Aaron Traister on why we should be happy we’re not actually with Ana or Christian from 50 Shades of Grey.
I know Fifty Shades takes a lot of heat for being a silly, badly written book, but if you enjoyed it, don’t let anyone book-shame you. Your cousin who gave you static about it because he was reading a Jonathan Franzen novel? Come on, no one ever actually finishes a Jonathan Franzen novel. But with the movie coming out, I do have to share my one beef withFSoG: I think it made some people feel like their lives were boring by comparison. Don’t get it twisted! In my view, the story of Christian and Ana isn’t supposed to have any relationship with reality; this is a straight-up fantasy and adventure story. I mean, if you substitute Ana with Bilbo and Christian with Gandalf, you’re basically left with a retelling of The Hobbit: Mysterious worldly gentleman with a hazy past convinces naive ingenue to take unexpected journeys and see exciting, dangerous new worlds. So no, it has no bearing on real life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t nuggets of wisdom hidden within it—mostly when you take a look at what the book leaves out.
It’s good to be bored together
There is never a scene where Ana and Christian wake up on a Sunday and then binge-watch House of Cards while eating leftover Indian food and a box of Entenmann’s cookies. Ana and Christian are always doing something exciting. It’s like they live on an episode of The Bachelor. My wife, Karel, and I are fairly active people: We hike, we clean together, I box, she goes to Pilates, we go out for dates. Even so, roughly 90 percent of the time we spend together is “downtime.” We do laundry, we watch TV shows, we read, and we still manage to enjoy each other’s company in the face of such pedestrian pursuits. The ability to be bored together, to spend a day doing nothing and still have a good time, is essential.
Your big old to-do list is actually kind of sexy
Christian Grey runs a billion-dollar company and yet he seems to have unlimited time to spend on Ana. It’s easy to have great sex when you’re young and your life can revolve around your partner. In the real world, we have a few thousand other things going on. It might be cooking or commuting or some complicated child pick-up/drop-off arrangement, but when you get through it all and you’re in bed next to the person you think is hot when you actually have time to think, the sex is truly better. You earned that sex. You value that sex way more than somebody whose only to-do seems to be “draw up new sex contract.”
Strong, sexy relationships need a strong, sexy sense of humor
It’s fun to fantasize about finding a brooding, complicated partner to shack up with for super-intense crazy-person time. But what happens when the sex is over and things get unsexy? That’s when you need a sense of humor. A real-world relationship is filled with stomach flu, bad traffic, and children with friends who have lice and yet want to share a winter hat. Intense eyes and a granite jaw aren’t going to help when someone needs to wash the dog in tomato juice after her encounter with a skunk; you’re gonna need to be able to laugh it off. Sex is an incredibly important part of a relationship, but so is a sense of humor. If you emerge from the movie theater to find that it rained and one of you left the windows down and the ride home is going to be the wrong kind of wet and wild, you should at least have a copilot who is going to keep you laughing until he can help you dry off. I have a feeling Ana and Christian would fail miserably at that particular romantic challenge.
There are some things you shouldn’t do to each other. Ever.
I’m not talking about the sex stuff in Fifty Shades, nope. They can do whatever they want. The part where the book loses me is when Christian chooses Ana’s gynecologist for her and brings her over for an in-home checkup. Let that sink in for a second. Picture your husband: lovable dude, handsome fella, caring father to your kids, all-around great guy. Now imagine him greeting you at the door with a new gynecologist: “Honey, I got Potbelly’s for dinner, and meet Dr. Spector—she brought her own stirrups!” This is hands down the least erotic thing I’ve ever read. Whatever sexy stuff that goes on in Fifty Shades of Grey past this point was marred for me by this detail. In a good relationship, there are certainly lots of times you consult your partner and take him into account, but you don’t make choices for each other.
Drama and passion are not the same thing
The amount of angst that Ana and Christian seem to be able to wring out of their fairly easy relationship (see: lots of money, time, and no skunky dogs) is a bit dizzying. It reminds me of the types of relationships kids had in high school where they were pretending to be mature but everything was turned up to 11 and VERY DRAMATIC AND TENSE. A grown-up relationship can be dramatic and tense, but that’s usually when things are going wrong. Passion isn’t tears and yelling and emotional distress; real passion is the old couple in my neighborhood who I see taking hikes in the park every morning while holding hands. It’s the couple in their late 40s who are laughing their asses off while they make out in the corner of the diving well at the public pool. It’s the feeling of excitement you get when you see the woman you love first thing in the morning, even though you’ve seen her first thing in the morning every morning for the past 12 years. It doesn’t go away—it lasts forever, and no book can come close to conveying what the real thing feels like… well, except maybe The Hobbit.
Originally appeared in Redbook
More from our friends at Redbookmag.com
Photo: Universal Pictures