A blog about writing and all things story…
My granddaughter asked me today what I thought of the whole Fifty Shades of Grey thing, then she cut me off before I could fully respond, stating she was once again traumatized by grandma’s thoughts on S-E-X. So here’s a reprint of my thoughts from when the book first came out in 2012.
~ Yesterday I stopped at my favorite coffee shop to write and have a hot latte before a meeting. I gave the regular homeless guy at the door two bucks and went inside. I had one hour to capture a scene I finally had firmly in my mind that needed to get on paper.
Then–very much against my will–ended up conversing with a fifty-year-old-ish woman wearing enough expensive jewelry to feed a village in Africa and who upon entering looked down on that homeless man at the door like he was a leper.
She plopped down in a chair right next to my table in the corner: why do people in a room of nearly all empty tables gravitate to the one right smack next to me? Why!
“How exciting it must be to be a writer,” she said digging through her $2500 Louis Vuitton.
Now, first you should know I don’t like being interrupted when I’m scrambling to capture a story a thought, a word, an image–it’s just irritating. Anyway, I looked up and said, “I don’t know about exciting, but it does keep me busy, very busy.” I said politely, pointing to my work. Then I looked back down at my pad of paper and began to finish my thoughts, certain she’d go away given my ‘leave me alone’ body language.
“Do you write every day?” She asked. “How long do you write? I took a two week class and they said we should write for one hour a day.” She then leaned from her table to mine and actually, actually set her coffee cup on my tiny round table where I had room only for my coffee and tablet. She leaned in close as if I couldn’t hear her and said, “And what do you write? Read me something.”
I finally looked up, since she was about six inches from my face. “Yes,” I said, deciding to be respectful. “I do write every day and right now, right this minute I’m trying to finish a scene for my novel.” I smiled, hoping she’d get the hint. But oh no, she asks a couple more questions, I politely answered, short, but civil, pen still poised in hand and ready to get back to work. But then she says, “It’s my heart’s greatest desire to write literature like Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“Literature?” I said, pretty sure my head coiled like the head of a python. My skin prickled. The left side of my upper lip may have curled. I dropped my pen–the scene now completely wiped from my mind – “So, it’s your “heart’s desire” to write trash about a man who beats his girlfriend and a mousy girlfriend who’s as bright as a 25 watt bulb that enjoys being beaten by a cruel narcissist. That’s your heart’s desire? And you want to call it literature?”
“Well. . . ” she pulled away from my table, finally, and said, “Well, I thought it was a good book. It’s a top seller—”
“So you like fantasies of submission, then.” I said.
“What?” she looked stunned and confused.
“Well if you’re gonna like a book and say it’s great, at least understand what in you hungers for that kind of story. Then own it. And you might want to google the difference between ‘literature’ and ‘trashy forgettable novels’. They have their place, always have and always will, but they’re not literature.”
“I just wanted to talk about writing.”
“There are writer’s groups all over the city.” I said. “You should join one.”
“It’s just conversation.” She said. “It’s a coffee shop, people have conversation. You don’t have to be a bitch about it.”
“Okay, you want conversation.” I said, now in full on; you interrupted me, wouldn’t take a hint I was steeped in something important, you kept asking questions and eating up the one frickin’ hour I had to write, you moved into my space and so now I’m gonna respond in kind (code for BITCH), mode.
“If it’s your heart’s desire,” I said, “to write such crap then do us all the decency of learning how to write it well, which may take a bit longer than two weeks. Write something that raises, not lowers the collective intellect of a culture starved for personal connectedness. Write something inspired something that lifts the spirit of readers. I’m sick of badly written books with no heart or soul becoming top sellers in this country. I’m sick of writers dumbing down America and lowering the relationship standards so low for women that they have to crawl through the muck and mire to have one, and I’m appalled and afraid when women look at an emotionally twisted, brutal man as a romantic hero. And I’m really tired of people saying they loved some book or another and not understanding what that says about them. If you like erotica, great, then learn to write well and then launch our minds into orgasm with your sweetly crafted titillating words, take us deep into that secret world of adult play, not because of media sensationalism, but because your writing is so scrumptious we’ll follow you into that dark place. Do that, if your heart’s desire is to write something like Fifty Shades. Of course then it wouldn’t be, would it?”
For some reason she didn’t seem to want any more conversation.
“Now I’m going to try to recapture the work I was working on before you interrupted me and I suggest you go home and get into your corset and black stockings before your husband or whoever, gets home.”
She blinked repeatedly like something had flown into her eye, then stood, pulled her $2500 bag over her shoulder, marched out of the coffee shop and climbed into her Mercedes.
The man at the table behind me laughed out loud and said, “Hey, writer gal.”
I turned to him, I’d seen him before. He raised his hands in a defensive pose. “I’m a happily married man, but I just gotta say that’s the sexiest thing I’ve ever heard a woman say, and I love you, man.” He said and laughed some more.
I chuckled, half embarrassed, but happy she was gone.
Then the seriously pierced barista, who waits on me 3 or 4 times a week and who apparently also heard every word, brought me a latte on the house and with a half-mile smile across her face she said, “We’ll all be quiet now so you can get back to work.”
Okay, maybe I overacted, but seriously, Fifty Shades of Grey? If she’d have just mentioned some other book I probably wouldn’t have come unglued. Seriously! And yes, sometimes I’m perfectly comfortable being a bitch.
What would you have done?
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By Miri Elm
(re)Living History, with occasional attempts at humor and the rare pot-luck subject. Sorry, it's BYOB. All I have is Hamm's.
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