Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Literary Adventures In Peer Pressure

Let's be super up front:  The thumb on my drawin' hand is still hurtin' something firece, so if you come to this blog for the silly comic drawings, today's not your day.  I'll try to make up for it with entertaining words and distracting animated gifs at the very least.

This past weekend when I was in Green Bay, there were a few "happy belated birthday!"s thrown in the mix with the bridal shower business.  From mum I got a card and some cash, with the note "spend on something JUST for you!" ear-marking it.

Can I just say how happy I am that my parents still give me birthday presents?  Because they most certainly don't have to, I am a grown-ass woman after all, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy cash in the same way a little kid opening a new video game enjoys the adventures of Mario.

I'm going to tell you what I did with that cash, and I have a feeling some of you are going to jump down my throat about it and how I'm going to get cancer and die a horrible death.  Before you do that,  let me share both what I'm doing, and give you a quote from the Sookie Stackhouse series (the books True Blood is loosely based on.):

1.  I'm using it to tan.  In a tanning bed, with the death-inducing UV lights.
2.  In the words of Sookie Stackhouse, faerie and vampire temptress extrorrdinare:
 I don't want to hear any lectures about how bad tanning is for you. That's my vice. Everybody gets one.

Preach, sister.  I don't drink alcohol but on the rare occasion anymore, I watch what I eat, drink only one soda a week, I exercise every day and I don't do drugs or smoke.  I deserve one vice, and at least for right now, that's gonna be tanning.  I've got tan lines from the summer to even out for the wedding, and the vitamin D boosting my "happy hormones" definitely doesn't hurt.  

In summary.  
If my vice was meth:
I get a jank face and likely lead a life hopping from mug shot to mug shot.

If my vice is tanning:
I get 'healthy glow' and a Swedish vampire/ viking to make kissy faces with.

So... tanning wins.
seriously.  seriously.


...Love you Fiance.

Moving on.

What's your one vice?  I want to know in the comments.

I went to the little tanning place by the house which had a "Back to School" special advertised and got myself set up.  I'm not looking to be one of those pumpkin-orange ladies, with a skin texture that matches the vinyl covering on an old subway seat.  No no, just a tish more color than a sheet of printer paper and an even tone instead of my currently well-defined farmer-tan tank-top.  I said as much to the gal behind the counter and she walked me through the options, the liability waivers, and the speech about "you may only tan once a day - so no coming in at 9am and again at 9pm."

I laughed at the logical absurdity of this speech.  She made a "yeah you don't look the type," comment, as the little bell on the door behind me chimed to signal another customer had come in.  The gal behind the counter immediately smirked and gave me a look and half head-nod to indicate that whoever was behind me was about to be a "speak of the devil" type moment.  She wasn't kidding - With her white-blonde hair, this lady's skin color matched the bricks on the outside of the building.  And while she may well have been young, the rhino-butt wrinkles and thug-jean like sagging aged her to somewhere around 120 years old.

never take candy apples from strangers tanorexics.

I dotted the i's and crossed the t's on my remaining paperwork, while Tanny McTannerson sat down to wait until the clerk could get her a room after me, and just before we headed back to the beds, the clerk offered "oh, and if you want to track your progress, we have these stickers you can place on your skin that'll leave a shape."

My options for stickers were thus: a heart, a cross (odd?), a star, an arrow, or a playboy bunny.  As I debated whether I actually wanted to essentially brand myself and/or with what, Tanny McT offered up, in her abrasive voice:

"I use the arrow - point it to my bits so my man knows where to focus.  I bet your husband would love it too."

Did I miss the memo that all normal societal conventions of talking to ABSOLUTE STRANGERS in public places was off this week?
You know, rock on with your bad self lady.  You've clearly got some mad confidence regarding bedroom tactics.  But... I don't know you.  And... I sincerely don't want to.

Yeah.  So.  I'm about to move from you trying not to picture a crazy wrinkly orange woman gettin' it on, to talking about the book Fifty Shades of Grey.  

Really truly though, I got Fifty Shades of Grey from the library this week because I wanted to know what all the hubbub was about, and my number finally came up on the reserve list.  If you are a family member of mine, or anyone else who might get squicked out at me talking about sex, that little red x in the corner of your screen is probably a good option right about now.

Are they gone?  Great.

Alright, so we all know I have a penchant for books about the sex industry - biographies from strippers who got in and out of the business and their crazy stories, memoirs from ex-playboy bunnies and how they were "discovered" by Hef, call-girls who recorded their thoughts with pen and paper regarding how they got into that line of work.  Can you honestly tell me that isn't just a little bit interesting to you?  How they do it?  Not to mention it's a little bit taboo to be reading about, so naturally I eat it up.

