It's gotten to the point where I am now doing actual work in order to avoid reading, writing, or thinking about this book. I am also concerned about not being funny any more because I am so weary and sad from reading this that I'm struggling to even find the rage. At least I was until I read Chapter 11.
The chapter opens with Ana returning home from her day at work to a confrontation with Christian over why he flew home early from New York. It was, he says, because she went back on her word about staying in that night. "Is that how you see it?" she asks him with genuine fucking surprise, before explaining she didn't break her promise, she merely CHANGED HER MIND, because she's a woman and therefore has to behave like an ignorant, inconsiderate douchebucket by simple biological imperative. Holy fuck, NO, Ana, if you PROMISE to do something and then turn around and immediately do the EXACT OPPOSITE of that, THEN YOU HAVE GONE BACK ON YOUR FUCKING WORD. That is how that works, and while we're at it, how about not throwing your entire gender under the bus to justify the fact that you are a MASSIVE UNWIPED ASSHOLE.
The conversation goes on, I can't be bothered to get into the stupid details, and continues over food in the kitchen which involves a great deal of Christian spitting wine into her mouth (backwashing - the sexiest way to serve beverages!) and afterward he takes her into the playroom for the sex scene I had been warned previously would enrage me. It didn't disappoint on that front. Christian attaches her to some restraints on the wall and then starts systematically winding her up and then stopping right before she comes. Orgasm denial, in my opinion anyway, is SUPER FUCKING AWESOME. It is something that is next to impossible to do to yourself, especially to the degree it reaches in this scene, and it builds you to a point of intensity you would be hard pressed to get to on your own. It is sort of a gift in that way. It doesn't necessarily have to be about D/s either - plenty of people incorporate this to some degree into their play whether they otherwise have an interest in kink or not. Ana doesn't see it that way, however, and she safewords to get him to stop. My reaction to that was specific to my own experience and basically amounted to ARE YOU CRAZY? YOU'RE GOING TO MISS THE BEST PART YOU TWATSICLE. But that's my own preference and therefore not something to get enraged about. Everyone doesn't like the same things and if orgasm denial isn't Ana's cup of tea that's fine for her. What I got enraged about was her (and by extension E.L. James') reasoning. She didn't safeword because she wasn't enjoying herself, she did it because she saw it as some kind of sinister plot. "This is not love. This is revenge." she thinks to herself. She follows this up with statements about how callous a thing that is to do to someone, and reminding Christian that she is not his submissive (she's his WIFE! They are mutually exclusive!) and to stop treating her like one. As for Christian, well, Ana is right, he WAS deliberately being awful to her to punish her for worrying him the day before. Of course he was, that is the only reason why someone would want to do this. Orgasm denial is a tool of vengeance and is only ever used by VICIOUS HATEFUL MONSTER PEOPLE WHO ARE EMOTIONALLY DAMAGED. Not only that, but Christian's aftercare is absolutely fucking atrocious. He spends just about all of it trying to justify his going too far - she is just so frustrating that he couldn't help himself. The fact that she's been hurt is ALL HER FAULT. SEE WHAT YOU MADE ME DO? Every single word in this entire scene is wrong, wrong, wrong in the greatest way it could possibly have been wrong, and I am sick and tired of reading scenes like this that vilify and fundamentally misunderstand BDSM and its practitioners in a book that is allegedly about exploring one's kinks. FUCK YOU, JAMES. I WANT TO USE THIS BOOK TO GIVE YOU A THOUSAND PAPER CUTS AND THEN DROWN YOU IN A BATHTUB FULL OF LEMON JUICE (note to Mrs. Sizemore: We should totally make this a level in Shiv and Lemon) YOU DISGUSTING, MISINFORMED CUNT YODELER.
