Today’s recap should be relatively short because this is another portion of the book where Ana and Christian aren’t together, and EL James can’t really be bothered to think of things for Christian to do when Ana’s not around. So strap in for some vague business, tedious e-mailing, coffee with or without milk, and references to an anthropomorphized cock.
Oh, but fuck me right from the start because it opens with a sad moldy cheese dream. Which I’ll give to you with a heavy warning that it’s the literal worst:
Mommy is gone. I don’t know where.
He’s here. I hear his boots. They are loud boots.
They have silver buckles. They stomp.
I am in Mommy’s closet.
He won’t hear me.
I can be quiet. Very quiet.
Quiet because I’m not here.
“You fucking bitch!” he shouts.
He shouts a lot.
“You fucking bitch!”
He shouts at Mommy.
He shouts at me.
He hits Mommy.
He hits me.
I hear the door close. He’s not here anymore.
And Mommy is gone, too.
I stay in the closet. In the dark. I’m very quiet.
I sit for a long time. A long, long, long time.
Where is Mommy?
I’ll wait for you to rinse yourself off with some bleach so we can continue.
Child abuse is undeniably awful, but a lot of people who defend this series argue that Christian is ultimately dealing with trauma and that we need to be more understanding of it. And clearly, EL James feels the same way, which is why she subjects us to these God-awful flashbacks.
Putting aside the fact that he’s completely fictional, this line of reasoning is harmful in two ways: one, it implies that people who’ve experienced child abuse, or abuse of any kind, are forever affected by it and can’t live functional, responsible lives.
The second issue is definitely my biggest sticking point — and it’s that people use Christian’s past abuse to avoid dealing with the way he treats Ana. In doing so, you’re arguing that something that happened to him when he was 4 is more important and more relevant than what he’s putting Ana through in the present day.
But all of this fails to address the heart of the problem, because regardless of what you think of child abuse and its effects later in life, Christian Grey isn’t real. EL James made a choice to use child abuse as a cheap narrative tactic to explain and excuse her character’s love of hitting, fucking, and controlling young women who look like his dead mother.
And in any other book, I might actually be okay with that because I’d be free to assume that the book itself is arguing that Christian is working through a cycle of abuse. And that would make sense, except that EL James has repeatedly denied that the relationship between Ana and Christian has anything to do with abuse, and that — brace yourself for some bullshit — anyone who suggests that is doing a disservice to “real” abuse victims. So where does that leave us?
I’m always going to have more questions than answers with this series, and I guess at some point I should accept that, but the harder EL James tries to justify the monster she created with this character and this series as a whole, the more it seems as though she’s conflating abuse with love, and saying that abusers can be healed if you just love them the right way. And I don’t think I need to say why that’s a terrible fucking seed to plant in someone’s mind.
Anyway, you’ll never believe it but Christian wakes up and decides to go for a run. Just as he steps out the door, he checks his phone and — THANK GOD — Ana has survived the flight:
Good. She’s there, and safe. The thought pleases me and I quickly scan my e-mail.
RoboChristian hate death.
Christian then re-reads one of Ana’s previous e-mails from last night where she told him that he scares her and that she’s not comfortable with the way he throws money at her:
The subject of Ana’s latest message leaps out at me: “Do you like to scare me?”
No fucking way.
If James wasn’t SO adamant that this book wasn’t about abuse, you could be forgiven for thinking that she had very clearly and very deliberately juxtaposed Christian’s dream with this moment — you know, one scene where a child fears an abuser, and then another in which that same character’s girlfriend accuses him of being a scary abuser. But obviously that’s not what’s happening, right?
My scalp prickles and I sit down on the bed, scrolling through her words.
That’s about all we get. A prickly scalp, but no admission of potential guilt or wrongdoing. Just his spidey senses telling him he might be an asshole. Maybe. Or not at all:
Ana’s given me a great deal to process.
Paying her for sex?
Like a whore.
I’ve never thought of her that way. Just the idea makes me mad. Really fucking mad. I spring once more around the park, my anger spurring me on. Why does she do this to herself?
I’m rich, so what? She just needs to get used to that. I’m reminded of our conversation yesterday about the GEH jet. She wouldn’t take that offer.
At least she doesn’t want me for my money.
