Fifty Shades of Grey Revisited Chapter Three: Clown Car of Awful

Yes, I’m back with more Fifty Shades already, even though I said I might be taking the week off while I focused on the upcoming release of Flying High. Well, I’d started working on this post just so I could be sure to have it done and scheduled to go out next Monday after my book release, not at all intending to actually finish it today. But then I found out I’d managed to miss the latest E.L. James news: Freed, aka Fifty Shades Freed from Christian’s POV is finally coming this June, everyone. Fucking called it. And I guess I just felt so inspired that I simply couldn’t stop working on this recap. Although, I can’t exactly say I’m shamelessly capitalizing on this news for clicks, because no one seems to be even talking about it. Whether it was overshadowed by all the royal family drama dominating Twitter’s trending topics or the fact that ELJ really has slipped that far into obscurity by now I’m not sure, but either way it makes me happy. Even though I’m so damn committed to these recaps at this point that you know I’m eventually going to swallow my pride and buy the book…

Also, I know I originally ended my chapter two recap by poking fun at E.L. James for thinking that “photo shoot” was two words, but apparently, I’m the dummy for thinking that the one-word spelling is the correct one. It just feels to me like I’ve seen “photoshoot” used way more often than “photo shoot” out in the wild, and in my last post, Grammarly kept correcting it from two words to one word whenever I pasted a quote from FSOG. But now it’s telling me that “photoshoot” is the incorrect one, leading me to look it up, and I’ve since deleted that line from my last recap. Make up your damn mind, Grammarly.

Just as a reminder, quotes from FSOG are in blue, quotes from Grey are in green, and parts that were italicized in the books are underlined here.


We pick up right were chapter two left off. Ana ducks into the backroom at work to call Kate, who is thrilled at the prospect of getting photographs of Christian Grey, but suspicious of him happening to drop by Clayton’s Hardware by random chance.

“He was in the area.”

“I think that is one huge coincidence, Ana. You don’t think he was there to see you?” My heart lurches at the prospect, but it’s a short-lived joy. The dull, disappointing reality is that he was here on business.

I think my stomach would be lurching, not my heart, but what do I know?

Rereading this book made me realize that I don’t think there’s a single character in it that I actually like. Possibly Taylor? But even Kate–who I’d long considered to be the voice of reason and a more loyal friend than awful Ana deserves–can’t help but have anything likable about her repeatedly spoiled by the pervasive misogyny, abuse apologia, and general toxicity of E.L. James’s writing. Here we see her not only not batting an eyelid at the idea of a strange man stalking her best friend, but actively encouraging Ana’s belief that he must have done so because he’s interested in her. This isn’t creepy to Kate but romantic, because the author says that it is, and therefore it’s the Designated Best Friend character’s duty to bolster the heroine’s confidence by insisting that the stalker behavior in question is a clear sign that the hero is into her.

Ana makes what has to be one of the most inexplicable references for a college student in 2011, saying to Kate, “Okay, Carla Bernstein, keep your hair on. You want these photos?” You know, sometimes I feel that I should be considered a special authority on these novels for the sole reason that I was born within just a couple years of Ana Steele and know how these young folk talk. I get that a significant portion of the readership is/was older than me and would probably just be like, “I understood that reference,” but shit like this immediately yanks me out of the story.

I had to look up who “Carla Bernstein” was when I read this the first time way back when; turns out, Ana’s actually referring to Carl Bernstein, a journalist who, along with Bob Woodward, broke the story on the Watergate Scandal and later co-wrote the book All the President’s Men about it. She just thinks she’s being cute by feminizing his name because Kate is a girl. I guess “Roberta Woodward” just didn’t have as nice of a ring to it, though ELJ did miss out on an opportunity to have Ana get all red-faced over the thought of Kate talking to Deep Throat… of course, that would also mean she’d have to actually understand the other thing “Deep Throat” could refer to…

Don’t worry, she doesn’t need to know what it is to be an expert at it.

Kate is absolutely astounded that “the richest, most elusive, most enigmatic bachelor in Washington State” gave Ana a business card with his cell phone number on it. I mean… yeah? It’s the simplest way for either one of them to get in touch with him to arrange the photo shoot; why wouldn’t he give it to Ana? But she takes this as proof-positive that he must be pursuing her, and insists that Ana be the one to call him since she’s “the one with the relationship.”