Anytwat, in Chapter 12, we learn a little bit more about Christian, in that he wasn't born in Seattle, he was born and subsequently adopted in Detroit, which coincidentally is where Jack Hyde is also from, except since this author is fucking insane and also foreshadows everything, it's going to turn out not to be a coincidence at all. In fact, at first I thought Jack Hyde might turn out to be Christian's birth father, but he's not old enough. Still in bed in the playroom, Ana and Christian have the same tiresome conversation they've had a thousand times about how he needs to be less controlling and she needs to be less defiant, and they both continue to lie to themselves and each other about how they are going to change their ways. Afterwards they fall asleep for a while until Ana awakes to the sound of Christian having a nightmare. She wakes him up and they fuck immediately in order to solve the problem, as you do. Then they go back to bed in their own bedroom, only for Ana to wake up again at 3 in the morning because Christian is not in the bed. The ability of both of these people to be hyper aware of their surrounding environment while asleep is astounding. She finds him at the piano again, playing a sad song and wonders whether she's done something to upset him (while she was sleeping?!?) like a good little abuse victim. She hasn't; he's upset because he dreamed that Ana was dead and now that he's awake his whole world is crumbling around him because WHAT IF SHE DIES? When I was in Florida a couple weeks ago, I dreamed that one of my best friends and the kindest human I know shot me in the head in cold blood. I was a little disturbed when I woke up, but I didn't run to the police and get a restraining order because IT WAS JUST A FUCKING DREAM, NOT A PREDICTION OF THE FUTURE. When they wake up the next day, all is well between them again and Christian decides they should go to Aspen for the weekend. And since Ana had recently complained that she never gets to see her friends, he has invited Kate and Elliot, and also Ethan and Mia to accompany them. I notice that these are the two friends she has who happen to be dating his siblings and are therefore on some sort of "approved" friend list - Jose, of course, is not among the group. They are taking Christian's private plane, natch, and Ana bristles when she sees Natalia, the flight attendant. "Why does she make me uncomfortable?" Ana wonders. "Maybe it's that she's a brunette. By his own admission, Christian doesn't usually employ brunettes because he finds them attractive." No, Ana, she makes you uncomfortable because every single person who has a vagina makes you uncomfortable since you are a lunatic who sees sex crazed vagina monsters trying to fuck your husband around every corner. And really, Christian? You have to employ only blondes to avoid seducing and/or raping your entire staff? I find it weird that you have so little self control that you simply can't hire brunettes, especially since you maintain such stringent control over every single other facet of your life. Also, I suspect the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission might like a word with you about the basis of your hiring decisions.
During the flight, Kate has the nerve to ask Christian questions about the whole Jack Hyde business, which he answers while getting steadily more angry with her, and while Ana sits next to him in terror because oh no, what if Kate's questions upset him? I think to myself that he could always just, you know, decline to talk about it, but this is now how life works in E.L. James' magical fairyland of crazypants nonsense - he has to keep answering questions he doesn't want to answer because he has to be angry constantly, and Ana has to ask a completely irrelevant question about Hyde's age (32) because Christian has to have a jealous freak out that his wife had even a single thought that wasn't about him. Is this woman really an actual functioning member of society? Because she writes like she's never interacted with another human being in her entire life. Nell would do a better job at writing interpersonal communications than E. L. James for crying out loud.
