Gynaecology in Narnia: Chapter 14 of EL James’s “Grey”

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New chapter, new day — no transitions.

It’s Sunday. Christian is jogging because EL James quickly ran out of things to have Christian do in the moments where he doesn’t interact with the original text. So he either does vague BIZNES, works out with Rene Sebastian von Tour Eiffle de Louvre, or goes for a jog. But mostly he jogs.

Except today he’s not just jogging — he’s stalking:

With the Rolling Stones’ “Shake Your Hips” blasting in my ears, I sprint down Fourth Avenue and turn right on Vine.

James wrote, quickly exiting her Google Maps tab.

It’s 6:45 in the morning, an it’s downhill all the way…to her apartment. I’m drawn; I just want to see where she lives.

It’s between control freak and stalker.

And we’re back. After a single chapter where Christian Grey wasn’t completely awful, we’re diving straight back into the kind of seriously creepy, unsettling shit that has made these recaps so emotionally exhausting.

Saying that he’s “between” a control freak and a stalker doesn’t really mean anything — particularly since he’s both. He’s a control freak for checking up on her, probably looking to see if there are any cars outside her apartment that he doesn’t recognize, having a look in her window to see if she’s speaking to anyone he doesn’t approve of… and it’s also stalking because he texted her roommate’s boyfriend to find out where his girlfriend lives. When he could’ve just ASKED her.

I chuckle to myself. I’m just running. It’s a free country.

ew

The apartment block is a nondescript redbrick, with dark green painted window frames typical of the area. It’s in a good location near the intersection of Vine Street and Western. I imagine Ana curled up in her bed under her comforter and her cream-and-blue quilt.

Like the quilt he’ll soon make of her skin and hair.

With these unnecessarily specific descriptions of street names and intersections, it feels like James is trying to answer her critics from the original series who pointed out that a lot of her Pacific North West geography didn’t make much sense. But making readers now sit through a Google Maps tour of Seattle isn’t the solution — for a few reasons. I mean, I get it — James finally figured out how to work the ol’ Mean Machine, but the trouble is that she digs herself in even deeper by doing so.

So because I’m bored, and would like to avoid having to deal with this creepy book directly as much as possible, I actually did Google the intersection of Western and Vine to see if she was describing a real place — and you’ll be not at all surprised to hear that she was. So since EL James wants you to be desperately impressed by her new researching skills, and by the wealth that gets thrown at Ana — that she totally doesn’t even want! — you may like to know that the lofts of 81 Vine are indeed quite nice.

Ana's shabby little claptrap.

Ana’s shabby little claptrap.

The only problem is that this apartment building doesn’t actually sell 3-bedroom apartments, like the one that Ana, Kate, and Kate’s brother Ethan supposedly share. In fact, I can’t find a single listing for this collection of lofts — yes, lofts — that offer more than 1 bedroom, though the square footage does vary from 600-1400. But that makes sense. Because they’re lofts. It’s almost like EL James made up this address after the fact but still didn’t bother to make sure that it worked for the story.

Almost.

In fact, according to the most recent apartment listings, you literally can’t buy a 3-bedroom apartment in the Belltown district of Seattle at the moment. Let alone a mythical 3-bedroom loft in a nondescript redbrick. Which in the original book Ana said was in the Pike Place district. Which is close to — but not actually in — the Belltown district.

Again, it’s almost like this is a very shabbily applied band-aid that has only made things worse.

I know I’m going way off-page here, and this is a LONG chapter so I should be getting on with things, but there’s something inherently sad about the fact that EL James tried SO hard to fix her geography mistakes in the first book only to dig herself in even deeper when she actually bothers to do a little (but not enough) research.

vine

I’m drawn… to this apartment that doesn’t exist.

So Ana lives in fucking Narnia, and Christian’s jogging around outside her lamp post and none of it matters.

I run several blocks and turn down into the market; vendors are setting up for business. I dodge between the fruit and vegetable trucks and the refrigerated vans delivering the catch of the day. This is the heart of the city–vibrant, even this early on a gray, cool morning.

Bless EL James’s lazy heart.