But does she want me at all?
If she has a problem with him spending money on her, she’s an insecure, uptight bitch. If she enjoys the money, she’s just another one of “those” women that he hates. He loves that she doesn’t want his money — but hates that she won’t accept his money.
This is not a complex, confused character. This is just a manipulative asshole who hates women.
She says I dazzle her. But boy, has she got that the wrong way around. She dazzles me in a way that I’ve never experienced, yet she’s flown across the country to get away from me.
How’s that supposed to make me feel?
Everything is about his feelings and everything is her fault. And, in case it wasn’t clear from the last recap, it has been TEN DAYS since he first took her back to his hotel room and stripped her naked while she was unconscious. And she just wants a couple of days to decide if she’s willing to submit herself to a sexual contract roughly a week after losing her virginity.
So Christian’s cut off from his emotions — he’s traumatized. Fine. Let’s accept that and pretend it makes sense. But then why is any of this meant to make him seem attractive? Why should I find it romantic that he keeps pushing her into something that she’s not ready for and then whines when she wants to step back and think about it rationally? Like he’s ASKED her to do?
Also, Ana’s whole self-perception in the original book is that she’s the plainest woman in the world, and neither the original nor this book itself does much to convince us otherwise. If EL James wants to pretend that a supermodelesque billionaire is tripping over his enormous dick to chase down a mousey college student who’s not particularly smart, funny, or interesting, she could try to show us what it is he sees in her instead of having him act like he’s overcome with feeeeeelings when he’s around her that even he can’t explain. That’s not really how love works — you still have some idea of why you love the other person.
She’s right. It is a dark path I’m leading her down, but one that is far more intimate than any vanilla relationship—or so I’ve seen. I only have to look at Elliot and his alarmingly casual approach to dating to see the difference.
But... in the space of 5 years, Christian Grey has had 15 submissives and many more sexual partners. Why is he pretending that that’s not just as casual — especially since he admits he dumps them when they ask for more than just sex?
And I’d never hurt her physically or emotionally—how can she think that?
Because you have hurt her several times? And you know that? I can’t deal with his bullshit level of self-denial, especially when he names and acknowledges the behavior earlier in the actual book.
I just want to push her limits, see what she will and won’t do. Punish her when she colors outside the lines...yeah, it might hurt, but not beyond anything she can take.
Stop coloring with the dick crayons, Ana — you’re doing it wrong! And thank you for continually conflating sex with childhood, EL James, you fucking monster.
We can work up to what I’d like to do. We can take it slow.
And here’s the rub.
If she’s going to do what I want her to do, I’m going to have to reassure her and give her “more.” What that might be...I don’t yet know. I’ve taken her to meet my parents. That was more, surely. And that wasn’t so hard.
Or — crazy idea — actually find a way to make the sex fun FOR HER and not just a treat FOR YOU. But I forgot the real message in this supposedly kinky and sex-positive book, which is that all women just want to go bowling and take horse-drawn carriages around Disneyland and all men just want to slap women with the punishment dick. So I don’t know why I bother.
I take a slower jog around the park to think about what disturbs me the most about her e-mail. It isn’t her fear, it’s that she’s terrified of the depth of feelings she has for me.
Of course you’re not worried about making her feel scared. Of course.
That unfamiliar feeling surfaces in my chest as my lungs burn for air. It scares me. Scares me so much that I push myself harder, so that all I feel is the pain of exertion in my legs and in my chest and the cold sweat that trickles down my back.
Yeah. Don’t go there, Grey.
Stay in control.
YOU GUYS WHAT IS HE FEELING I CANT FIGURE IT OUT.
Christian runs home — TO ESCAPE HIS HEART’S TRUTH — and immediately writes Ana an e-mail saying that he’s angry that she can only communicate with him once she’s away from him. He does this without a shred of irony. Because nothing is his fault. He also tells her that she needs to “get used to” him being rich cuz he doesn’t give a fuuuuuck. He also says that she’s not a whore, but he does like giving her gifts so she needs to fucking deal.
Then he tells her that he’s real disappointed that she’s so insecure, and threatens to book her an appointment with his psychiatrist — which is a fantastically sensitive approach to mental health from a guy whose mental health issues we’re meant to feel really sorry about.
