If you’ve been under a rock or on the moon, you might have missed the Fifty Shades phenomenon, but I doubt it. It’s on its 15th week in the New York Times Bestseller list, and has outstripped the Harry Potter series to become the fastest-selling paperback series of all time.
In case you’re still under that rock, Fifty Shades of Grey is a romance novel with a silver tie on the cover instead of the standard heaving bosoms. It started as a fanfic of Twilight, and never got that far away from it, besides changing the names and adding in an explicit BDSM relationship. It’s selling like hotcakes.
And it’s selling to us. To mothers. So much so that the media has dubbed it “Mommy porn.”
I finished the series recently, and I just flat-out hated it. It’s not the explicit S&M scenes that raised my ire. I’m far more offended by the bad writing then I ever will be about anyone’s sexual interests. Any of the 1-star reviews on Amazon.com can show you many MANY examples of the terrible prose.
So why do we mommies love it so? Is the idea of submission so powerful to us that it can overcome our desires to not be seen reading terrible porn in public places?
Do we want our men to bully us? To overpower us? Not to mention being so handsome that it must be mentioned on every page and so rich that it’s actually beyond my rather large ability to suspend my disbelief?
I doubt it. I don’t think that most of us would want to give up all our power and live a life with no decisions, no choices, and a “red room of pain” facing us if someone is unhappy with us. Not even for Richie Rich with Brad Pitt's face.
But I think a lot of us feel like we have that anyway. Not because our boyfriends are dominants. Because we have kids.
From the outside, it seems like we become the boss when we have children. After all, we get to make the rules. But this does not actually put us in a dominant position. We are actually submissive to their needs, and our power can seem illusory from the inside.
For example, I can’t just drop everything and go on a trip because someone won tickets somewhere cool, as a friend of mine without children did recently. No, my schedule is pre-determined by the Lake Washington School district.
At least if my schedule was dictated by Christian Grey, I’d get a lake house out of it.
Our parenting choices are not consequence-free. After facing a month of temper tantrums when we decided to , a red room of pain wouldn’t have sounded so bad. At least that would have been over with faster. Four weeks in, I would have happily traded the ache in my heart for some soreness in my backside.
And oh, do we want to be told what to do. We turn to books, websites, lectures from experts, other parents, our own parents. We’ll do anything to avoid the advice of that old master Dr. Spock, who told us, “Trust your instincts...you know more than you think you do.”
At least if someone else is making the rules, then you don’t blame yourself when everything falls apart. You can blame them.
Books can speak an emotional truth, even when telling lies. As badly written as Twilight was, it captured completely that self-obsessed, shallow, empty weirdness that is the life of many a teenage girl. There was a truth in there that shone past the prose.
And Fifty Shades holds a truth, too. That sometimes we feel overwhelmed. That we want answers, guidance. Someone to tell us how to do this monstrous chore called living.
And if mommies resonate to that truth more than most, I’m not actually surprised. We’re out on the frontlines, making enormous choices every day that actually impact someone’s life. It comes as no surprise to me that we use our spare time to imagine ourselves no longer in charge of everything. To daydream about no longer answering to our clinging, needy spawn, but to a dreamboat who adores us and could buy Hawaii.
Would we really want it? Not most of us. Not really.
But for a daydream? For $10 on Amazon? Let’s just say, there will be a lot of books with ties on the cover on the beach this summer.
I just wish there was better writing inside.