The water on the Sound is a glassy leaden color, matching the sky. But it does nothing to dampen my spirits.

Today’s the day.

I like how Seattle is constantly “gray” and yet it never rains unless that rain functions as some kind of pathetic fallacy.

It’s also been so long since I’ve done these recaps that I can’t really remember why today’s the day — unless he’s now pretending to be really eager about having Ana meet his family, even though he swore up and down that he didn’t want that just one page earlier.

I don’t know.

Oh, wait — I think he’s forced her to agree to a “scene,” right? And then he’s going to take her to meet his family right afterwards. Because that’s a great idea.

Christian has yet another shower that we’re forced to hear about, and then puts on a linen shirt and slips a hair tie in his pocket which will be RELEVANT later. Not the linen shirt, though — that’s just to remind you that he’s rich, in case you forgot somewhere in the last 5 seconds.

Christian and Ana e-mail for a bit — it’s all boring — and then Christian calls Taylor in to let him know that Ana will be coming over, and so will the OBGYN because fuck me because I forgot about that horrorshow.

“Very good, sir. Anything else on the agenda today?”

“Yes. Ana and I will be going to my parents’ for dinner this evening.”

Taylor cocks his head, looking momentarily surprised, but he remembers himself and leaves the room. I return to my croissant and apricot jam.

lucille

Yeah. I’m taking her to meet my parents. What’s the big deal?

Why is EL James having Christian ask himself this? He’s directly told the reader several times why this is a “big deal.” He treats all relationships like a giant, terrible secret, and has never had dinner with a woman who wasn’t a business colleague, a family member, or his rapist. So his manservant/driver/bodyguard/whatever is shocked — shocked — that he might be genuinely dating someone for once. Which is really, really obvious from the book itself, and from the confessions that Christian himself has made. His selective amnesia is just lazy writing at this point.

“I never take women anywhere! Why is my staff surprised that I’m taking a woman somewhere for the first time?”

Whatever.

Ana comes over, they both look at the Seattle Times which features a picture of the two of them at the graduation party and they laugh about it because everything is about them.

I’m calmer now that she’s here–probably because she’s here. She hasn’t run. I tuck her soft, silky hair behind her ear; my fingers are itching to braid it.

I want to do a full ombre… but not until she’s ready.

But hairdressing isn’t why she’s here. Christian confirms that Ana has come to his apartment in the knowledge that they are going to have full-blown scary kink sex — at last:

“Yes.” Her gaze is intense…knowing.

“And yet you’ve returned.”

She nods, giving me a coy smile.

I can’t believe my luck.

I knew you were a freak, Ana.

I’ll never get over him acting like he invented BDSM.

Also, I just noticed something interesting: he will call her “Ana” inside of his own head, even though he refuses to call her by that name out loud. Almost like controlling her name and refusing to agree to her requests is some form of… intentional manipulation.

Christian finds out that Ana hasn’t eaten all day, though, which he CANNOT ALLOW.

“Are you hungry?”

“Not for food,” she teases.

Whoa. She might as well be addressing my groin.

I defy you to read that line and not immediately picture her shouting into his pants.

Anyway, Christian tells her that they can’t scream at each other’s genitals just yet because he’s booked her a doctor to prescribe her the birth control pills she didn’t ask for. Yay! Romance!

Then he tells her to eat again — because nothing about her body is hers’ to control! Fun!

“What can you tell me about Dr. Greene?” She deftly changes the subject.

“She’s the best ob-gyn in Seattle. What more can I say?”

That’s what my doctor told my PA, anyway.

This is the kind of passage that has made me want to set my keyboard on fire several times.

Hahaha, stupid Ana. Christian’s going to make her get completely naked around a stranger that he’s arranged to have come to his house in the middle of the day to prescribe her oral contraceptives that she’s never used before. What’s so difficult about that, dummy? And sure — he doesn’t technically know her, or know anything about her, and he’s involved his PA in your private sex business, but just relax, baby. Stop asking so many crazy questions.

“I thought I was seeing your doctor? And don’t tell me that you’re really a woman, because I won’t believe you.”

