Please Do Not Have Sex at IHOP: Chapter 18.2 of EL James’s “Grey”

breakfast

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When we left off, Ana and Christian just finished flying in a glider plane which managed to talk up half of a very long chapter. Now we pick up as the exciting, vivacious couple goes for breakfast. Every moment is gripping and fast-paced: will Ana have waffles or pancakes? Will there be several flavors of syrup? Bacon or sausage? Coffee or tea?

At last, the wait is over!

Ana tells Christian that she likes that Christian introduced her to Vaguely British Benson as his “girlfriend.”

“Isn’t that what you are?”

“Am I? I thought you wanted a submissive.”

Oh, Ana. Stupid, stupid Ana. Of course you’re his girlfriend! Even though he spent the first half of the book loftily announcing that he doesn’t do “the girlfriend thing,” that he never sleeps in the same bed as his sexual partners, and that he’s built an elaborate playroom and a special bedroom in his apartment just to house his submissives — none of whom he would ever “date.” What was confusing about that?

“So did I, Anastasia, and I do. But I’ve told you, I want more, too.”

Oh, okay. Thanks for clearing that up.

“I’m very happy that you want more,” she says.

She lies, pretending that “more” means something concrete and not intentionally vague and lazy.

“We aim to please, Miss Steele,” I tease as I pull into the International House of Pancakes–my father’s guilty pleasure.

Ugh. I’ve already read this scene in the original book from Ana’s perspective, where I believe she spends the whole time floored that fancy opera glider pocket handkerchief Christian would DARE eat at the restaurant of the poors. So, because this chapter is way too long (again), and I don’t want to spend this whole time seeking out dog whistle racism/classism, I’ll quickly direct you to Lindy West’s article on Hipster Racism which covered this very topic under the section of “Recreational Slumming.” Enjoy:

2. “Recreational Slumming.”
Wherein privileged people descend for a visit inside the strange, foreign spaces of othered groups. Like, I don’t know, IHOP. Or that “scary” bar in the south end. Then they go home again. Catchphrase: “It’s soooooo ghetto, but I actually totally like it!”

I’m not going to go much deeper in my analysis, because frankly there’s nothing deep about this book, but let’s just keep that definition in mind for what comes next:

“IHOP?” she says in disbelief.

The Mustang rumbles to a stop. “I hope you’re hungry.”

“I would never have pictured you here.”

Plenty of people from a variety of economic backgrounds have been on road trips or treated their kids to fast food at least once, but in Ana’s defense Christian does make SUCH a big deal about always needing the best in life that it is moderately surprising that he’d go to a random IHOP. So, in the spirit of generosity, let’s listen to Christian explain why he even knows what an IHOP is even though he’s so rich and fancy and only dines on phoenix eggs sourced from the hoards of dragons:

“My dad used to bring us to one of these whenever my mom went away to a medical conference.” We shuffle into a booth, facing each other. “It was our secret.”

Come hungry, leave happy -- TELL NO ONE.

Come hungry, leave happy — TELL NO ONE.

So this does fall under the not-so-savory category of what Lindy was describing as “it’s soooo ghetto but I actually totally like it,” but on the Christian asshole scale this rates fairly low so I’m not that bothered.

I pick up a menu, watching Ana as she tucks her hair behind her ears and examines what IHOP has to offer for breakfast.

She licks her lips in anticipation. And I’m forced to suppress my physical reaction. “I know what I want,” I whisper, and wonder how she would feel visiting the restroom with me. Her eyes meet mine, and her pupils expand.

Oh my God do not have sex in IHOP.

This dude is SO OBSESSED with making her eat, and yet any time when she actually does want to eat he practically knocks the toast out of her mouth to make way for his dick.

“I want what you want,” she murmurs. As ever, Miss Steele does not back away from a challenge.

“Here?” Are you sure, Ana? Her eyes dart around the quiet restaurant, then come to rest on me, darkening and full of carnal promise. “Don’t bite your lip,” I warn. Much as I’d like to, I’m not going to fuck her in a restroom at IHOP. She deserves better than that, and frankly, so do I.

Gross.

So, again, Christian initiates a sexual encounter, gets Ana’s implicit consent, and then backs down and blames the potential encounter on her? I’m not even angry; I’m just so confused. Does he lose all interest in sex if his partner is willing?

