s totally going to ask her out anyway, as though the last few moments of his train of thought never happened.

Hi, I’m Christian Grey! Lemme bondage you!

Maybe this could work.
“Do you always wear jeans?” I ask.
“Mostly,” she says, and it’s two strikes against her: incurable romantic who only wears jeans…I like my women in skirts. I like them accessible.

What is Ana thinking, not having her holes open for your use 24/7! What a notion, that she might have dressed herself this morning without consideration of what Christian Grey likes, since she absolutely knows nothing of his sexual interest in her! How crazy, to think that a person might change according to circumstance, so that if you ever became her dom you might be able to request that she wear dresses for that purpose!

Nope! People are static, they only ever do what they’re doing at precisely this second and nothing more,, ever! Don’t you feel bad for people sitting on toilets, knowing they’ll be trapped there forever?

“Do you have a girlfriend?” she asks out of the blue, and it’s the third strike. I’m out of this fledgling deal. She wants romance, and I can’t offer her that.

Well, come on man, what the fuck did you want her to say? “Do you have a sex slave?” What fucking other expression of sexual interest could she have used that wouldn’t have come across as presumptuous and inappropriate for the public street the two of you are now walking on?

So fucking sorry for you, that she didn’t read your mind and know exactly what you wanted in order to tailor the perfect response. Jesus, how rough.

And then something dumb happens, which I’ve been led to believe comes directly from Twilight in some respect, which makes it dumb squared:

Stricken with a frown, she turns abruptly and stumbles into the road.
“Shit, Ana!” I shout, tugging her toward me to stop her from falling in the path of an idiot cyclist who’s flying the wrong way up the street. All of a sudden she’s in my arms clutching my biceps, staring up at me.

That single sentence, from the quotation marks onward, constitutes the entirety of this near-bike collision thing. Big moments in this book go by so fast, and with so little fanfare that it’s hard to care about anything. Christian describes this careless cyclist in the same flat, monotone prose as he described his breakfast earlier in the chapter, and the whole concept is discarded a moment later and never mentioned again. This is clearly supposed to be some big dramatic thing, hell, it’s the biggest moment of action so far in the entire novel, but the language remains utterly flat. I think it’s James’ writing style in general; her weird stream of consciousness narration might work for fan fiction- mildly, since I don’t actually buy the idea that this would be acceptable in a derivative work either- but in an actual narrative it’s so disjointed and lacking in rhythm that it’s hard to build up much excitement for what’s going on, or even to become invested at all.

Christian holds Ana to him as a means of saving her, and clearly James is going for a big romantic heart-thumper, but the writing so lacks any form of recognizable pattern that I can’t get a hold on how its supposed to be read. It just comes across as dispassionate as a shopping list, because the content is not the only thing that determines the tone, in writing. Execution matters, and it really feels like that was an afterthought here. It’s like James just thinks if she writes about a romantic thing, it will be romantic no matter how she actually writes it.

Anyway, the guy could go in for a kiss, but:

No. No. No. Don’t do this, Grey.
She’s not the girl for you.
She wants hearts and flowers, and you don’t do that shit.

I’ll be blunt: I don’t buy this excuse. I do not buy it one bit.

What this is, isn’t some dark brooding loner pushing her away for her own good, no matter how Christian wants to characterize it as that. He’s not fucking Batman, the Joker isn’t going to pop up and beat Ana to death with a crowbar if he takes her to a restaurant (though… god, actually, that would make a better book…)

Save us from the bad book, Mistah J!

No, the real problem here is that Christian is entirely unwilling to even attempt a compromise with Ana. He suspects that she wants “hearts and flowers,” as he puts it, and maybe he’s right, but relationships are not a zero-sum game. One person getting what they want does not preclude the other from getting theirs too, and I pretty much think Christian knows that. He just doesn’t want to try to make Ana happy on her own terms, only on his, and nothing else.

It’s a complete double standard, of course, since he was quite happy to attempt to bring her around to the kind of relationship he wanted with her, even if she needed some convincing. But the moment she might want something that deviates from his own desires it’s time to back away, as though even meeting her half way and attempting to like her as a person, as a romantic partner, is too much effort. If he can’t be getting what he wants whenever he wants then he’s out, and worse, he’s then going to try and recast his own failure of character as some kind of heroic act of charity. Anything to keep himself a legend in his own mind.

What an ugly, ugly human being. And there are people who find him attractive?

He has the opportunity to kiss her but doesn’t, because that would entail some effort on his part that a girl might actually consent to, and Ana gets depressed. Completing his little suffering waif routine at not getting exactly what he wants, Christian warns her away from him, saying he’s “not the person for her.”

Ana is angry at this, which is sort of inexplicable if you’ve read the other book and know that her own thoughts during the whole cafe scene essentially ran along the lines of “golly gee, shucks, I’m so ordinary, he couldn’t possibly be interested in a shy, shy, and shy girl like me!” Isolated to Christians POV alone you kinda get the idea that she might have noticed his attraction to her, but both accounts taken together show that, for the majority of the story thus far, neither of them have been aware that the other is interested, making Ana’s anger at his rejection really weird. She’s mad at him for not immediately intuiting her own attraction and acting on it, as though he’s obligated to do so because she wants him.

I dunno, people don’t react like normal human beings in these books. It’s like E.L James is an alien who learned all she knows about romance from dour movies. Like, why would Ana not expect Christian to have telepathy?

… And… wait. He seems to think she does too, after that thing at the photo shoot. That’s… coincidental.

Is… Is E.L James an alien?

Well, this is where the chapter ends, dear reader: Ana storms off in a huff, and Christian characteristically cannot communicate his regrets at rejecting her like a normal human being. It’s essentially two more paragraphs of stammering, and then a chapter break. I don’t recall if this is the scene that leads to Ana having a weeping fit in a parking lot, or if that’s some other one, but it’s not like that’s not equally ridiculous, either way.

Join me next time, you weirdos, as I explore a chapter even lighter on actual content than this one!

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