Or, what happens when a guy reads Fifty Shades....
Memorial weekend is an important weekend of remembrance for all those who've served the USA in various conflicts around the world, and for Alex and me it's also the weekend of both the nascence of our relationship and our public and sworn testament, when we said "til death do us part."
The Thursday prior to Memorial weekend in 1999, Alex and I first met. We then spent Sunday walking all over Manhattan, and one year and one day after meeting, we were married on Sunday, May 28th, 2000. A couple of weeks ago, Alex was at a meeting with her lit agent and a prospective publisher, and she was given two books; Wife 22 by Melanie Gideon and Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James; the first in the quasi-Twilight fanfiction that some have deridingly termed the 'mommy porn' genre. Alex immediately read Wife 22, and then a few days later, when she flew off to Vegas on business for our textile company, Aluxe Home, she packed Fifty Shades.
For the 13 years I've known and cherished Alex, she's never been one for pulp fiction or anything that could be remotely categorized as a 'romance novel' (unless perhaps it was written by a Brontë), but she demolished her Fifty Shades paperback in Vegas and upon her return promptly downloaded the e-books of Darker and Freed; the second and third books written, so far.
Alex wanted to discuss them with me, and, so that I could be an equal part in the conversation, she set me a challenge to read them this past weekend. And so that was how I spent Saturday and Sunday, holed up in our Brooklyn backyard drenched in humidity with 1,300 pages of pop-porn prose.
To say that anything I write about them would likely be 'sardonic' risks me being accused of taking a too-oft-repeated word out of EL James' novels, but let's face it: These books aren't flying off the servers at Amazon or Apple due to the admirable or otherwise lexicon of the author.
Yes, these are books with graphically written sex (and frankly better so in the first book, as the second and third get too caught up in the 'whodunit' introduced to prolong the storyline), but what I think separates these books from thousands of others, viz. Jackie Collins and so on, is not the sex but the intense love story that develops between Anastasia and Christian, as they seemingly build a bond that few of us attain in our own relationships. Any of us can sit here and dissect the many weak plot points. In 2011, are there really that many beautiful 21-year-old women about to graduate college who are virgins both to intercourse and to their own fingers? Somehow, I think not. And yes, while these days it is possible to have made billions by the time one's 27 (or 29 in Mark Zuckerberg's case), in the realms of private equity, asset stripping and so forth, I don't think even the presumptive Republican presidential nominee could have amassed Grey's fortune at a similar age. I could go on, but to do so neglects the appeal that these books have, certainly to me and I think Alex and many others of similar age and demographic.
Those of you who might know Alex and me from our four-year stint on Bravo TV's The Real Housewives of New York know that we have a very close bond. Too close for many, or at least in their interpretation of it, but through thin and thick we've remained remarkably attuned to each other's wants and needs. But lives and marriages adapt, children come along and upset the rhythm of a carefree existence within our own home's walls where suddenly locks need to be used on bedrooms and spontaneity can be lost (something that I dare say Ana and Chris will discover in the fourth book).
Our friend Lyss Stern was quoted in the New York Times in March that these books are "relighting a fire under a lot of marriages" and while our burning desire most definitely had not been dimmed, suddenly there's definitely a post-Fifty Shades added frisson on our flames. And that is to EL James' credit.
Not every successful book needs to be a literary masterpiece and these certainly aren't, yet they've had an effect on millions in just a few short months that truly is remarkable. Now my wish would be that a few more husbands like me would do as their wives ask and read them too; better still, read them first and then ask your wife to as well. As Ana and Christian eventually discover, the best relationship is when both parties are equal and that includes behind closed doors. I'm off to rest, both my brain, after a weekend where my inner bibliophile who, after performing triple somersaults, is still exhausted after perusing 1,300 of pop-porn prose -- and yes, my muscles are tad sore too! ;-)
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