Christ, probably.

And the only people who deserve better than the two of you having your shitty, boring, self-involved sex at IHOP are the employees who’d have to pretend not to hear you and then clean up once you’re gone. Or is Taylor paid to take care of that, too?

“Not here, not now. If I can’t have you here, don’t tempt me.”

Control your own dick, dude.

We’re interrupted.

No, you finished your sentence and then a waitress approached the table like she is PAID to do at the restaurant you chose to eat at. Fuck him and his constant description of women as “interrupting” him.

“Hi, my name’s Leandra. What can I get for you…er…folks…er…today, this mornin’?”

Is this a malfunctioning half-British, half-Southern robot? Oh, no — she’s just distracted by Lord Moneydick:

monopoly

Oh, God. I ignore the redheaded server.

Yeah, you ignore her so hard that you make a mental note of her hair color. Sure thing, chief. Seems legit.

“Anastasia?” I prompt her.

“I told you, I want what you want.”

Hell. She might as well be addressing my groin.

Please stop playing your boring sex games in front of this poor waitress who is not paid enough to put up with the two of you eye-fucking each other over a stack of Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity Pancakes.

My tastes are very... singular.

My tastes are very… singular.

“Shall I give you folks another minute to decide?” the waitress asks.

“No. We know what we want.” I cannot tear my gaze from Ana’s.

This must be so comfortable for Leandra.

“We’ll have two portions of the original buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and bacon on the side, two glasses of orange juice, one black coffee with skim milk, and one English breakfast tea, if you have it.”

ENGLISH BREAKFAST TEA — CAN YOU EVEN SOURCE THIS AMBROSIA OF THE GODS, LOWLY WAITRESS?

Will he also have to go to the kitchen to instruct the staff on how to brew tea, since they’ve probably never heard of it?

But also, this is another moment where EL James’s newfound friend, Google, kind of fucks her whenever she has to re-write the uninformed bullshit from the original. Because I’m sure if EL James was writing this scene today, she’d go to great pains to give us the exact location of the IHOP and to describe the entire menu. Even then, it wouldn’t help her central issue — which is that she is not writing people, situations, or places that she knows first-hand.

I mean, sure, IHOP has “Original Buttermilk Pancakes,” and that is how they’re described on the online menu, but would someone actually say, “I want two portions of the Original Buttermilk Pancakes”? Of course they wouldn’t. That sounds insane. They’d just ask for pancakes. And “a portion of pancakes” is not something an American says — even the fanciest, richest American in the whole wide world. You’d say “an order of pancakes.”

But going a bit deeper (because it’s my investigative pancake work that keeps all of you glued to this blog), allow me to tell you something about the United States of America, madam. “Two portions of pancakes” is probably a fuckton more pancake than these two actually want or than EL James assumes it to be. The “single portion” is FIVE FUCKING PANCAKES. So he’s just ordered TEN FUCKING PANCAKES for each of them, plus bacon, plus juice, plus coffee — and THIS RARE MAGICAL HERB KNOWN AS TEA.

usa

In a book where the lead female character pushes a handful of blueberries around in some oatmeal and says she’s full, I don’t think these two are going to bust their way through a collective twenty pancakes. (Edit Note: It’s been brought to my attention that he only ordered ten pancakes in total because he’s ordering their whole meal at once — but even then THAT’S NOT HOW YOU ORDER THINGS when you’re ordering for two people because it’s confusing. So… my point still stands).

I know this is all pointless and pedantic, and frankly a big part of this rant is just me distracting myself from all of the genuinely offensive content of this book, but Jesus Christ, EL James, write what you fucking know.

Ana smiles.

“Thank you, sir. Will that be all?” the waitress exclaims, all breathy and embarrassed. Tearing my attention away from Ana, I dismiss the waitress with a look and she scurries away.

