Wednesday, 14 November 2012

100 Shades of Reality

Everyone I know has read Fifty Shades of Grey... friends, cousins, sisters, colleagues... everyone, except me. However, knowing the outline of the book that has had everyone talking for the past 6 months - following the deepening relationship between a neurotic woman and a psychologically scarred man and their sado-masochistic sexual antics - hasn't motivated me to get started. 

See, it all began a few months ago while I was watching the hilariously corny over-dramatic movie, Moonstruck, with Mother for the 6528th time. And it was these lines that struck and stuck:

Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn't know this either, but love don't make things nice - it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and DIE. The storybooks are bullshit! ~ Nicolas Cage as Ronny Cammareri in Moonstruck.

For the first 4379 times, these lines resonated. I mean, it's so poetic innit. But then, there was one day, the 4380th time, when I had one of my epiphanies and thought, really? And I never thought it poetic since. I don't know when exactly was it that mankind began equating love with pain. There's this notion that if we don't endure that exquisite pain of "love" for some unknown greater sacrificial purpose, that we'll never know real love, or that the relationship is not worth having.

What is it about this sad, tragic, self-sacrificing martyrdom in the pursuit of affection that motivates people? Are we supposed to buy into this idea that we're all just lambs waiting to be slaughtered by Cupid's machete, and more importantly, why is it that we think that it can only be real love when it hurts?

I asked myself all these questions and could only come to the answer that pain, in whatever form - physical, mental, emotional - is still pain. And by pure logic, the true nature of love cannot and should not hurt on any level... because love in its purest form is associated with warmth and healing and butterflies and rainbows... not whips and chains and cheating and playing games. 

Biologically speaking, these masochistic tendencies can be understood because the sensations of pain and pleasure are both processed by the Lymbic System - essentially following the same pathway to the brain. So it's quite possible to get your emotions crossed.

But psychologically? What's the excuse? The bad boy with redeemable qualities is a catch because every woman wants to save him... but it gets old and where do we draw the line? 

The thing that concerns me the most about novels like 50 Shades; that glorify and glamourize dysfunctional people and their relationships; is that while it's all fine and dandy for shock and entertainment value, it poses quite a threat to those young, insecure, impressionable teens that begin to think that this kind of relationship is normal

And yes, normal is relative. But again, where do we draw the line? How do we set boundaries in a society where morals and values are questionable and everyone is driven to test and push those boundaries? At what point will we stop and say, this isn't acceptable, not even in the name of fashion. Because if that is the case, then there is nothing to stop us from skinning kittens to make handbags and stuffing dolphins to be mounted on our walls. There does indeed come a point, when normal is just plain fucked up and has to stop.

Anyways, I highly recommend another novel - Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho - to all those who have read 50 Shades of Grey. It is a kind of Antithesis to the 50 Shades trilogy and makes some solid and convincing arguments on the nature of love and pain:

Maria: "I need to understand about pain".

Ralf: 'You experienced pain yesterday and you discovered that it led to pleasure. You experienced it today and found peace. That's why I'm telling you: don't get used to it, because it's very easy to become habituated; it's a very powerful drug. It's in our daily lives, in our hidden suffering, in the sacrifices we make, blaming love for the destruction of our dreams. Pain is frightening when it shows its real face, but it's seductive when it comes disguised as sacrifice or self-denial. Or cowardice. However much we may reject it, we human beings always find a way of being with pain, of flirting with it and making it part of our lives'.

Maria: 'I don't believe that. No one wants to suffer'.

Ralf: 'If you think you can live without suffering, that's a great step forward, but don't imagine that other people will understand you. True, no one wants to suffer, and yet nearly everyone seeks out pain and sacrifice, and then they feel justified, pure, deserving of the respect of their children, husbands, neighbours, God. Don't let's think about that now; all you need to know is that what makes the world go round is not the search for pleasure, but the renunciation of all that is important. 

'Does a soldier go to war in order to kill the enemy? No, he goes in order to die for his country. Does a wife want to show her husband how happy she is? No, she wants him to see how devoted she is, how she suffers in order to make him happy. Does the husband go to work thinking he will find personal fulfillment there? No, he is giving his sweat and tears for the good of the family. And so it goes on: sons give up their dreams to please their parents, parents give up their lives in order to please their children; pain and suffering are used to justify the one thing that should only bring joy: love'.


  1. Some people with passive-aggressive personality types revel in their martyrdom. I do know people like that but I usually ignore them, and that does not please them. But there seems to be an impossible paradigm with them. Nothing can be either overcome or ignored.

    Do I stand in your way, or am I the best thing you've had?
    Believe me, believe me, I can't tell you why
    But I'm trapped by your love, and I'm chained to your side

    We are young, heartache to heartache we stand
    No promises, no demands
    Love Is A Battlefield

    Sadly, I can't fully comprehend the sentiments in the song (and maybe that's why I haven't read "50 Shades of Gray" either).