After a bit of back-and-forth on who they’ll get to photograph him since the student paper’s regular photographer is unavailable, they settle on asking José. Ana tries to protest that she barely knows Christian at Kate’s insistence that she call him, but to no avail:

“At least you’ve met him,” she says bitterly. “And it looks like he wants to know you better. Ana, just call him,” she snaps and hangs up. She is so bossy sometimes. I frown at my cell, sticking my tongue out at it.

I will never get over how we’re apparently supposed to see Ana as such a mature, grounded character in spite of her romantic naiveté when she constantly does shit like sticking her tongue out at her phone instead of actually sticking up for herself.

Paul fetches her from the back to help with customers, questioning her about her connection to Christian Grey. I didn’t bother quoting it, but in the last chapter, Paul was all like, *gasp* “not the Christian Grey?” when they were introduced. Because I guess he’s supposed to be some huge celebrity in this universe? Sure, he’s rich, and I’m sure he’d have some notoriety for founding and running a huge corporation–even though we still don’t know exactly what it is that Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc. is supposed to be most famous for–but legit celebrity status? It’s not so apparent in this first book, but I swear I remember the tabloids and paparazzi playing an outsized role in the next two.

I mean, I’m sure that if Jeff Bezos walked into your local hardware store and was like, “Hello, I’m Jeff Bezos and I’m here to buy rope and duct tape for completely innocent reasons” that would be kind of a shock. But I can’t be the only one who thinks that people in these books care way more about the life of Christian “enigmatic bachelor billionaire” Grey than they have any reason to. He’s not Tony Stark, for fuck’s sake, calm down. The only halfway interesting or “scandalous” thing about him is his BDSM proclivities which he keeps a secret anyway, and even if that did get leaked, who the hell would care? I’m pretty sure most people expect the bored, wealthy elites to be into some freaky shit behind closed doors. Maybe it would get headlines for like, a day, and the only reason people might stay interested is if it came out that he was actually using kink as a cover for abuse and was making his victims sign NDA’s so they couldn’t… oh.

Paul asks Ana out, and we’re told it’s far from the first time she’s tried to politely turn him down:

Whenever he’s home he asks me on a date, and I always say no. It’s a ritual. I’ve never considered it a good idea to date the boss’s brother, and besides, Paul is cute in a wholesome all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination. Is Grey? my subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised. I slap her down.

[…]

“Maybe some other time, Paul. I need to study tonight. I have my finals next week.”

“Ana, one of these days you’ll say yes.” He smiles as I escape to the store floor.

ELJ somehow always manages to give me so much to unpack in the span of a paragraph or two. For starters, Ana gives what should be a very good reason not to go out with someone: he’s her boss’s brother, and who needs that kind of complication in their love life? Of course, “I don’t want to” or “I don’t feel that way about you” should be good enough reasons on their own, but none of the men in this series are capable of simply taking no for an answer, because the author sees nothing wrong (and in fact, sees it as romantic) with not taking no for an answer.

Now, I don’t entirely lay the blame at ELJ’s feet; Fifty Shades isn’t the problem, it’s just a symptom, though of course it perpetuates these problematic ideals as well through its massive popularity. But she probably grew up with this idea and marinated in it throughout her whole life, because it’s just one of those patriarchal notions that pervade our culture and media that harms people of all genders. Boys are taught that they should relentlessly pursue a woman until she gives in, and to fail in that is to fail at being manly and “alpha” enough. And girls are taught both 1) that a man relentlessly pursuing you even after you’ve said no is romantic, and you should really just give him a chance; and 2) a “soft no” is the safest option, because you don’t want to hurt his feelings, and also because you don’t always know when you might encounter the wrong man who’ll fly into a rage at being rejected.

Here, we get a perfect example of Ana implementing the soft rejection; it’s obvious from her narration that she’s not interested in ever going out with Paul, yet she still feels the need to give an excuse of being too busy and tell him maybe next time. Which is just so frustrating, because while part of me wants to shake her and tell her to stop being such a pushover and tell people how she actually feels, another more cynical part of me knows the sobering reality is that women (and people in general) often default to the gentle and ambiguous let-down for a reason. Because girls are supposed to be sweet and polite, and if your rejection is too firm, you might get called a rude bitch or (somewhat paradoxically) a whore; because “maybe another time” alleviates the guilt of hurting someone’s feelings with an outright no; because sometimes it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it, and there’s only so many ways you can turn someone down before it becomes exhausting, aggravating, or a genuine cause to fear for your safety.

