This summer I was introduced to the book Fifty Shades of Grey by a colleague at work. (Yes, I have a day job.) I had heard about the book and frankly didn’t care to read it. However, to be agreeable over my friend’s suggestion, I took the dark plunge.
I’m not sure if any of my readers have ever had one of those “defining moments” in life. The dictionary defines a “defining moment” as: “A point at which the essential nature or character of a person, group, etc., is revealed or identified.”
It happened on my green recliner in my living room as I was making my way through the book and reached page 226. Ana asks Christian why he is the way he is. These words met my eyes: “I don’t know any other way. Anastasia. This is who I am.”
I literally stopped after reading those words and gasped. No joke. The words were spoken by Christian Grey, the handsome billionaire with quirky sexual desires as a dominant male. He’s into the bondage and pain gig with his women. Nevertheless, the reason for his propensities stem from childhood abuse. This is who he is–he doesn’t know any other way.
Putting aside the book entirely, whether you like it or not, I can only say that those words were a defining moment for me. In fact, I met E.L. James at a book signing in Portland, Oregon, and asked her to autograph that very page. She did. I don’t think she has a clue why.
The realization of who I am, because of my past, came as a huge relief. It is what spurred me to write Conflicting Hearts. For the first time in my life I understood myself. A point of acceptance flashed through my soul. The light went on. This is who I am.
I think as sexually abused individuals we need to come to a defining point in our lives and a place of acceptance, rather than of self-hatred. For most of my life I frankly ignored who I was because of my abuse. Part of the reason came from my blindness regarding the matter. I used to tell myself it never really affected me. As I look back over my life, it’s quite obvious I was in denial or just plain ignorant.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we each need to learn about what makes us tick as individuals. You can do that in a variety of ways either through counseling or self-help books to understand yourself on a more deeper level. With understanding comes acceptance. With acceptance comes peace. And with peace, you are more inclined not to be so harsh upon yourself. There comes a period where you stop blaming yourself for who you are, the feeling of being dirty is washed away, and the understanding that you are not to blame frees you from shame. Ultimately, when you take that journey, you are faced with decisions to seek healing, forgive others, forgive yourself, move on, and find a productive healthy place in life.
Rachel did just that. She came to that defining moment in her life when she broke up with Ian, because loving him was more important than staying with the child in the dark closet. There finally came a place where she looked at the little girl within and gave her the chance to grow into a mature woman by receiving the unconditional love of another human being.
Of course, the reality is that not all of us will find our Ian in life. I’ve never found mine, and I’m about to turn 63 years old this month. What I have found, though, is myself. I understand who I am, why I feel the way I do, why I do the things that I do, and I’m learning to love myself. That, my friend, is the greatest challenge of them all and one I hope to ultimately conquer.
P.S. If you’d like to read what I really thought of Fifty Shades of Grey, you can read my review below posted and linked to Goodreads. Whether it’s wonderful to you or a piece of trash, it doesn’t matter. Perhaps you may think my defining moment should have come kneeling at the altar. I’ve knelt there before, and it didn’t arrive until 37 years later. I can only say that God moves in mysterious ways.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Originally, I had no intent of reading this book and had only heard about it occasionally here and there. Then one day, a friend at work left it on my chair face up. :inserts heart attack: She gushed about the series, I wrinkled my nose, and took the book not to hurt her feelings. On my way out of the building, I shoved it under my arm and got into the elevator, having not yet read the iconic line of, “what is it about elevators?”
That week I had company, so I hid Fifty Shades under a coat in the back seat of my car for five days before I had the nerve to take it into my home after they departed. Then I set it on the dining room table and it sat there for another five days. Finally, it became occasional bathroom reading, as I skimmed through it to see how bad the erotica parts were before deciding to go any farther. After my eyeballs bled, I let it sit again for a few more days. Since I’ve been single for 13 years with no sex, a book like this tends to be torture. Finally, I sat down and began to read it.