He does at least apologize for scaring her, but then says that she’s crazy for thinking he’d actually bind and gag in her in the cargo hold — even though he admitted to himself in the last chapter that he wasn’t totally joking — but really, it’s still her fault for having crazy woman thoughts.
He ends by saying that she should realize she has all the power in the relationship — which he’s demonstrated so well up to this point — and that he’s pleased that a virgin would be willing to try his DARK SEX WORLD OF DARKNESS.
It’s the longest fucking e-mail in the book, possibly the longest e-mail ever written.
He goes to work, sits through boring meetings, and Elena calls him to book dinner for that night. She asks a little more about Ana, he deflects, then thinks this:
Why are the women in my life so nosy? Elena. My mother. Ana...
At some point, Christian and Ana engage in some sexy e-mail flirting which involves some of the really inventive erotica that this series is known for.
Can I zip up your dress?
I would rather you unzipped it.
Ohhh fuck. The game is afoot.
Her words travel directly to my dick, passing “Go” on the way.
This calls for—what did she call them? SHOUTY CAPITALS.
And then he types — I swear to God:
SO WOULD I.
Why is he fucking shouting? Can you imagine how psychotic that would look if you were casually sexting your boyfriend and he wrote back with random allcapz?
She responds as though the last e-mail wasn’t insane:
This is all over e-mail, by the way. She just typed a one-word e-mail when she owns a cell phone that he pays for.
Anyway, he tells her he wishes that she were there, and then she replies — God I wish I was making this up:
SO DO I.
They are the worst. They are the worst at this. They are the worst at everything. Screaming random sentences at each other over e-mail is not sexy — it’s flat-out odd. And even if I found this sexy, nothing would take me out of the moment more than imagining the two of them screaming at their laptops, half-dressed.
Anyway, ANA NEEDS TO GO FOR DINNER, so they STOP E-MAILING because she doesn’t know how CELL PHONES work.
Luckily, back at the place where Christian works, some business is ready to be businessed:
Andrea knocks on the door with new schematics from Barney for the solar-powered tablet we’re developing. She’s startled that I’m pleased to see her. “Thanks, Andrea.”
“You’re most welcome, Mr. Grey.” She gives me a curious smile. “Would you like some coffee?”
What a gentleman. He’s becoming a new man, you guys.
No, just kidding — she probably assumes he’s just going to fire her soon or something. Or set her on fire. Or that she’ll come back with the coffee and he’ll insist that he asked for a half-caf misto and then throw the cup in her face and scream.
Meanwhile, here’s a shout-out for all of you Christian/Bastille shippers:
My day has improved immensely. I have knocked Bastille on his ass twice in our two rounds of kickboxing. That never happens.
Christian starts to head off for his dinner with Elena — which you might be hoping is a trainwreck, but I guarantee you is just going to be boring and vaguely misogynistic — but first Ana checks in to confirm she’s finished dinner:
I’m glad she’s eating...
Christian then tells Ana he’s glad she’s eating, because nothing is happening in this horrible book, and she replies with this:
Of course I eat...It’s only the uncertainty I feel around you that puts me off my food.
I did actually expect EL James to skate right over that, but she gives us this instead:
She loses appetite around me? That’s not good.
Oh — and what are you going to do about that? Take responsibility for it? Of course not. He writes:
I’m sorry to hear that I put you off your food. I thought I had a more concupiscent effect on you. That has been my experience, and most pleasurable it has been, too.
She loves munching on his dick so everything’s fine. Cool. Let’s move on.
The restaurant that Elena — his former rapist — has taken him to is called The Mile High Club. Because EL James is awful in every possible way:
The Mile High Club is on the penthouse floor of Columbia Tower. The sun is sinking toward the peaks of Olympic National Park, coloring the sky with an impressive fusion of oranges, pinks, and opals. It’s stunning. Ana would love the view. I should bring her here.
Yeah — that’s a great idea. “Hey, honey — I had dinner with my ex who raped me as a teenager and I thought of how much you’d love it here. Plus it had a sunset — and you know how much I love looking at the sky and then describing it for no reason.”
Elena is seated at a corner table. She gives me a small wave and a big smile. The maitre d’ escorts me to her table, and she rises, presenting her cheek to me.
