Friday, August 31, 2012

50 Shades~Here's My Take

Please Be Aware This Post Has Adult Subject Matter.

Every time I click on the 'Publish' button on a blog post it's with a bit of a resigned feeling.

 "Well...that's it then.  That's everything I have to say."

And then a few days pass and something presents itself to me and I know that's my next post.  That's how this blog unfolds and I suppose that's how it'll continue, so believe me, every post is as much a surprise to me as it is to anybody else. So this post is not what I'd hope would come up.  As a matter of fact it's something I'd been deliberately avoiding like the plague.  Unfortunately it's niggling me and I can see it's not going to leave me alone until it's written.  Maybe this post will be the death knoll for my little blog, I sure hope not.  One way or another, not least for the sake of my own 5 little Missys,  I have to write what I'm going to write and I hope it comes out the way I want.  

Oh Sigh...Here I go...

50 Shades Of Grey...Here's my thoughts.

I haven't read the 50 Shades trilogy and I don't intend to.  However I have spent this summer studying reviews, blog posts, critiques and so on.  Now if you know me, you'll know I'm like a dog with a bone when it comes to something that captures my attention.  When I started my first tropical aquarium I became the world's expert on tropical fish, water quality, nitrites, nitrates and toxic ammonia.  (If you need any advice on fish ask me).  Same with this book...I have read literally hundreds of reviews and commentaries.  Now I know the washed out can you comment on something you haven't read?  Can a doctor advise a patient on an illness he doesn't have himself?  Can a Mother advise her child on youth culture of which she isn't part? Can I tell my toddler to stay away from the road if I haven't been knocked down myself? Of course I can.  I can and I will.

I'm not going to discuss the erotic depictions in these books apart from to ask one little question from anyone who has read them with either the intent or result of 'spicing' up their marriage.  Without a shadow of doubt, reading erotic and steamy literature, whether in the form of internet pornography or in the newly hatched and so sanitisedly named genre of fiction... 'mommy' porn, will surely get the heart pounding and desire will be heightened.  This is how our brains are wired, a physiological and emotional reaction to the impetus.  That's what eroticism is.  However, what does that do to develop and enhance the intimacy of marriage?


 I don't think any of us believes that the husband who has 'relations' with his wife after viewing pornography is making love to her or that his actions are an expression of the love, regard, respect, self-giving and physical attraction he has for her.  I think it's obvious that what's in his mind is not the woman beside him with a baby-tummy who has earlier shopped in Lidl and rummaged through cupboards putting away groceries. It's not the thirty-something woman who is starting to notice her fine lines and is struggling to keep up with her greying roots. Nor is it the woman he has seen a bit harassed earlier that day trying to help a child understand fractions and the need to hand in homework without ketchup stains on it.  

It's globally accepted that pornography de-personalises the marriage of those who view it and gives (men) a heightened and very unrealistic 'expectation' of sex.  For sure, what's in that man's mind and thoughts are the nameless, personality-less, responsibility-free girls whose bodies he has just visually abused and become aroused by and is now using the woman who is physically available by virtue of the coincidence that she happens to be his wife. Very unhealthy, for husband, for his marriage, for his wife's well-being. 

So Mommy Porn (what a marketing triumph), what's different about it? Not too much apart from the fact that it cleverly involves the emotions and psyche rather than the merely visual.  The covers of 50 Shades don't show a man's face...fill in the blanks yourself...anything you want it to be.  I remember when I watched the excellent 1980s dramatisation of Brideshead Revisited, even though it was exactly the same as the book, true to everything, the music, the setting...perfect, I was left just slightly deflated.  Why? Because the Sebastian of my imagination was just more beautiful than the actor who had the disadvantage of being a real person with a real person's physical imperfections.  Just like a real spouse.  My question to any girl who has read 50 Shades...was it your husband you shared that 'spice' with? Or was is just your husband who was physically present...and Christian Grey was the person in your mind? 


Just answer yourself.

If what I'm guessing is true, no marriage has been improved by these books.  When a third party is introduced, however fictional he may be....dangerous ground.

For some really lovely and eminently more intimate and bonding ideas to 'spice' it up, head over to Hallie Lord's blog Moxie Wife and this post.

Anyway, that's not what I want to focus on in this post.  There are millions of sexy and erotic and explicit novels on the market and as we know the statistics of internet pornography are just mind-boggling. My tuppence-ha'penny is not going to make an iota of difference to that.  What I really want to write about is the DANGER that is being romanticised by this story.  