Stepping back from the heavier stuff, what’s up with this “literary hero” nonsense? Could I have some examples, please, so I know precisely what classic literary characters or character types you’re basing your supposedly high standards for men off of? Then again, Christian Grey is more or less the human embodiment of TV Tropes’ Byronic Hero page, so I guess there’s our answer.

I know I said in the last chapter that I can’t picture Ana being into Dracula the novel, but if it wasn’t so uncomfortably sexual, this would totally be Ana’s favorite movie. Oldman could out-Byron Lord Byron. Plus, you can’t tell me these two aren’t the OG Bella and Edward.

Later, Ana calls up José to try to convince him to do the photo shoot.

“Give me that phone.” Kate grabs the handset from me, tossing her silken reddish-blond hair over her shoulder.

“Listen here, José Rodriguez, if you want our newspaper to cover the opening of your show, you’ll do this shoot for us tomorrow, capiche?” Kate can be awesomely tough.

So, this is the part where José calls Kate out on her bullshit and asks what he’s really getting in return for this favor, right? Because if his photography exhibit is in a month, and Kate and Ana are graduating in like, two-and-a-half weeks, then by that time Kate will no longer have any say in the goings-on of the student newspaper. She also “snaps [Ana’s] cell phone off” (do you mean closed?) before handing it back, even though her grabbing the “handset” seems to imply it was more likely a cordless home phone. Details shmetails, amirite?

Also, ELJ is just kinda massively telling on herself here, isn’t she? Like, after hearing about how petulant and domineering she was on the set of the first film, it makes so much sense for her to have sincerely written Ana as being in awe of Kate for her demanding, bullying behavior and call it being “awesomely tough.” Add it to the list of reasons why Kate actually sucks, even if she does have her moments to shine in later chapters.

Kate demands that Ana call Grey immediately, even though she’s so uncomfortable with having to do so that “My stomach twists” and “with shaking fingers, I dial the number.” Grey, meanwhile, has been waiting with bated and irascible breath for Ana to call:

It’s been five hours with no phone call from the delectable Miss Steele. What the hell was I thinking? I watch the street from the window of my suite at The Heathman. I loathe waiting, I always have. […] I’m annoyed at her for not phoning, but mostly I’m angry with myself. I’m a fool for being here. What a waste of time it’s been chasing this woman. When have I ever chased a woman?

Grey, get a grip.

This is just a romance pet-peeve of mine, but I always get so annoyed when the male lead is all like “I’ve never had to chase a woman before.” Because naturally he’s so sexy and irresistible that he’s constantly beating women off with a stick, no one has ever said no to him before, and of course the only woman to ever make him work for it is the only one truly worthy of his love and who has the ability to tame the beast within or some shit.

Except Ana isn’t really making Christian work for it. She hasn’t had the opportunity to either turn him down or take him up on whatever he has to offer yet, so we have yet to see any of the typical pop culture indicators that the male love interest is now determined to engage in “the chase.” Girl’s just trying to live her life, and he’s all huffy because they’ve had at most 20 min. worth of conversation across two meetings and she hasn’t yet fallen to her knees before him in submission.

When she does eventually call, “My face erupts into a shit-eating grin.” Um, ew? That’ll put some nice, sexy imagery in your head. Just another pet-peeve of mine, but I’ve always hated the phrase “shit-eating grin.” Even if I didn’t, though, isn’t it usually meant to imply that it’s a rather mean or nasty kind of smirk?

Ana, for her part, thinks that she “can almost hear his sphinxlike smile through the phone,” and I try and fail to turn that sphinx reference into a hilarious Oedipus joke. She asks when and where would be convenient for him in regards to the photo shoot, and he thinks to himself, “In my room. Just you, me, and the cable ties.” This man is a menace.

They agree to meet at The Heathman at 9:30 the next morning. Ana’s so excited she can barely contain herself:

“Okay, we’ll see you there.” I am all gushing and breathy—like a child, not a grown woman who can vote and drink legally in the state of Washington.

Ugh, again, with the infantilizing imagery… why does ELJ feel the need to have Ana constantly undermine her own agency as an adult by having her “comedically” act childish or make references to kids in during sexual or romantic moments? I’m only three chapters into this reread and it’s already getting creepy, and I know it’s only going to get worse from here.