Lovely bit of transphobia there, as Mark Oshiro has previously pointed out. But again — Ana was told nothing at all about her own medical appointment, which was arranged by someone who does not possess a female reproductive system and yet seems to think that he knows what’s best for it.

I suppress my snort. “I think it’s more appropriate that you see a specialist. Don’t you?”

She gives me a quizzical look, but she nods.

And there it is — the argument’s over, because he’s made her feel small and stupid for asking questions about something that very directly and very personally affects her and her body.

I would take a thousand boring, hokey family dinner chapters to avoid having to tread through their increasingly depressing relationship for one more page.

One more topic to tackle. “Anastasia, my mother would like you to come to dinner this evening. I believe Elliot is asking Kate, too. I don’t know how you feel about that. It will be odd for me to introduce you to my family.”

Before we even get to Ana’s reaction, let’s all try to imagine why someone may not have taken this as a sincere invitation. The first sentence is fine — he’d like her to join him. Oh, but wait — Elliot’s already asked Kate, so it’s fair to assume that Christian may feel obligated to invite Ana as well, in case she hears about it from Kate later. And then the final note — it would be weird for him, but you know… it’s up to her. If she wants to make him feel weird, then… that her choice.

So he’s made it pretty clear that he’s reluctant, and that — most likely — if Elliot hadn’t asked Kate, Christian wouldn’t have felt compelled to ask Ana. And we already know that that is indeed how Christian feels because he said so in the last chapter.

Let’s keep all of that in mind for what happens next:

She takes a second to process the information, then tosses her hair over her shoulder in that way she does before a fight.

When has she fought with you, you petulant child? You mean the handful of times she’s tried disagreeing with you right before you’ve put her in her place?

But she looks hurt, not argumentative. “Are you ashamed of me?” She sounds choked.

Oh, for heaven’s sake. “Of course not.” Of all the ridiculous things to say! I glare at her, aggrieved. How could she think that about herself?

I know, I know — he’s emotionally tone deaf! He’s never dated someone before! He’s so crazy and kinky and all of this is new to him.

Except… how could he not figure this out when he — a few chapters earlier — threw a little hissy fit when Ana was reluctant to introduce HIM to HER step-dad for exactly the same reasons? I could buy him not getting this if they hadn’t basically had this same conversation in reverse — and if he hadn’t pulled the exact same “are you ashamed of me” card on her.

“Why is it odd?” she asks.

“Because I’ve never done it before.” I sound irritable.

Here’s another weird thing that keeps popping up — Christian will describe his own emotions as though he’s a third-party observer. “I sound irritable.” Okay, but are you? Or do you just sound that way? It makes me wonder if this writing handicap is the reason why James invented the Inner Goddess and the Subconscious in the first place, as she seems to find it very difficult for a character to be at all self-aware, and so instead has to funnel their self-awareness through some kind of “otherness” that’s weirdly abstracted from their own consciousness.

Thinking is hard.

Thinking is hard.

I mean, and she’s a shitty writer.

“Why are you allowed to roll your eyes, and I’m not?”

“I wasn’t aware that I was.” She’s calling me out. Again. 

“Neither am I usually,” she snaps.

Shit. Are we arguing?

So then… you are aware that you were rolling your eyes? Or are you admitting that it’s an involuntary reaction that you both have — but for some reason you still feel that you’re justified in punishing her for it? It’s so endlessly frustrating to have him be completely oblivious to himself because it smacks — and not subtly — of total bullshit. It’s just impossible to tell whether it’s an intentional manipulation or poor writing.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter because the obgyn has arrived, so let’s step into a new realm of terror. They make their introductions, and — even though the doctor has neither said nor done anything to imply she’s disapproving — Christian thinks:

I know she’s sizing up our relationship. I’m sure that she thinks I should be twiddling a mustache like a silent-movie villain.

Because he can’t come out and say that he’s aware that asking a doctor to come to his apartment in the middle of the day to prescribe his girlfriend birth control would strike anyone as weird. So instead it’s placed on the doctor’s shoulders as a reaction she “might be having.”