OK, here's the setting...

A little boy is born to a dark-haired crack addict.
She neglects him including starvation.
He is beaten (and there is a suggestion of burned) by his mother's boyfriend.
He is subsequently adopted.
At the age of 15 he is effectively raped by his adoptive mother's best friend.
He starts an abusive affair with her (note he is below the American age of consent)
She introduces him to BDSM for her own gratification.
The affair lasts until he is 21 when her husband finds out.
He goes on to continue BDSM lifestyle by prowling clubs and bars to find or pay for 'submissives'.
He particularly seeks out dark haired girls who resemble his mother to 'punish'.
He enters into signed control contracts with 15 young women with the written specification that these relations are for the specific purpose of his sexual pleasure.
He makes changes to his apartment to include a Red Room of Pain.
He meets this total idiot young girl called Ana whom he desides is his next submissive.
She has a very limited vocabulary for someone who is supposed to be intelligent.
She is smitten by his 'hot' looks, money etc etc
She signs another of his contracts controlling every single aspect of her life.
He goes on to inflict on her what can only be described as savagery.
For some strange reason she thinks this is great.
Apart from the Red Room, they don't get on well...arguments and shouting.
This continues for three books.
The author earns $5,000,000 and counting.
Ana thinks she can 'heal' him (heard that one before eh?)
She tries to leave, he emotionally blackmails her to return.
The beatings (& I'm not even going to describe what else, just very very abusive behaviour) in the very strange disguise of romance continue.
She mistakes this for love and MARRIES this man.
More so called 'romance' (read beatings, sexual abuse, emotional manipulation)
She becomes pregnant and fears for her safety when her loving husband discovers.
Wonders should she have an abortion to protect herself.
Baby is born.
Christian Grey suddenly becomes a well-adjusted loving husband and father.
Albeit with continued...oh I forgot...all this time...consensual...abusive sex and beatings.
That makes it all right so.

Film contract is signed. ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$)

Women buy the books by the million and think that Mr Grey is the perfect man.  
Women with good husbands wish their husband was like Mr Grey.

 (spotted on Pinterest)

My 16 year old returns to school after the summer break...

Seems in teenage classrooms 50 Shades is the new Twilight.
It's very easily available, just look under your Mom's pillow,
Or walk into the local bookshop with the impressive display
'This Bookshop(name) Recommends'
There's no age rating on books so anyone can buy it.
Or get it on your, click, click.

OH!! I forgot to mention the 50 Shades trilogy is modelled and marketed on the back of  the Twilight trilogy.

Emmm...Twilight is aimed at teenagers.

Here's what I think of Mr Grey...


I can see absolutely nothing attractive, romantic or desirable about this very damaged man.  I think the message is utterly dangerous and irresponsible of this (now very wealthy) author.  How many young women have entered into dangerous relationships thinking they are going to 'save' or 'fix' their man?  J is a doctor who sees the dark side of life more than most of us.  Believe me, there is nothing 'hot' about violence and emotional abuse. The happy family depicted at the end of this series is about as unrealistic an ending as one could imagine.  What is far more likely is that this girl Ana will be found dead one of these days.  This is a book about abuse, not romance, most certainly not love. Love does not beat, and take pleasure in the other's pain and tears.  Love does not ask someone to sign away their freedom.  Even if you consent to your loss of freedom, it makes no difference, you're not free.  

Love does not own or take or dominate or manipulate.

I am very worried about the message young girls are going to take from this series.  That YOU can cure a damaged man by doing what he wants.  A very very dangerous message.  Very dangerous.

The introduction of babies into this dysfunctional marriage is inviting trouble.  Mr Grey to the best of my knowledge has had no professional help in dealing with his childhood abuse. His wife is immature and 'submissive' and thinks this is just fine.  She was afraid to tell him she was even pregnant!  His way of displaying 'love' is physical and emotional violence.  Those babies aren't born into a secure happy environment, they are high risk.

How's this for a line from the book for a married couple to say about their unborn daughter?

"I think she likes sex already!"

Enough said about that I think, speaks, or rather SHOUTS volumes.

And remember, brace yourself for the avalanche of copy-cat writers hoping to cash in on the newly discovered 'Mommy-Porn' market.