I hang up. Kate is in the kitchen, and she’s staring at me with a look of complete and utter consternation on her face.

“Anastasia Rose Steele. You like him! I’ve never seen or heard you so … so … affected by anyone before. You’re actually blushing.”

“Oh, Kate, you know I blush all the time. It’s an occupational hazard with me. Don’t be ridiculous,” I snap. She blinks at me with surprise—I very rarely have hissy fits—and I briefly relent. “I just find him … intimidating, that’s all.”

Ah, there’s ELJ’s favorite word again: “affected.” Characters are always so “affected” by everything, and they’re always trying to regain their lost “equilibrium” after being so affected.

“Consternation,” though? I don’t think that’s the word you’re looking for. And oh, please, little miss “I rarely have hissy fits”; your favorite pass time is complaining about shit.

The next day, Kate and Ana drive to the hotel along with Jose and his assistant, Travis. Ana gets to chauffeur the guys and their equipment in her old Beetle that she calls Wanda, while Kate gets to cruise along in her fancy Mercedes CLK all by herself. Sidebar: since I’m assuming the Beetle was Bella’s old truck in the original fanfic, was the truck of the fanfic also called Wanda, or was that added in when it got published?

When Kate tells the front desk receptionist that they’re there to do a photo shoot with Christian Grey, the room that she’d managed to book for free for the day is bumped up to a suite. Not sure why they couldn’t have just set up in a ballroom that the hotel is bound to have or even in Christian’s suite, but I guess we’re just meant to be dazzled by how his influence gets Ana such amazing perks even when he’s not around.

Christian enters the suite after they’ve set everything up, and Ana’s jaw drops to the floor at the sight of him… wearing clothes..?

Holy crap! He’s wearing a white shirt, open at the collar, and gray flannel pants that hang from his hips. His unruly hair is still damp from a shower. My mouth goes dry looking at him … he’s so freaking hot.

I’m really glad you specified that his pants are hanging from his hips, Ana; I’d just assumed they were hanging from his elbows. Also, I know that by flannel pants ELJ probably meant a pair of dress slacks that look like this, but I can’t be the only one who automatically thinks “pajamas” when flannel pants are mentioned. I just love imagining the urbane and sophisticated Mr. Grey waltzing in with his wet, uncombed hair, the same wrinkled shirt he wore yesterday, pj bottoms, and flip-flops, just to show off that he’s an arrogant douche who can get away with being a slob. And if Grey’s own thoughts from moments earlier are anything to go by, that’s really not that far from the truth:

My hair is wet from my shower, but I don’t give a shit. One glance at the louche fucker in the mirror and I exit to follow Taylor to the elevator.

He took that hairdryer and threw it on the grooooooound!

Oh, and you can be sure he has an opinion on what Ana’s wearing, too:

Are jeans and chucks her signature look? While not very convenient, they do flatter her shapely legs.

God fucking forbid this woman’s jeans be an inconvenience to your dick, you dick.

Ana introduces Kate and Christian to each other:

“Mr. Grey, this is Katherine Kavanagh,” I mutter, waving a hand toward Kate, who comes forward, looking him squarely in the eye.

“The tenacious Miss Kavanagh. How do you do?” He gives her a small smile, looking genuinely amused. “I trust you’re feeling better? Anastasia said you were unwell last week.”

“I’m fine, thank you, Mr. Grey.” She shakes his hand firmly without batting an eyelid. I remind myself that Kate has been to the best private schools in Washington. Her family has money, and she’s grown up confident and sure of her place in the world. She doesn’t take any crap. I am in awe of her.

Once again, we’re treated to another example of this subtle “rich = better” implication that’s been cropping up since the beginning of the book. Most often applied to Christian, but in this instance it’s aimed at Kate. I do understand how Kate would be likely to grow up confident and self-assured in part due to her family’s wealth, but the part about Ana being “in awe of her” because of that goes woefully unexamined.

Yes, these are admirable traits and I can see why the chronically timid and self-conscious Ana would admire that in a friend, but it’s the fact that she explicitly ties this to Kate’s wealth that I don’t like, as if rich people are born with a little extra special something that Ana herself would never dare aspire to. Kate’s confidence never seems to inspire her to cultivate those traits in herself, nor does she ever seem to question the difference in privilege between herself and people like Kate or Grey. The whole book operates on this circular logic that confidence and determination are the keys to earning or deserving extreme wealth, but at the same time, people who are rich have an innate confidence and sense of self-determination that they naturally deserve to have because of their high social status. I don’t know if any of that makes sense, but it’s the best way I could explain my vague sense of discomfort.