“Hello, Christian,” she purrs.
“She purrs.” I mean, she is a rapist, but I’m so annoyed with the way that EL James treats all women who aren’t boring virgins that I feel a greater sense of frustration with this description than I do with Elena’s entire character in this moment.
“Good evening, Elena. You’re looking great, as usual.” I kiss her cheek. She tosses her sleek platinum hair to one side, which she does when she’s feeling playful.
Like a big slut because all women who aren’t Ana are all big sluts blah blah blah.
“Sit,” she says. “Would you like to drink?”
Her fingers and her trademark scarlet fingernails are wrapped around a champagne flute.
Red whore nails like a big whore because all women who don’t dress frumpy are big whores, etc. etc.
“I see you’ve started on the Cristal.”
Has EL James ever met another human being, or is her entire understanding of the world rooted in 80s thrillers?
“Well, I think we’ve got something to celebrate, don’t you?”
“Christian. This girl. Spill the beans.”
You do have to love a meticulous character description of a well-dressed blonde woman with red whore nails who then says elegant phrases like “spill the beans” and drinks Cristal in the Mile High Club. Nothing in this book ever makes sense.
“I don’t know why you’re making such a big deal of this.”
“I’m not making a big deal. I’m curious. How old is she? What does she do?”
“She’s just graduated.”
“Oh. A little young for you?”
I arch a brow. “Really? You’re going to go there?”
“Remember that time you fucked me, your friend’s 15 year old son?”
“Haha, yeah. That was the best.”
Fuck this book, man.
They start to eat and have a boring conversation about Ana, who is even more boring when she has to be described by Christian to other people. Then Christian stares into the depths of his food as though a bowl of clam chowder is roughly the same as reading tea leaves:
I look down at my chowder, wondering how Ana is and what she’s doing; sleeping, I hope...alone.
What world does he live in where he genuinely thinks that she’s going to go fuck-crazy as soon as she’s out of his sight? Also... is he really going to accuse her of potentially cheating on him while he’s having a secret dinner with an ex girlfriend at a restaurant literally called The Mile High Club? And how exactly does he think that she found a random dick in the last hour when she’s staying with her parents?
It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters.
Elena says it’s obvious that Ana has “turned his world upside down” because he keeps staring at his psychic chowder, I guess. Which is just as pasty and boring as Ana, so that makes sense. Then Elena comes up with a brilliant plan which conveniently absolves Christian of any blame for stalking Ana to Georgia later:
“You should go and see her.”
“Get on a plane.”
“If she’s undecided. Go use your considerable charm.”
My snort is derisive.
STOP. DOING. THAT. Your snort is not an autonomous being. That’s not how descriptions work. Fuck’s sake.
“Christian,” she scolds, “when you want something badly enough, you go after it and you always win. You know that. you’re so negative about yourself. It drives me crazy.”
So EL James has just shown Elena negging Christian in exactly the same way that Christian negs Ana — and yet EL James still wants to claim that this isn’t a picture-perfect profile of a cycle of abuse?
“The poor girl is probably bored to tears down there. Go. You’ll get your answer. If it’s a no, you can move on, if it’s a yes, you can enjoy being yourself with her.”
“She’s back Friday.”
“Seize the day, my dear.”
“She did say she missed me.”
“There you go.” Her eyes flash with certainty.
“I’ll think about it. More champagne?”
“Please,” she says, and gives me a girlish grin.
Christian heads home and tells Ana about his dinner. She correctly guesses that it was with Mrs. Robinson. He thinks “Shit.” But instead of answering her via e-mail — the method of communication they’ve been using this whole time to talk about serious issues — he thinks:
This is the perfect excuse. This is going to need an answer in person.
NO IT DOESN’T.
I buzz Taylor and tell him I’m going to need Stephan and the Gulfstream in the morning.
“Very good, Mr. Grey. Where are you going?”
“We’re going to Savannah.”
“Yes, sir.” And there’s a hint of amusement in his voice.
Because he just won the office stalking pool. Silly old Andrea figured Christian would make it a full 24 hours before terrorizing his girlfriend and violating her clear request for space, but Taylor knew better.
Gosh this book is fun. Join me again next time, won’t you?