This week the director of a charity who helps victims of domestic abuse asked people to drop in copies of 50 Shades that they can use for their bonfire.  She is being sniggered at, compared to Hitler, told she's in the Dark Ages and so on.  Now perhaps burning books is a bit dramatic and leaves one open to these accusations.  Then again, the internet is a noisy place and sometimes you have to shout loud to be heard above the din (of acclaim for 50 Shades and Christian Grey).  Maybe that's how she could draw attention to the fact that her local library is stocking 20 copies of each of these books, that's 60 books, in one library, bought by the government, while they can barely squeeze a penny from the government to help the real women suffering from abusive relationships.  In fact their budget has been sliced. I'm not surprised they felt driven to a dramatic stunt to get their concerns heard. 

Mr Grey is not real, but if he was real he would be a sinister, creepy, predatory and dangerous man.
If Ana was my daughter I would be very very worried.

And please don't teach your sons that Christian Grey is someone to be emulated.  Not if you love your son and you want him to have a happy, healthy, loving family life.  Not if you don't want him to leave a trail of emotional and physical destruction in his wake.  Teach him self-giving love.  Teach him respect, gentleness and a spirit of service.  Teach him to love and protect with his body, not use and harm.  Teach him to be master of himself, not master of those weaker than him.

And teach your daughters to expect nothing less than somebody noble like her brother.

Be free to leave comments on this post, but please know that online nastiness really upsets me, especially if it's aimed at me.

(So just to pre-empt...FYI:  I don't live in the Dark Ages, I have a life thanks, no I'm not a prude, uptight, repressed or anything like that and I'm already 'with it' so I don't need to get there.)

In fact, maybe I should turn comment moderation back on.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Who Minds Us While We Sleep?

 Last year I had the briefest of glimpses into a type of  life which is completely different to my own, but then again, maybe not so different..

We were on holiday in the south of France.  When we holiday,  my husband and I try to seek out and attend mass on whatever days it may be available.  France is a beautiful place to attend mass in our experience.  The 'Eldest Daughter of The Church' is seeped in ancient churches, cool and shady in the heat of the day, beautiful statues of  Joan of Arc, Jean Vianney, Vincent de Paul, and where we were, because of the housing of her relics in the region, St Mary Magdalene, my own patron saint.  Having been born on her feast day 22nd July, I bear her name...Jennifer Mary Magdalene.

Attending these quiet masses is a great way to meet some local people, they are always very welcoming and it's not unusual to strike up a conversation. It was during one of these conversations that the young Parish Priest suggested to my husband (whose French is a bit better than mine) we visit Chartreuse de Verne, a Carthusian monastery dating back to the 12th Century which has a long history of fire, pillage, periods of forced abandonment following the revolution and more recently renovation with the aid of charitable donations and currently lived in by a community of  nuns from the Order of Bethlehem, a branch of the Carthusian Order.

We followed his recommendation and took a day trip to the monastery.

Now I'm not recommending for one minute that you should visit this beautiful place high in the Maures Mountains, in an ancient thick forest of oak and other hard woods.

 My romanticised fantasy of speeding on French hairpin mountain roads in a sapphire blue sunbeam car in the company of Cary Grant, came to a crashing end as we drove our hired left-hand-driven very wide people carrier, containing everything that is precious to us in the world, at a very slow and terrifying snail's pace up that, albeit well surfaced,  track.

Hollywood this was NOT!

 The road was exactly the width of two cars. Maybe two or three inches to spare, definitely no more than that. Blind corners on hairpin bends with nary a crash barrier in sight.  On one side a cliff and on the not-cliff side of the road, deep (and steep) storm drains.  Oh dear, my heart is pounding even thinking about it now.

And of course, once you got to the top, the only way back down was via the same road :-(

Now  as you know from my last post, I am the epitome of charity in thought and word, but that journey found me seriously questioning the cop-on of a certain French priest. 

Me:  "What  type of PRIEST  sends a married man and his WIFE...AND his six children up this mountain to their CERTAIN DEATH????"

Husband: " Emmm...we're not going to die"

Me: "What do you mean we're not going to die...look at this road!! We are definitely going to die...if we go off this road we're DEAD...and what's more...we'll never even be discovered, unless we have the good fortune that our car explodes while we're falling down this cliff and someone sees it!!!" 

Husband: " We're not going to go off the road."

Me:  "Is that priest a total fool??????"

Husband: " Emmm...we're not going to die Jen."

And so on.