I’ll never get through this chapter if I keep pausing to rant, but fuck it. Here’s the thing: I get that EL James feels that she needs to establish Christian as this tyrant whom Ana “softens” with her magical virgin vagina. The trouble is that the book is hopelessly misogynistic from BOTH of their perspectives about almost every other woman who graces its pages and isn’t a mousy virgin. And so while Christian shittily dismissing the waitress is something you’d expect from him, it never quite makes sense to me that Ana is equally misogynistic, condescending, and self-involved — all the while declaring that Christian’s money and place in society makes her SO uncomfortable. Plus, not only is EL James a raging misogynist, she’s also so lazy it’s almost painful. I’ve held back from doing this thus far, but below let’s go line-by-line on this scene and compare how she writes it from Ana’s perspective, and then how she writes it from Christian’s:

Ana’s:

“Hi, My name’s Leandra, What can I get for you… er… folks… er… today, this mornin… ?”

Her voice trails off, stumbling over her words as she gets an eye full of Mr. Beautiful opposite me. She flushes scarlet, and a small ounce of sympathy for her bubbles unwelcome into my consciousness because he still does that to me. Her presence allows me to escape briefly from his sensual glare.

Christian’s:

We’re interrupted.

“Hi, my name’s Leandra. What can I get for you…er…folks…er…today, this mornin’?”

Oh, God. I ignore the redheaded server.

So neither of them actually state that the waitress has approached the table — because she’s just staff, not a real person — but note that instantly both Christian and Ana assume that Leandra has tripped over the MoneyDick and can’t contain her vagina feelings. Ana feels both sympathetic toward this poor mortal who is presented with the gift of Christian’s face but also feels jealous and possessive because all women are a threat to her for some reason. Christian, meanwhile, is just an asshole because all women are beneath him.

Ana’s:

“Anastasia?” he prompts me, ignoring her, and I don’t think anyone could squeeze as much carnality into my name as he does at that moment.

I swallow, praying that I don’t go the same color as poor Leandra.

“I told you, I want what you want.” I keep my voice soft, low, and he looks at me hun-grily. Jeez, my inner goddess swoons. Am I up to this game?

Christian’s:

“Anastasia?” I prompt her.

“I told you, I want what you want.”

Hell. She might as well be addressing my groin.

In terms of laziness, “he prompts me” and “I prompt her” are right up there at the top because holy fuck why would they both use the exact same verb?

This book might have been even passingly interesting if EL James had played with the idea of perspective and intent — but instead she makes sure that you understand that everything is the same from both of their perspectives. Anything Christian thinks or feels or does is instantly picked up accurately by Ana, and vice-versa. Also note the laziness of swapping “jeez” for “hell” and “inner goddess” with “my groin.” It’s not even subtle.

Christian continues “ignoring” Leandra, but Ana takes a moment to patronizingly feel sorry for her while simultaneously basking in Christian’s almighty attention — the attention all lowly redheads like Leandra want.

Ana’s:

Leandra looks from me to him and back again. She’s practically the same color as her shiny red hair.

“Shall I give you folks another minute to decide?”

Christian’s:

“Shall I give you folks another minute to decide?” the waitress asks.

One thing James clearly wants to imply is that women are more observant than men. And that’s not my assumption — she literally said it. And yet Christian can tell precisely when Ana’s pupils expand and he knows what color the waitress’s hair is without ever looking at her. It takes Ana longer to mention the waitress’s hair color than it does Christian, even though he makes a big point of telling the reader that he’s deliberately ignoring her. So how can he be the less observant of the two of them? Again, this could have been an interesting plot point if EL James was a better writer — where Christian only pretends to ignore people but he’s much more observant than he realizes. But instead all James is interested in showing us is that Christian ignores ALL WOMEN for magical Ana and that they both treat “the staff” like garbage even though money and privilege makes Ana soooo uncomfortable.

Ana’s:

“No. We know what we want.” Christian’s mouth twitches with a small, sexy smile.

“We’ll have two portions of the original buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and bacon on the side, two glasses of orange juice, one black coffee with skim milk, and one English breakfast tea, if you have it,” says Christian, not taking his eyes off me.

“Thank you sir. Will that be all?” Leandra whispers, looking anywhere but at the two of us. We both turn to stare at her, and she flushes crimson again and scuttles away.

Christian’s:

“No. We know what we want.” I cannot tear my gaze from Ana’s. “We’ll have two portions of the original buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup and bacon on the side, two glasses of orange juice, one black coffee with skim milk, and one English Breakfast tea, if you have it.”

Ana smiles.