Reading Grey, of course, has only compounded these feelings, as Christian proves to be as un-self-aware as ever:

[Kate] has a firm, confident handshake, and I doubt she’s ever faced a day of hardship in her privileged life. I wonder why these women are friends. They have nothing in common.

YOU. LITERALLY. JUST. MET. Honest to God! What the fuck is it with Mr. “I’m a good judge of people” always jumping to conclusions? The only shit you know about Ana is her bank balance, her SAT score, and the fact that she reads “the classics”. How, from all of that, did you manage to extrapolate that she and Kate must have nothing in common?

Oh! and it just gets better and better once he meets Jose and starts assuming things like, “Shit. Is this the boyfriend?” and “Are they fucking?” because Ana smiled at him once.

Let’s skip to the end of the shoot and jump back into Ana’s head for a bit before I give myself a rage aneurysm. Grey asks her to walk him out, and then asks her out for coffee once they’re alone in the hallway. Ana absolutely loses her mind.

My heart slams into my mouth. A date? Christian Grey is asking me on a date. He’s asking if you want a coffee. Maybe he thinks you haven’t woken up yet, my subconscious whines at me in a sneering mood again.

Oof, the italics (which are the parts I’ve underlined) formatting here is awful and confusing. One would think the “He’s asking if you want a coffee” sentence would be in italics since it reads like an internal voice (such as her subconscious) speaking to her, and indeed the “dialogue” of her subconscious here is also in italics like it is throughout the rest of the book. But instead, we just have this random 2nd person line in the middle of a 1st person narrative, right on the heels of another sentence that has no reason to be italicized.

What follows is perhaps the most pointless, time-wasting, and drama-fraught scene yet, and I just recapped all of chapter two. You see, Ana sadly can’t go for coffee because she has to drive everyone home except for Kate, even though Kate’s CLK–though itself only a 2-door coupe–probably has at least as much room as Ana’s little clown car, if not more. So, Grey tries to tell her that Taylor (his driver/bodyguard) can drive them, but Ana gets all flustered and says she needs to swap cars with Kate even though we don’t know WHY she has to, because if the problem is that three people plus the equipment can’t fit in one car, then she could just put it in hers to take back later and OH MY GOD, WOULD YOU JUST FUCKING GO OUT WITH HIM AND PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY ALREADY?

So, after, like, two pages of bullshit, Ana asks Kate if they can switch cars because she’s got a date with Christian Grey. And now Kate has gone from gushing at every opportunity about how Grey is totally super into Ana to suddenly warning her away from him:

“Ana, there’s something about him.” Her tone is full of warning. “He’s gorgeous, I agree, but I think he’s dangerous. Especially for someone like you.”

“What do you mean, someone like me?” I demand, affronted.

“An innocent like you, Ana. You know what I mean,” she says a little irritated. I flush.

I really hate this notion of “innocence.” Like the virginal heroine is somehow pure, ripe for corruption, and being led down a dark path by the sexually experienced hero. That her lack of experience with sex or relationships somehow automatically makes her naive, ignorant of worldly and mature matters, and perhaps even childlike (ick). Not to mention, the implication that if she wasn’t an “innocent,” that if she was less naive and more experienced, that she would be in less danger, or even worse, that any harm that might come to an experienced woman at the hands of a predatory man is somehow less heinous or that they deserved it because of their lack of “innocence.”

Granted, Ana as a character is demonstrated to be most of these things: she’s woefully naive, emotionally immature, bafflingly ignorant of just about everything when it comes to sex and romance, and displays a stunning lack of curiosity (and even outright disgust or judgment) about sex. And Christian 100% is a predator who takes advantage of her ignorance to pressure her into things and emotionally manipulate her. So, on that front, Kate is technically onto something here.

Thing is, though, ELJ chose to write Ana this way. She chose to play up and play into these old and pervasive tropes about women’s sexuality in crafting her story. She chose to portray Ana’s unworldliness and childlike innocence as positive traits that not only make her the most worthy partner for her ideal romantic hero, but ultimately help her to “redeem” the hero and “drag him into the light,” whatever the hell that means. She chose to have Christian be drawn to these qualities in her. In ELJ’s mind, these traits not only make Ana “not like other girls,” but make her BETTER for Christian than all the other women vying for his affections.

