The luggage under my eyes is particularly heavy this Monday because I slept about 2.5 hours last night. I wasn’t partying; and I wasn’t doing anything the title of this article may call to mind. In fact, I was all alone in my bed, staring at the ceiling and trying my best to catalog the thoughts racing through my mind. You see, I’m a big movie fan. So much a fan that I can’t visit Target without making a stop at the DVD section. Still, it’s not very often that a movie makes me lie awake at night. This was, without a doubt, my worst recorded case of the Sunday Scaries; and alcohol was not even to blame.
Yesterday, I rented Fifty Shades of Grey. I have not read any of the books; and my prior knowledge of the plot was limited to what I gathered from the news, online buzz and whispered conversations among women at my office. Essentially, I knew nothing. I had no intention of renting the movie when I arrived at Redbox. In fact, I didn’t even think twice when it appeared in the list of available titles. As soon as I saw it, though, I added it to my cart without hesitation. After all, it has turned into one of the most prolific modern stories since Harry Potter.
Still, as soon as I added it to my cart, it was a race to finish the transaction, blocking the screen from anyone who might appear in line behind me. That’s when my uneasiness began. Why, when so many people carried around copies of the book or lined up at crowded theaters to see the movie, should I be nervous that someone would see me renting it? Maybe a result of a renewed swelling of online buzz surrounding the title has named Christian Grey, the story’s title character, a rapist.
To make matters worse I spent the movie’s 125-minute length, and the hours that have since passed, wondering why Grey’s character reminded me so strongly of myself. To be clear, it is not because I’m rich or that I practice BDSM or look anything like this:
Rather, I felt that I clearly related to Grey’s motives in life which can be summed up by his notable quote, “I exercise control in all things.” This extends to every part of his life including, as you may have guessed, the bedroom.
I’ve never been one to kiss and tell. Arguably, the number of actual relationships I’ve been a part of can be counted on one hand; which means I was never a good source of material for locker room banter. And, to be honest, I’m not interested in hearing your stories either. I firmly believe that what happens in the bedroom is best limited to those present. Like a story that “you had to be there” to understand. Words, photos and even video normally won’t do it justice.
But I do recognize that every individual and every couple has a defined list of things they like and things they don’t like in bed, alongside things not yet determined. This is perfectly normal. And, for most people, these categories are fluid. Try new things and get tired of old things.
Seeing the struggle between the two characters to balance their desires and instincts with rigid rules made me question my own desires. What if the things I like in bed were considered by other people to be despicable? Despite Grey’s unyielding confidence and aggressive pursuit of Ana, he found that he could not “exercise control” over her sexuality without her express consent. He also found that he could not exercise control over his feelings toward her. It’s a formula for frustration.
That’s where things got real. In an emotional battle with himself, Grey refers to himself as “fifty shades of fucked up,” and I felt the deep heartbreak of helplessness for him along with the sudden shame of realizing that the person who “gets it” does not actually exist. Still, I found it incredibly sad that Grey–a man who so many women (and probably men) would call perfect–lived out standards that he could not overcome.
That’s what really killed me. Like Grey, I enjoy being in control. Not in the power-hungry or sadistic senses the words suggest, though. I prefer to plan my life without consideration of unintended circumstances. It makes me feel confident. But, just as frequently, it is frustrating.
I’ve generally placed work at the top of my priorities, which has allowed me to completely ignore any shortcomings in my life, for example the fact that I’m eventually going to be 30 with nothing to show for my years on earth but a paycheck. If I’m doing well at work, then I am doing well. End of story. Unfortunately, like anyone else, my job has bad days. Likewise, I tend to make decisions about relationships, and where and how I spend my time based on what makes sense–not what makes me happy. Too many eggs in one basket.
I don’t recommend this movie to the men because of the awesome sex scenes. I recommend that every gentleman watch this movie because seeing someone’s struggle that I would never have a conversation about helped me understand my own struggles.
What I took away from watching Christian Grey’s fight last night is that the standards I keep for myself–the way I behave when I’m at work or the way I treat love interests–require balance.
Everyone has absolutes. I don’t anticipate I’ll be purchasing a cattle prod to keep in my bedroom. And I don’t intend to be a millionaire business mogul for at least another few years. But living a well-rounded life will require me to know my priorities and be flexible when necessary.
I won’t lie. The movie focuses pretty heavily on those awesome sex scenes. And while I intend to buy the DVD on my next Target run, I also plan to give the books a shot in hopes for a little more insight into the fight behind that chiseled chin.