I don't think I really thought we were going to die as going off the road was unlikely with my husband's careful driving. I hope I didn't anyway considering my less than perfect preparation for death. To be quite honest there was a worse road we were on earlier in the week which actually wasn't even the width of two cars. 

I digress.

The sisters who live in this monastery have no intentions of travelling that road.  Ever.  It is a contemplative order.  Their gift to God is their life of solitude, silence, prayer and contemplation.  This is also their gift to the World as one of the main aspects of their prayer is their unity with the world through their life of prayer. The nuns, though in the community of the monastery,  live a solitary life in silence.  They meet only at certain times of communal prayer and otherwise they live and work alone and in silence in the company of God alone.  They live by donations from outside, by growing their own and by making and selling the most beautiful statues and art work I have seen in a long time.



Now clearly not many people are called to live this life of austerity and prayer.  But those girls are.  We only saw one of the nuns, an extern who deals with the outside world, the others were in the areas of the monastery not open to visitors.  In one of the visitor rooms there was a short video showing the life of the sisters.  I have searched and searched but it's not available online.  There is a beautiful BOOK called Lumieres De Silence available though which is a photographic depiction of these amazing women's lives.

The movie Into Great Silence gives a glimpse into the similar lives of their Carthusian brothers in another part of France:

What struck me profoundly about the little movie was from the few glimpses of the nuns' faces, they were unexpectedly young.  This is no life for weaklings, these are strong, steadfast young women. Some looked contemporaneous to myself.  And they were all smiling.  

Now you might say these girls and women are out of touch, running away from reality, wasting a good life etc etc etc.  But on the same holiday we also visited one of the world's playgrounds of the rich and famous, St Tropez.  I witnessed quite a bit of un-reality there in the form of yachts, swimsuits in shop windows packaged in presentation boxes as though they were diamonds, restaurants and shops which were just out of the league of most of mankind.  

(and one of me thrown in for good measure :-) )

And quite simply no less removed from 'life' as the pretty ladies up in the Maures Mountains.  In fact a million times more removed.  The sisters in the monastery have the world as the subject of their profound prayer, night and day, while we sleep and while we wake.

And while those sisters are praying the Liturgy of The Hours, millions of their peers around the world are seeking escape in a world of 50 shades of  literary darkness.

Some of my atheist friends might say what a waste of a life for nothing.  But just think this...what if?  What if they are right and you are wrong?   What if prayer isn't the hocus-pocus you think it is?  What if the prayer of these ladies, so separate from the world,  is truly, as Pope John Paul said, the heart of the world, and a blessing for the Christian community and the whole world?  Yes indeed...what if? Perhaps these beautiful women (and men in other monastic families throughout the world) are really keeping all our necks above water, are really keeping watch over us, who necessarily are taken up with the things of the world.  

I lingered alone for a little while in that little solitary and shady cell that hot day, with the smell of lavender heavy in the cross breeze and only the hum of crickets to be heard.

And I thought of my own life of laundry, dishes, grocery shops, bills, ironing, school runs, cleaning, schedules, cooking, washing, baby cuddles, teenage things, the mixum-gatherum of middle childhood issues, husband, extended families, ageing parents and all the problems of the world and in the middle of  all that  my own God-given vocation, the same one He gives us love Him.

I wondered...

....which is more holy?

The one who loves the most I guess.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Idle Thoughts By The Pool

People-watching by the pool...what a wonderful way to spend an idle afternoon. Lazily watching the world go by while ostensibly  reading the 11th book in the No 1 Ladies Detective series and keeping an eye on my little brood .

 I didn't meet many of my fellow countrymen while on holidays. In fact I didn't see too many of them either.  I know this because they're easy to spot.  My little country's inhabitants have the questionable quality of being fair skinned...very fair skinned.  The first time I was ever abroad it was with some workmates on a cheap sun holiday.  I always remember something the courier for our company told us while chatting to her one day.  The only people whiter than the Irish are the people from Iceland!!  So it's easy to pick out my kinsmen from the sun-worshippers soaking up the rays, just look for the unmistakable neon white and whether there's one or a hundred in the crowd, you'll identify each one with incredible accuracy.