I, uh, didn’t expect to be getting such a workout stepping up and down off my soapbox this early into the book…

Christian waits for her impatiently, the only way he’s capable of waiting. Naturally, he latches onto the idea that she must be kissing Jose goodbye and is only going out with him to “keep me sweet for the article.” Um, okay? Lucky for him, Ana “doesn’t look like she’s just been kissed” once she returns, because Christian Grey has the gift of Kiss-o-Vision, the world’s most useless superpower.

Ana’s ready to go:

“Okay, let’s do coffee,” I murmur, flushing a beet red.

He grins.

“After you, Miss Steele.” He stands up straight, holding his hand out for me to go first. I make my way down the corridor, my knees shaky, my stomach full of butterflies, and my heart in my mouth thumping a dramatic, uneven beat. I am going to have coffee with Christian Grey … and I hate coffee.

You seem to hate most things, Ana. Do you hate fun, too? And yes, those paragraphs are formatted just like that in the book.

Ana’s mind is “suddenly paralyzed with apprehension” at the thought of talking to Grey over coffee, wondering what the hell they have in common. Hey, which one of us is making the commentary here, missy? Christian asks her how long she and Kate have known each other as they walk, and Ana says that they’ve been friends since freshman year of college. Nit-picking time: Ana has lived with Kate in her apartment for four years; in other words, since the beginning of college. So how did this whole roommate situation come about if they weren’t even friends yet? It’s not like they were randomly assigned to share a dorm room. I don’t know, maybe I’m just showing my ignorance since I’ve never lived with a roommate apart from a boyfriend and in the dorm my own freshman and sophomore years of college. I would say that maybe Kate was looking for a roommate, but since we know her parents own the place, it’s not like she needed help paying the rent…

Whatever, moving on. We get all the thrilling details of them heading down in the elevator and walking down the street to the coffee shop. Ana goes into raptures at the thought of Christian holding her hand, because she’s also a hand-holding virgin:

Grey turns left and strolls to the corner, where we wait for the crosswalk to change. He’s still holding my hand. I’m in the street, and Christian Grey is holding my hand. No one has ever held my hand. I feel giddy, and I tingle all over. I attempt to smother the ridiculous grin that threatens to split my face in two. Try to be cool, Ana, my subconscious implores me. The green man appears, and we’re off again.

So, inside her head Ana is all like:

Grey, on the other hand, was just thinking to himself about how disappointed he is that he apparently isn’t making her nervous enough because her hand isn’t sufficiently clammy. I shit you not.

I’m relieved when the doors open again and I take her hand, which is cool and not clammy as expected. Perhaps I don’t affect her as much as I’d like. The thought is disheartening.

This fucking dude.

At the coffee shop, Ana tells Christian she wants English Breakfast tea–bag out, no sugar–and he goes to place the order. She gets all squirrelly in the pants thinking about the way his pants “hang from his hips” (what way, Ana???) and has some incredibly tame fantasies while she watches him about how she wants to run her fingers through his hair.

Naturally, because she dared to let her thoughts stray into the vaguest of sexual territory, she must therefore shame herself for it like the filthy, filthy harlot she is. Wow, Dan Olson was right; she really does constantly berate herself for having any remotely sexual thoughts. I guess that was always obvious, but reading this again after all this time, it really stands out to me now. I don’t get it; what’s the appeal of this? Shouldn’t we as a society have long moved past the psychological need for female characters to only be sexual so long as they’re ashamed of it or “forced” into it?

Christian comes back with her tea, his coffee, and a blueberry muffin, because, to quote Grey, “Anastasia might change her mind and eat.” Just a preview of the many occasions to come where this man will pressure her into eating without actually bothering to ask what she might want. What if she doesn’t like blueberries, huh? I know I’m getting irrationally pissed at this since he actually doesn’t try to force her to eat in this scene, but it reminded me of that one time in college when I got a donut from the dining hall that I thought was a plain vanilla cake donut with chocolate icing, but had a bad surprise when I bit into it and found out it was actually blueberry. Seriously, who the fuck puts chocolate icing on a blueberry donut?