My first shock was “holy crap” this book is set in Portland, Oregon where I live. Okay, what a coincidence. My second impression centered around the character of Ana. Frankly, she made me laugh. Her internal voice amused me, in spite of her repetitive “holy craps,” “inner goddess,” etc. etc. Yes, EL James is a repetitive writer throughout and probably didn’t use the cool program of Autocrit that shows all those suckers. I found myself giggling through the early encounters between her and Grey. Okay, I thought to myself, I can handle this…so far…cute and amusing.
The unbelievable fact of Ana’s simple life is over played, as far as I’m concerned. No cell phone? No computer? It would have been better had Grey just replaced a relic of a computer and outdated cell phone. As far as her virginity, surprisingly there are still those out there who keep their legs crossed up to 22 years of age, albeit once she loses her virginity to him, she keeps them open far too often. Also, having been just introduced to sex, I find it unbelievable she can experience her first orgasm so quickly. These are the little irritants I’m willing to overlook. I’m supposing EL James had her own reason for building Ana in that light. Let’s face it, once she meets Grey all common sense disappears and she’s hooked on a drug.
Okay, Grey. Let’s get to the central swoon point of the book. They guy is rich (billionaire should have probably been an millionaire to make it believable), far too young to have such a grand empire, and totally screwed up. Now, I’ll come to the nitty-gritty of it all. As a woman who was sexually abused at five years old, I understand Christian Grey completely. One line that hit home really hard happened to be, “This is who I am.” People, you have no idea how that affected me. If you’ve never had your innocence stripped from you as a child or teen, you’ll never understand the darkness and demons of Christian Grey.
I didn’t relate so much to this book fantasizing over a character who is handsome, takes care of me, and is a bad-boy with a dark and kinky side. I read it as a book understanding the effects of sexual abuse on a child and how it taints your thinking in every aspect of your life. Your view of yourself, your sexual preferences, the demons that are left are very real. Grey, I understand. I wondered if EL James herself had once been a victim. If not, she portrayed his inner demons to perfection; and for that, I give her kudos.
The book does have many flaws. I almost wish it wasn’t so full of explicit sex and so much of it. I think EL James could have crafted a wonderful R rated novel, instead of NR17, and the story would have been fine. The day he takes her to meet his parents was frankly over the top in the number of times he took her for pain, punishment, and pleasure. He’s a superman ripping foiled packages of condoms, who can keep an erection and achieve performance for hours. Men probably admire his stamina. Ana is the nymphomaniac herself having just been introduced to sex and without a shade of a morality. Of course, she’s bewitched by Grey; it is a bit over the top. But that’s what Erotica is all about…a lot of unrealistic sex. The kinky side of it was an eye opener to me. However, once again I understand Grey’s bondage tendencies. I’ll leave it at that, though, I’m not involved in that type lifestyle.
So what did I like about the book? (1) The characters that suck you into their lives; (2) the dialogue and bantering between Grey and Ana; (3) the inner conflict of Ana trying to understand herself and him, (4)EL James’ sense of humor with Ana’s thought process; and (5) the underlying themes.
It has its merits and its faults. I think what makes it popular is the fact that it touches a lot of people in a variety of ways…whether that is good or bad. Perhaps it is fan fiction at its worse, utter trash, and not worth the read. For me, it was a wake up call, “This is who I am,” to no fault of my own.
It’s about Christian Grey working through the devastating effects of his childhood, which has molded him into the man he is. Sexual abuse of any kind deeply affects the human soul from your decisions, to your likes and dislikes, to your fears, self-esteem, to your sexual tendencies (most of which are distorted and rightfully so) – the list is endless. Sometimes healing comes; sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s at the hands of a therapist; sometimes at the hands of someone who loves you unconditionally. And, sadly, sometimes it never arrives at all. For those reasons, I cannot harshly judge the content of this book overall. However, the reality of whether these two individuals could really have a healthy long-term relationship is questionable in real life. Below is a link to an interesting article about the psychology of it all.