It's easy to spot us in airports's the only queue in which the holiday-makers are still white on the way home.   Now I don't know about other countries but for some reason, in my country, a tanned complexion is generally considered so much nicer than our traditional pale skin.  Apart from our unfortunate geographical position which gives us more than a fair allocation of rain (one of the reasons for my blog title...the other one being the title of a song I used to sing as a child.  I loved the song but didn't know how it ended and so was left many times in distressed repetition until one of my parents would come to my rescue and finish the song for me.  Sometimes I still struggle with knowing where to end so I apologise if I'm ever too wordy!!)  we just also seem to have the type of skin which genetically just doesn't tan.  That is, apart from those mysteriously dark Irish particularly seen in old photographs from the time of The Great Famine and which are believed to stem from the shipwreck of 24 Spanish Armada ships off the rocky west coast in 1588 and the subsequent integration of the handful of survivors into the local communities...those people tan well.

The other downside of this milky skin is that it seems to be very attractive to little biting things.  I think we're considered a delicacy.  Any old  insect can feast on one of the 65 million French, or the 80 million Germans, or the 63 million Brits, or even one of the 16 million Dutch.  But it's the lucky mosquito who gets a taste of one of the only 4 million Irishmen who walk this planet. (Personally if I was a mosquito I'd eat the French in the hope of picking up the most beautiful language and accent on earth.)

Now the downside of people watching is that it can lead to a critical and sometimes downright uncharitable way of looking at people. Especially when one's eminently more charitable husband is otherwise occupied over at the water-slides and isn't there to point out the unkindness of one's train of thought, thereby nipping it in the bud.  I'm not saying it did...but it could lead to thoughts like "Oh my goodness...that bikini sooo does not suit that woman!!" or "If I were her I definitely wouldn't wear that!!" or "that child needs a crack on the backside!!"

 I didn't say I thought those thoughts!!!  

Well, back to my critique of my own people, I spotted a family of clearly Irish people find a spot at the poolside and the Myles na gCopaleen's phrase 'The Plain People of Ireland' came to my mind. The poet had in mind the ordinary decent people, the backbone of the own interpretation was more along the lines of the more usual meaning of plain.  I think it's fair to say that Ireland has never been renowned for the good looks of it's people.  Less so for their sense of style or elegance.  Whatever the reason for this who knows? Maybe the history of poverty, maybe the oppression from outside, maybe the weather,  maybe the lack of exposure to a culture of elegance. Whatever it was, the Irish dress sense and care for appearance still needs some work.  Thinking of the airport queue again, it's sometimes a bit embarrassing to see the drab, even when expensive, colours, hairstyles and footwear we choose over styles and colours which flatter rather than diminish the soft look of the Irish people.  

The next day it was my turn to supervise little girl at the toddler pool

When who came to sit beside Irish friend who I had judged so negatively the day before.  Within ten minutes I knew where she lived, she knew where I lived, she knew a friend of my friend's friend, her husband joined the chat...we exchanged notes on good places to visit, the children made friends. She was lovely.

  This is not unusual. 

When Irish people meet abroad there is no getting-to-know-you process, you just know them already.  In Ireland it's normal to chat to total strangers simply because you are both buying apples from the same stand. I did that once in a supermarket in another country and the other woman just looked at me strangely and embarrassedly moved a few feet away.  In Ireland you know the people who know people, and not only do you know make it your business to make those connections.  I have a friend who worked elsewhere for eight years and in that time nobody ever asked her whether she had brothers or sisters or anything else about her life.

So, next time I was lolling by the pool

And I spotted some of my fellow country-men...
...I didn't notice their neon skin...
...or their plain looks...
...or their sad attempts of changing that colour from white 
to the equally unglamorous pink and red tones of sunburn 
(which coincidently matched my own)...
...or their unwise fashion choices... 
(which were quite unwise)

Instead I remembered why people come to Ireland and come back again and again.

You don't hear people say 

"Let's go to Ireland where all the good-looking people are!"
(that would be Italy)


"Let's go to Ireland where the people are so elegant and stylish!"
(that would be France)


"Let's go to Ireland to get a tan!"
(that would be anywhere else in the world apart from Ireland)

No, they don't say those things...

They say:

"Lets go to Ireland because the people are so friendly!!"

"Let's go to Ireland where everybody is your family"

"Let's go to Ireland where if you bump into somebody they say sorry"

"Let's go to Ireland because it's so green after all that rain"

And they say

"Let's go to Ireland where the old ladies have beautiful skin
 and look so much younger than the old ladies everywhere else"

Sometimes having so little sun has it's advantages in the long run, but it's nice to see it all the same.

And so lovely to dine outdoors.