He has a coffee that bears a wonderful leaf pattern imprinted in the milk. How do they do that? I wonder idly.

Ana dunks her teabag in the hot water for approximately 0.2 seconds, explaining that she likes her tea “black and weak.” Honey, that’s not tea; that’s lightly-tinted water. Hell, I’m not even sure if it would have any taste at all; maybe a slight bitterness? Christian thinks:

As she tells me she likes her tea weak and black, for a moment I think she’s describing what she likes in a man.

Get a grip, Grey. She’s talking about tea.

Ha ha?

They get to talking, and right off the bat, Christian wants to know if either Jose or Paul is Ana’s boyfriend. She says no, and wonders why he would think that. Um, maybe because this is a first date, and this guy wants to know if he needs to give Taylor–who’s been standing by with his sniper rifle this whole time–the signal to take out the competition before he can then proceed? God, Ana, don’t you know how first dates work?

Christian’s rationale for asking if one of them was her boyfriend is that she “seem(s) nervous around men.” Nah, dude, she’s just scared of you, and in fact, she tells him this, saying that she finds him intimidating. His response? “You should find me intimidating.” Because this man feeds off her fear like a fucking Dementor, I guess. Just what every D/s relationship needs: a Dominant who not only intimidates their prospective sub, but who thinks it’s a good thing that they do.

“You’re a mystery, Miss Steele.”

Mysterious? Me? “There’s nothing mysterious about me.”

“I think you’re very self-contained,” he murmurs.

Am I? Wow … how am I managing that? This is bewildering. Me, self-contained? No way.

“Except when you blush, of course, which is often. I just wish I knew what you were blushing about.”

[…]

“Do you always make such personal observations?”

“I hadn’t realized I was. Have I offended you?” He sounds surprised.

“No,” I answer truthfully.

“Good.”

I swear, the conversations these two have are just so stilted and unnatural. It’s like they’re both aliens pretending to be human who don’t know the other person is also an alien, and both of them are doing a spectacularly bad job at keeping up their human disguise.

They blather on a bit more about how he’s used to always getting his way and how no one but his family calls him by his first name. And because this guy must always have the upper hand, he still hasn’t deemed her worthy of the honor of calling him Christian, something that Ana takes note of:

Oh. He still hasn’t said, “Call me Christian.” He is a control freak, there’s no other explanation, and part of me is thinking maybe it would have been better if Kate had interviewed him. Two control freaks together. Plus, of course, she’s almost blond—well, strawberry blond—like all the women in his office. And she’s beautiful, my subconscious reminds me. I don’t like the idea of Christian and Kate.

Good God, woman, he asked YOU on a date! He clearly finds you attractive! Not to mention the fact that you clearly recognize that both Jose and Paul have crushes on you? That’s not an insignificant number of men that find you attractive. Look, I get being hard on oneself and not necessarily seeing what others apparently see in you, but her rock-bottom self-esteem and constant bemoaning of how she could never possibly measure up to Kate or the other women around her in terms of physical beauty is beyond the pale. Just get over yourself already, my god…

Christian asks if Ana is an only child, which somehow catches her off-guard with the way he “keeps changing direction.” Why is she always so flabergasted by simple questions? Stilted and dull nature of the conversation aside, these are pretty common “getting to know you” questions; I would hardly call this a wild change in direction. She’s even thrown for a loop by his interest in her family, wondering to herself why he’d be interested in something so “dull” as her relationship with her parents.

Well, what would you prefer he ask you about, Ana? Because from what we’ve heard from your own narration so far, you don’t seem to think of yourself as a very exciting or interesting person, and as far as the story has shown us, you really aren’t. Why don’t you ask him something interesting, or volunteer a unique or intriguing bit of info about yourself or your family life if you think his questions are so boring?

And like I said before, everything he’s done so far points to the fact that he’s just trying to get to know you, Ana! These are the kinds of questions people ask! No wonder this girl is still single if she just thinks that her perfect partner will simply spring forth from her imagination and take human form right before her very eyes already knowing everything about her.

I can’t believe I’d managed to forget just how boring this whole coffee date was. ELJ can’t write engaging dialogue to save her life, and when a huge portion of this chapter is taken up by a scene that’s mostly dialogue that by all accounts should be setting the stage for the epic love story to come, it’s almost unbearable. They talk about their families, The Gay ThingTM comes up again (ugh), and after Ana’s done sharing about her life, Grey quite hilariously only has this to say to the reader: “Interesting.” I’m going to go ahead and pretend he’s being sarcastic, because it was about as interesting as watching grass grow.