When I started seeing Facebook posts, tweets, new articles, and entire segments on the Today show start popping up about this book that has been affectionately labeled "Mommy Porn" months ago, I was intrigued.  When the books became a catalyst for women to talk openly about their sex lives and the sex industry saw a big uptick in sales, I officially decided I needed to know what the hype was about.  

It's a quick read, and it's left me with some thoughts (that's what she said).  Since I know many of you have read it, I want to you know your thoughts too.  My blog, so I'll start.

Alright, this isn't a book that's topping best seller lists because of it's literary accomplishments.  You already knew that.  I don't know how it managed to weasel into the main-stream book market (actually, I would suspect it's because the cover features an artfully photographed tie instead of an airbrushed portrait of Fabio dressed like a pirate), but I believe its success in said market is easy to explain in two parts.  
it wasn't even hard to find these.  these are real things that exist.

50SoG, and the publicity maelstrom it became, made it suddenly okay for all women to publicly express an interest in sex and being sexual people, without someone chastising them for not being demure little creatures on their way to the grocery store to pick up a chicken for dinner.  But let me back up.  I don't think that's an all male-imposed prison sentence upon us lady-folk.  I think women do that to each other.  I'd bet I could take that book out to the park, sit down on a bench and start flipping pages.  Men walking by might raise an eyebrow, but I'd wager it's more for getting into the hype of such an obvious fad than for reading about sex.  I'm sure some ladies would pass and give me that sisterhood type nod that says they read it too.  But I'm positive that the most judgement I would receive would come almost soley from other women, turning up their nose at me for reading smut.  It would be an interesting experiment, but it's not a good enough book for me to read it again in a park just to try.  

I also think it's popular because it's such an obvious escapist sort of thing.  Not because all women want every action that the dominant main character inflicts upon the constantly "flushed" Ana (anyone else get sick of that word every three paragraphs?), but because it takes a part out of the equation that women hate:  Actually talking about sex.  Christian always seems to know exactly what to do to get the inexperienced Ana's motor going, without any communication from Ana voicing her desires.  It goes back up to my first point - women have had the idea that talking about sex is icky and gross so pounded into their heads by society that talking about what would make them happy in the bedroom in many cases adds a stress element to sex instead of an exhilaration.  

But isn't that kind of dangerous?  Women read this book and start wondering what they can do to get their partners to suddenly develop Christian's ESP in the sack.   Not telling their significant other "I like this," but expecting them to know anyway... how is that not just setting everyone in the equation up to be wildly frustrated?

Like I mentioned above, though, book sales have corresponded with an uptick in sex-industry sales.  Driving home this past weekend, I passed a stretch referred to as "Seven-Mile Road" just south of Milwaukee, which consists almost entirely of pay-by-the-hour hotels, peep-shows, gentlemen clubs, and sex shops.  I had to chuckle that some of the signboards out front of these establishments touted phrases like "we sell 50 shades of vibrators!"   And so I guess, this book has brought a bit of experimentation into play as a normal and acceptable thing for women to do.  Which is great, and amusing.  

All that said, here's my end-all-be-all take on Fifty Shades of Grey - there are thousands of books out there with the same titilating end-goal found within it's pages, but without the more 'outlier' kinky fetish bits.  Which describe people a little more fleshed out than the control-freak Christian and the clumsily flushed Ana.  Where you could probably more realistically engross yourself with the plot line.  And that are a lot cheaper than the famous Grey books (please note that link includes the phrase "not indended for use in schools" I laughed pretty hard).  Because you can buy three such books at goodwill for a nickel.  But without the media hype, is it worth it for you?  

Sincerely.  If 50 shades is your thing, invest in a book cover and go grab a few cheap-y books at your local thrifty.  I've never been to a salvation army who's book selection wasn't roughly 75% Harlequin Romance, and if you can put up with the crappy cover art, you've got an endless supply of reading before you.
I'm not even joking (for the most part) - why did 50SoG get fame and fortune, while Scoundrel's Captive was left with nothing but a cover you'd have to... well, cover in order to actually read it?

Did you read the book?  What are your thoughts?  
Did you not? Why?  
Are you a guy?  What do you think about ladies reading this book?  
I'm insanely curious for all of these - hit the comment button already!


Queen Holly the Magnificent said...

Oh god sweet Jesus I had someone give me some romances to read. They were all terrible books where the men were all stalkers and had personality disorders to boot which wasn't helped by the women who had the personalities of pancakes. Not even good pancakes.

Kp said...

Oh they're most certainly not books for those who want to read something classy, I agree with you there. To be honest, I rather enjoy them for the train-wreckiness of them. The editing is usually horrible and good for a laugh.

I see them as an escape from the classy expectations of classy lady-reading.

Kellie @ Delightfully Ludicrous said...

My vice is Diet Coke ... and fanfiction, although I think that's actually a lifestyle choice.