The group lands in Aspen and heads for Christian's (and also Ana's as he points out CONSTANTLY) house, a scene which is mindbogglingly over-described, and contains a conversation about how Christian is never going to teach Ana to ski lest she Sonny Bono herself, and Ana's fucking insane musings on the fact that Gia Matteo remodeled the house, and ohmigod what does it mean? This entire chapter is pointless and only exists in order to foreshadow the STUNNING (No. Not even. Shut up, James) event on its final page, which I can't imagine has anything to do with the overall "plot" of the "story". By the time James is done bludgeoning her readers over the head with gigantic hints about what is about to happen, the final scene reads like a punchline to a very dull joke. So, LET THE FORESHADOWING BEGIN! Hey, did you guys notice that something weird seems to be going on between Kate and Elliot? Ana did! She has no idea what it is. Are they fighting? Should she
At lunch, the group makes some decisions about how to spend the day. The girls are going shopping even though two thirds of them aren't big on shopping but no one can ever resist Mia! The boys are going fishing because THAT IS SOMETHING MEN DO. But wait! Elliot needs to go buy a watch battery first. Which is a weird thing to be sorting out during a weekend in Aspen, but whatever. I ASSURE YOU THIS IS NOT A CLUE. Also Elliot seems sort of distracted. I wonder why? Let's keep reading and see! The girls go shopping and Mia has Ana buy a cocktail dress the size of a napkin for clubbing later. Then, while Mia and Kate try on their own selections, Ana has a little peer out the window. AND GUESS WHAT SHE SEES? She sees Elliot going into the jewelry store that is conveniently for this asinine story located directly across the street from where they are shopping! I wonder if maybe he went to the jewelry store looking for that watch battery? Or maybe for some other reason? Let's keep reading and see! OH NO! You guys! When he comes out of the jewelry store, who does he happen to be with but GIA MATTEO! They exchange a completely chaste and unsuspicious goodbye, which makes Ana extremely suspicious. What is he doing with THAT BITCH? What is she doing in Aspen? Is he having an affair? Is this a pathetic red herring thrown in by James to throw us off the trail? Should she tell Kate? Just what in the actual fuck is going on here? LET'S KEEP READING AND SEE!
After shopping, Ana finally asks Kate what the shit is going on. Kate doesn't know. Elliot seems really distracted lately. By the way, she is in love with him. Like "let's get married and make tons of babies" in love (which Ana describes as her "happily ever after" because it is completely impossible to live a complete and fulfilled life without a husband and a litter of spawn. Duh). His preoccupation is a mystery. NO REALLY, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN. They manage to run out of wood for the fire, and Ana goes to the garage to get more where she runs into none other than...Elliot Grey! Oh no! What should she do? Should she confront him about what she saw? Demand that he explain what's happening with Kate? Mind her own goddamn business and shut the fuck up? Say nothing, but think judgmental thoughts about how anyone who has had sex with more than one person is obviously a terrible human being who can never, ever be trusted? She goes for the last one while having a conversation about whether or not she should ride a trail bike.
When the other boys get home from fishing (Elliot never made it; he had "things to take care of" in town, WHAT DOES IT MEAN?), Ana and Christian go upstairs to take a bath, where Ana confronts him about having seen Gia in town...with Elliot. Christian informs her Gia also has a place in Aspen and reiterates that she and Elliot are just friends now. For realsies. He knows there's nothing going on - Elliot is way into Kate. "In fact, I know he's pretty stuck on her," Christian says with real conviction, almost like he knows something we don't know. Does he? Let's keep reading and see!
Ana gets dressed in her napkin and the stripper heels she also bought at Mia's insistence and then asks Christian for his approval. I had written in my notes when she bought the dress that he would never let her wear that out of the house, based on his freaking out in the past that she wore a sundress out of the house on a sunny day, completely forgetting for a moment that the characters James writes can never be expected to behave in the way she has previously established. He's not exactly happy that his wife's back and legs are exposed in a way that ANYONE could look at, but she looks beautiful, so it's cool.
The story cuts to a scene in the restaurant they've chosen for dinner that evening. As they wait for dessert, Ana notices that Elliot seems sort of nervous, laughing too loud and saying things that are slightly weird. Oh no! Have they had a fight? Was it over that
Suddenly, in a COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED MOVE THAT EVEN SYLVIA BROWNE DIDN'T SEE COMING, Elliot gets out of his chair, drops to one knee, and GUESS WHAT YOU GUYS? NO I MEAN IT GUESS. YOU ARE GOING TO BE SO FUCKING SURPRISED I SWEAR TO FUCK. IT IS, LIKE, THE CRAZIEST PLOT TWIST EVER WRITTEN. He gets down on one knee and proposes to Kate! I KNOW RIGHT? And on that bombshell, the chapter ends.
I wish there was a safeword I could use to make this book stop torturing me.