Actually, that’s giving ELJ too much credit, because watching grass grow would at least probably be interesting while on acid. The only drug at my disposal that would make this easier to get through is alcohol, but it’s a little early in the day for me and drinking tends to make me sleepy.

Ana tries to turn the tables on him by asking him about his family:

“What do your siblings do?”

“Elliot’s in construction, and my little sister is in Paris, studying cookery under some renowned French chef.” His eyes cloud with irritation. He doesn’t want to talk about his family or himself.

“I hear Paris is lovely,” I murmur. Why doesn’t he want to talk about his family? Is it because he’s adopted?

Ana, a minute ago YOU didn’t want to talk about YOUR family and thought it was weird for him to be asking. Aliens, I’m telling you…

Oh, fuck it.

This prompts a discussion of where Ana would most like to visit in the world, which is England, because:

I blink rapidly. Concentrate, Steele.

“It’s the home of Shakespeare, Austen, the Brontë sisters, Thomas Hardy. I’d like to see the places that inspired those people to write such wonderful books.”

Ignoring the fact that Shakespeare didn’t write books, what does Grey have to say about her love for these authors?

She said as much in Clayton’s yesterday. That means I’m competing with Darcy, Rochester, and Angel Clare: impossible romantic heroes. Here’s the proof I needed. She’s an incurable romantic, like her mother–and this isn’t going to work. To add insult to injury, she looks at her watch. She’s done.

I’ve blown this deal.

How nice that he’s all offended that she’s “adding insult to injury” by looking at her watch as if she was deliberately trying to insult him with her tastes in literature. And like I said in the last recap, how can he tell that she’s an “incurable romantic” who couldn’t possibly like kinky sex just because she likes Jane Eyre? I’ll be honest, I haven’t read a lot of the “classic Brit Lit” canon myself, but from what I have read or watched adaptations of, there’s a lot of bleak and messed up shit in plenty of classics. It’s hardly all mushy, sugar-sweet romance.

Talking about books reminds Ana that she still has studying to do, which was why she was looking at her watch. They leave, and Grey thinks to himself, “I realize that the last twenty minutes have been… enjoyable.”

For whom, Christian? For whom?

He continues to mentally build up his case against pushing her into a sex contract as they walk back to the hotel:

“Do you always wear jeans?” I ask.

“Mostly,” she says, and it’s two strikes against her: an incurable romantic who only wears jeans… I like my women in skirts. I like then accessible.

Accessible. He likes his women accessible.

He then has the audacity to claim that Ana asking if he has a girlfriend “out of the blue” is the “third strike” against her because obviously, it means that she’s looking for romance, which simply will not do. Bruh, half an hour ago you were the one demanding to know if she had a boyfriend and obsessing over whether or not she looked like she’d been kissed. Go take your billions of dollars and buy yourself some self-awareness, please.

Christian tells Ana that he doesn’t have a girlfriend, so obviously that must mean he lied to her about The Gay ThingTM during the interview, right? Contemplating the meaning of this pronouncement throws Ana so off-balance that she proceeds to trip and nearly get mowed down by a cyclist:

“Shit, Ana!” Grey cries. He tugs the hand that he’s holding so hard that I fall back against him just as a cyclist whips past, narrowly missing me, heading the wrong way up this one-way street.

It all happens so fast—one minute I’m falling, the next I’m in his arms and he’s holding me tightly against his chest. I inhale his clean, wholesome scent. He smells of freshly laundered linen and some expensive body wash. It’s intoxicating. I inhale deeply.

[…]

He’s staring into my eyes, and I hold his anxious, burning gaze for a moment, or maybe it’s forever … but eventually, my attention is drawn to his beautiful mouth. And for the first time in twenty-one years, I want to be kissed. I want to feel his mouth on mine.

And with that epic cliffhanger, chapter three draws to a close. I can’t help but think that it would’ve made for a slightly stronger hook if it had ended with her about to be hit by the bike, but that’s just me. Or, if she had been hit by the bike, and the rest of the trilogy was just a coma dream Ana was having while in the hospital. Or if she’d died. Just throwing a few minor suggestions out here.


Chapter Two ~ Table of Contents ~ Chapter Four

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