These days, I mostly make eye contact with my wife’s shoulder blades. There she is in bed, lying on her left side, huddled over an iPad, its glow all over her face. She doesn’t speak. Not now. Not at 9:18. Not at 9:42. I finally look over at 10. She is asleep, frozen in her pose, as if dipped in the carbonite that turned Han Solo into a very handsome brick. I peek at her iPad, the page still illuminated. I see the name in the middle of a paragraph, in a blocky serif font. Christian. Christian and my wife were no doubt in the midst of a deep, heated exchange when she drifted off. But I'm sure Christian is saying to himself, I’ll see you tomorrow night.
My wife is having an affair with the star of E L James’ blockbuster Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, the book that’s been dubbed “mom porn.” The dubbers are correct. If you are a woman, and you have Lunchables in your fridge, and hand sanitizer and a Ziploc of Cheerios in your purse, you are reading Fifty Shades of Grey. It just hit 10 million copies sold.
I’m taking my wife’s cheating in stride. In fact, Brandy and I have become quite casual about this literary polygamy. She talks freely about the titillating sexual vignettes. She goes on about Christian Grey’s wavy hair, a reoccurring totem in the book, which is hard to hear for a guy whose hair has broken apart like the supercontinent Pangaea. A week ago, I tell Brandy that Fifty Shades of Grey is being adapted into a movie, and they are working on casting. She asks who’s up for the Christian Grey role. I name a couple actors. She is unimpressed. These men do not have wavy hair.
Here’s why I am complicit: I cannot compete with Christian Grey.
Christian is a billionaire. I am a thousandaire.
Christian is hot and wild, mysterious and exciting. Brandy throws away my underwear when they have holes in them.
Christian is a messed up guy (“fifty shades of f#@$ed up,” is how he describes himself). He’s the type of dude women love to save, to fix. After 10 years of marriage, Brandy has put her toolbox away. Renovations on her spouse are pretty much done.
But most damning, Christian is imagined, fictional, and can therefore live on in idealized infamy. He will never have to suffer the mundane day-to-day nuisances that make flesh-and-blood men seem so blah. Brandy will never have to tell Christian Grey that he forgot to take out the recycling, or that he needs to make an appointment with the dermatologist for that thing on his back.
Yesterday, I tell Brandy I’m writing a blog post about her affair with Christian. She laughs. I tell her I know how the blog is going to start (bedtime, iPad, wavy hair, Pangaea, etc.), but I don’t know how it’s going to end. So she finishes it for me.
“Yes, the sex is compelling, but that’s not why I keep reading,” she says. “Now I’m in it for the relationship. I want to see where the story goes. I don’t want to stop until I know how it turns out.”
Women come for the excitement, then stay for the connection. I believe my wife started this whole thing with me for the laughs, the wild times, the hair (boy it was something), the newness of it all. But she stayed for the relationship. She wants to see where the story goes.
OMG. I am Christian Grey. Or at least I was.
Dudes should be thankful. Christian Grey is here to be the guy we used to be, or perhaps more depressing, the guy we never were. He is here because real people cannot sustain the fun, the excitement, the mystery, the passion, the newness. Eventually we all become mortals. Eventually we all become the guy with the thing on his back who forgets to take out the recycling.