The doctor asks Christian to leave, which he does — reluctantly, of course:

Though I would like to watch. I’m sure the good doctor’s reaction would be priceless if I made that request. I smirk at the thought and head downstairs to the living room.

Because nothing makes Christian Grey happier than undermining the comfort and security of women.

Now that Ana’s no longer with me, I’m restless again. As a distraction I set the counter with two placemats. It’s the second time I’ve done this, and the first time was for Ana, too.

You’re going soft, Grey.

First he’s carrying bags upstairs, and now he’s putting place mats on his OWN counter? He’s a new man. I can’t believe I doubted his efforts to change.

Placing mats. On his OWN counter tops. And we all know that’s woman’s work, so he’s doubly impressive.

Tears in my eyes, y’all. Tears in my eyes.

I select a Chablis to have with lunch–one of the few chardonnays I like–

Can we all acknowledge now that Christian Grey’s supposed gourmet taste is bullshit? I’m not going to die protecting chardonnay, but this tacky douchebag clearly has no idea what he’s talking about most of the time.

and when I’m done I take a seat on the sofa and browse through the sports section of the paper. Turning up the volume via the remote for my iPod, I hope the music will help me focus on the stats from last night’s Mariners win against the Yankees,

Brooooooooooooooooooooooo.

rather than what’s happening upstairs between Ana and Dr. Greene.

Oh. Ew.

Later, after he’s read about man sports, Ana and Dr. Greene finish their totally appropriate home visit gynecological exam:

“Are you done?” I ask, and hit the remote for the iPod, to quiet the aria.

Make up your mind, EL James. Either he looooves fried chicken and baseball, or he turns up his nose at a shitty chardonnay and listens to opera. I’m not saying that people can’t have a variety of tastes, but this isn’t so much describing eclectic taste as it is some weird split personality wherein he’s both some guitar-twanging American stereotype and the fanciest ascot-wearing motherfucker this side of the Atlantic. He can’t be a down-home boy AND a snob, I guess, is what I’m saying. At least not in the way that EL James is attempting to describe him.

Plus it is interesting that even if he does like soul food and beer and baseball, he keeps that side of himself away from Ana (and his staff) and only presents himself as Lord Moneydick — you know, to intimidate her and make her feel boorish.

“Yes, Mr. Grey. Look after her; she’s a beautiful, bright young woman.”

What has Ana told her?

I like that his major suspicion here is that Ana may have said something that made her sound… smart? Well we can’t have that.

“I fully intend to,” I say, with a quick what-the-fuck glance at Ana.

STOP USING YOUR BIG WORDS, DUM DUM.

No but for real, I know I have to say this like once a paragraph, but what an insane fucking child.

She bats her lashes, clueless. Good. It’s nothing she’s said, then.

And Ana’s already learning to play dumb to placate the fragile masculinity and sense of importance of a billionaire businessman. What a great relationship.

So, as you might have guessed, this is not the end of the chapter. This one chapter is 10% of the book and will probably take me at least 2 more posts to get through.

Keep me in your prayers.

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5 thoughts on “Gynaecology in Narnia: Chapter 14 of EL James’s “Grey”

  1. “Here’s another weird thing that keeps popping up — Christian will describe his own emotions as though he’s a third-party observer. “I sound irritable.””

    I’m almost certainly giving James too much credit here, but it’s possible this is quite deliberate to express how mentally disassociated Christian is from his own feelings.

    BTW, I don’t know if this is something you can fix in WordPress, but the mobile version of this blog renders your quote blocks as italics which unfortunately means that Christian’s thoughts (which are already in italics) get turned into plain text and become indistinguishable from your comments.

    • It is deliberate — I have no doubt that she means for him to seem so cut off from his emotions that he can’t describe what he’s feeling as he’s feeling it. But it seems SO ham-fisted and obvious that it still reads as unbelievable.

      Yeah — the formatting has been a nightmare with this.

  2. Pingback: Nothing Comes Between Christian and His DJs: Chapter 14.2 of EL James’s “Grey” | Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

  3. Omg, it’s nauseating…I managed to get through the first half of the first one, but this is worse…can’t wait for you to get to the marriage proposal 🙂

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