Fifty Shades of Fifty Shades

Yeah, I'm gonna talk about that too.

I will start with the spoiler alert, which is hysterical because I haven't read the book(s). I read to the first sex scene in a borrowed copy while on vacation in July. (Funny story about that: I read it while floating in the pool and got a very stripey sunburn across my stomach. That's the problem with reading Fifty Shades of Grey, you turn Fifty Shades of Red, har har.)

A few weeks later, I saw the three books in the local Pharmasave and had twenty minutes to kill while waiting for a prescription. I read the end of the first book. Yes, you read that correctly. I totally did that. Then I read the end of the third book. Completely skipped the second.

How can I do that? Easy. I write sex scenes. I don't need to read anyone else's and I was more interested in how the relationship is resolved. When I saw that at the end of the first they were (again, Spoiler Alert!!) not together, I wrote off the series as not for me. This is my own personal preference. I have a thing about trilogies and series. I'm great when the second book has new characters and visits the couple who are living happily ever after from the first book, but do not make me buy three books to find out that these people live happily ever after. And don't even get me started on the wonderful ending of the first Outlander only to have their happily ever after crushed by future books. That is another day's rant.

Today's rant isn't meant to turn into one. I gave the books a shrug and a miss and would have forgotten all about them except I came across a blog which I now cannot find again. Basically the writer said that Fifty Shades had turned her off reading romance novels forever. That made me sad and made me feel a need to weigh in.

First of all, read what you want people. I don't judge. If you don't want to read romance, that's cool. But if you're writing off a whole genre because one writer put out a book that didn't agree with you, I feel a need to question that. Do you think we all got together and voted that romance should become graphic BDSM? Because there's still plenty of great romance that doesn't include duct tape and belts and hard limits. Turning your back on romance because of one book (okay three) is a little like refusing to eat Italian because you got a bad clam in your spaghetti marinara.

Secondly, I don't consider Fifty Shades a romance. Not the first one, anyway. Ana left Grey. She realized she was in an unhealthy relationship and she walked away.

See, fiction is generally about universal themes: birth, coming of age, courtship and marriage (hello romance), leadership, war, spiritual awakening...  You get the picture. I contend that Fifty Shades is a coming of age story. Ana discovers something about herself and matures as a result. If you walked into it expecting a courtship and romance with a happy ending (ahem!) then I can see where you are feeling betrayed by the book. The story didn't satisfy, it let you down, but that doesn't mean all writers of all romance let you down.

The writer of The Blog I Can't Find (I just tried again and lost half this post. Argh) opened her post with a confession that she used to love trashy books, but because of her experience with Fifty Shades, she was never going to read another romance. There's so much other fiction out there, good fiction, she called it. Why was she wasting her time with... I'm trying to remember exactly what she likened romance novels to. Cotton candy, maybe? Something not in the four food groups anyway. Not even dark chocolate and wine, which ticked me off because romance writers have feelings too, you know. We're use the freshest ingredients we can find, organic even, and we work hard to bring you a rich experience.

But there is such a snobbery surrounding romances novels and I don't get why making something easy to read, that delivers an uplifting emotional experience is 'bad.' What exactly is a 'good' book, then? Something with lots of big words and heavy emotions and an ending that is poignant at best? (I like to call these Oprah picks.) I'm not saying those aren't 'good' books, but why the labels, people?

Reading, like most things, is a realm of personal taste. I happen to like spicy foods; my husband not so much. He likes heavy metal; I'm acoustic. I recently discovered weight lifting and after a mentally taxing day at work, I love the physical challenge of pull-downs and leg presses. For about ten years after leaving university, my husband didn't read anything but a newspaper. Reading a novel felt too much like work.

Sometimes we like to be challenged by our reading and sometimes we don't. Liking a 'trashy' book isn't something to be ashamed of and disliking one doesn't have to change your life. If you think that reading romance novels is not a healthy choice for you, in the same way that I know I should cut back on caffeine, then great. Swear off of romance novels. But I'm not going to quit coffee just because the stuff at work is ghastly. I'll just be more choosey about where I source it and how much I consume.

You could try that too.