“Thank you, sir. Will that be all?” the waitress exclaims, all breathy and embarrassed. Tearing my attention away from Ana, I dismiss the waitress with a look and she scurries away.

Oh, pardon me — she swapped out “scuttles” for “scurries.” I’m wrong — this isn’t an insanely lazy re-printing of the same book.

Maybe the only added detail there was that Ana felt she too had a hand in getting the waitress to fuck off and leave them alone in the public restaurant they chose to eat at. Either way, I won’t compare scenes again because I feel like one is enough to show you just how much EL James didn’t give a fuck about doing anything new with this story or these characters. Instead, she retreads the same scene with the same dialog and many of the same action descriptors, but swaps out jeezes for hells and fucks, and inner goddesses for cocks.

Back to the story, Ana tells Christian that it’s SO unfair. What’s unfair, you might wonder?

“How you disarm people. Women. Me.”

“Do I disarm you?” I’m stunned.

“All the time.”

“It’s just looks, Anastasia.”

“No, Christian, it’s much more than that.”

She has this the wrong way around, and once again I tell her how disarming I find her.

He has literally admitted that he intimidates people on purpose. Again, if any of this felt like an attempt to build an unreliable narrator, or to explore self-awareness, I might be interested. But it’s just a lazy out where EL James wants to communicate that poor moldy cheese is just SO confused — and that somehow explains him actively contradicting himself from earlier, or deliberately lying to Ana.

Ana asks if her “disarmament” is the reason he’s relaxed his requirements vis-a-vis the kink sex. He shruggingly says “sorta.” It’s all very exciting and erotic. Ana admits that she was worried Christian would leave her if she didn’t want to keep having kinky sex with him and he’s floored that she could ever think that!

Again, REALLY? But fine, he’s totally unaware of all of the things he’s done deliberately, nothing is his fault, etc.

“I love that you want more.”

“I know.” My tone is warm.

“How do you know?”

“Trust me. I just do.” You told me in your sleep.

see you

Romantic — and not horrible and creepy and manipulative.

The waitress returns with our breakfast and I watch Ana devour it. “More” seems to be working for her.

“This is delicious,” she says.

“I like that you’re hungry.”

Am I just in a headspace now where everything he says sounds creepy or is it that everything he says is super creepy always all the time?

Ana and Christian eventually stop having breakfast, where absolutely no plot or development happened, apart from the fact that Christian REFUSED to let Ana pay for their breakfast because is the Lord Moneydick of legend, etc. And anyway, he has business to do, remember?

I have a meeting at 11:15 with the Savannah Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, so unfortunately we have to get back to the city. I contemplate canceling the meeting, because I’d like to spend the day with Ana, but no, that’s too much. I’m running after this girl when I should be concentrating on my business.

Priorities, Grey.

business

He literally came to Georgia to stalk her. Why is EL James insisting on this bullshit charade? Oh, right — because we need to remember that Christian isn’t actually a horrible, abusive stalker. He’s just a very committed businessman.

Christian sees a bunch of dudes going into the IHOP who look at Ana. He puts his arm around her so they know to FUCK OFF. He thinks about how Ana doesn’t even, like, know how pretty sure is. He likes the way it feels. He thinks this makes them a normal couple. He is wrong. It makes him sound fucking crazy.

Then let’s have Round Two of the douchiest passage ever printed:

I program her mother’s address into the GPS and we set off north on the I-95, listening to the Foo Fighters. Ana’s feet tap to the beat. This is the sort of music she likes–all-American rock. The traffic on the freeway is heavier now, with commuters heading into the city. But I don’t care: I like being here with her, spending time. Holding her hand, touching her knee, watching her smile.

Wearing her skin, eating piles of money: just the little things I love.

Okay, guys. I know I have a bad habit of just going on endless rants and this is mostly my fault, but I’m STILL not finished with this chapter so we’ll have to wrap up part 3 tomorrow. Will Christian do the business? Will the business be success business? Will Christian eat all of the business monies? STAY TUNED.

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2 thoughts on “Please Do Not Have Sex at IHOP: Chapter 18.2 of EL James’s “Grey”

  1. Eh. Pretty sure waitresses are totally used to customers on dates making eyes at each other.

    This chapter actually sounds vaguely less horrific than the others. Or is it just that you’re starting to skip over the stuff you’ve already covered?

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