Am I the only one who barely (no pun intended) got through book one of Fifty Shades of Grey? Most of the women in my book club, all ages 50 and over, couldn't put it down. E L James' trilogy, which delves into the more esoteric, hard-edged aspects of a consensual relationship, clearly speaks to the erotic yearnings -- or at least curiosities -- of some very "normal" women. Thirty-one million copies have been sold and booksellers say the paperback flew off shelves faster than a Harry Potter installment. That doesn't happen with a niche audience.
However, I found myself skipping through some of the sex scenes to get to the relationship parts. From my perspective, the quippy email barbs between Christian Grey and Ana Steele -- not the S&M -- were the best part of the book. Maybe I am old school, but what really draws me to a story is the simmering allure of romance, like the kind you find in Sense and Sensibility and The Sound of Music. No non-disclosure agreements pertaining to sexual encounters required.
So what is everyone else so titillated about? Do women need more thrills in their lives? Are we looking for a fantasy escape from grown up responsibilities? The obligations we shoulder may provide us with home, family and career, but are we missing the excitement and forbidden pleasures that come from being less well-behaved?
With so many marriages ending in dissolution and divorce -- and so many women drawn to so-called "mommy porn" -- I think we should all consider what keeps the spark alive.
As I look at my husband of 28 years, I still feel the spark I felt when I first laid eyes on him. Yes, he is graying, as am I. The chondroitin sulfate he buys en masse at Costco doesn't always diminish the aches and pains in my joints. And the realities of aging often lead to unexpected results. When asked what I wanted for a birthday present last year I requested a colonoscopy (his -- not mine). Yet we continue to enjoy a shared journey that binds us.
And yes, there have been many conflicts and stresses over the years. Money, children, household tasks, aging parents and blackberries at the dinner table have been topics of a few shouting matches and sleepless nights. We don't need manufactured tension or pain in our lives... it's there. But there also have been many ways we keep the fires burning. Adventures such as hiking in Iceland, a weekend in Paris and a Mediterranean cruise provided romance and excitement. But when my husband brings his mandolin to the nursing home and serenades my dad or offers me his ice cream cone because mine fell on the ground (I contemplated applying the five-second rule), that is what keeps my heart fluttering. Those selfless and completely unselfconscious acts of love keep our marriage from graying.
So I ask you, would Christian Grey ever settle down, change diapers, take out the garbage on Thursday nights or agree to a birthday colonoscopy? Since I didn't get past book one, I don't know. But I do know that the little things we do to show each other respect, love and patience provide the foundation for marriages to grow, deepen and yes, get more physically satisfying as we gray.