  2. you suckerpunched my corporate denial hard. and I haven't even finished breakfast yet.

  3. So true - Coelho and Moonstruck are timeless treasures; 50 Shades, not so much.

  4. hello Azra ! that's the same reason why i havent and probably wont read 50 shades of grey.

    you know what they say...even hatred stems out of love. it's just a complex thing. it's ironic that in its purest form it should be all kind and nice - perhaps that's unconditional love. like i know my dad would love me no matter what i do even if it upsets him to bits.

    love is also all about courage. to love a person is one thing but to accept love in return takes up a lot of strength. at least for me it does.

  5. You need to watch this review of 50 shades of grey LOL this girl is hilarious. It put me off as well, from reading the book.

  6. I recently read the Zahir by Coelho, also interesting take on love - on finding it again after losing one's way. I detest the 50 shades obsession, and agree it's spreading the wrong message to impressional young uns. Girls posting pics on whatsapp and bbm about the guy, or 'laters baby' make me want to vomit.

  7. If everybody wants to read it, it can't be good... Now who said that?

  8. Okay, I feel like a heathen for liking the book. *don’t judge me*
    Don’t worry I’m not going to go into a whole discussion of why I like the book. But I am going to throw a spanner in the works here.

    I get what you are saying...but honestly, I don’t know of any love, that doesn't hurt at some point. I’ve never really experienced a love that you or Coelho describe and I wonder, is it not the same concept like “the one”? A great concept that we constantly look for but never find, because the reality of life is this...Life is filled with pain.

    I don’t know, maybe ‘true’ love is that which has an equation that the love out weights the pain. Therefore people only focus on the love and forget the pain and therefore don’t admit to it. And then write things like love is patient and kind....bla bla bla

  9. LL
    Passive-aggressive... I couldn't agree more. Every passive aggressive person I know is a martyr of some sort.

    What was breakfast?

    Roving Retorter
    Guess what I'm watching, AGAIN?

    Hey Jaya :) There is a distinct line between tragic love and love. It's possible to love someone and not always agree with them and fight and argue etc. That is one thing. It is quite something else to long and yearn for pain in the name of love.

    LOL! Thanks for the link!!

    Do yourself a favour and read Eleven Minutes. It addresses the difference between pain and pleasure and this common view of tragic love in a way that I haven't come across in any other piece of literature.

    Er... William Shakespeare? ;)

    Lady T
    You need therapy. Especially if that is the only kind of love you've ever come across. See comment to Jaya.

  10. I teach about 600 students a year and almost no one has ever read a single play. Go figure. All they can quote is, 'to be or not to be'... :(

  11. Beautifully written, as always.

    Not interested in reading 50 Shades because, apparently, it's really shittily written, not to mention that, as my 1st cousin tells me, the female protagonist makes you want to smack her.

  12. This is a really interesting look into love and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. I am definitely afraid of 'normal' - particularly how it's established but I also wonder how much of me makes decisions just to stay away from normal. Great post, as usual, Azra

  13. I see where you're coming from and know it is logical, though I cannot seem to break the habit. The moment I realize there has been no suffering I mentally remind myself that nothing good comes easy. Perhaps we are all just living our own small self fulfilling prophecies. We seek the struggle so that should we actually win the reward will feel more complete? Deserved?

  14. Grumpy
    It's the new generation Randy... and we're as old as Shakespeare.

    Pretzel Thief
    As someone who will throw a book from the top floor (quite literally) if the Protagonist irritates me, I was warned by many too, that I'm better off not reading it.

    If anything, I hope that it gave you something to think about :)

    As women and emotional beings, it's always difficult to separate rationality and emotion - and even further - distinguishing what's emotionally rational and irrational.
    And yes, it makes so much sense. You're awesome and right... most of us could very well be caught in that cycle of living out self-fulfilling prophecies and trying to feel like we're worthy of what we get :)

  15. Hey there wummun. Found myself nodding at much of what you wrote re 50 Shades. But I turned inward when you touched on love. To love is to make yourself vulnerable. To open yourself to immeasurable joy. And yes, sometimes pain. When those we love hurt us, it's not 'cos their love is imperfect. But because they're human. It's not cos we sought pain. Truth for me has always been that I've grown as much from my pain as I have from my joy. All in the name of love. That my capacity for loving remains undiminished, is a celebration of hope.

    hugs your way

  16. Old? Who is old? Does the new generation of electricity junkies make you feel old? (Just say no.)

  17. Interesting points. I think sometimes it's identifying the real 'thing' when you're in love you become vulnerable to the fact that their might be pain. And so instead some just equate pain with love.

    We wrote our own wedding ceremony and we were really careful that we didn't want to spend time talking about how marriage is hard. We wanted to talk about how love has brought two families together across hemispheres.

    This comment probably makes no sense. :(

  18. Saaleha
    I get what you're saying, and I agree 100%. Yes, with love will come disagreements and growth etc, which will lead to some kind of pain, but essentially one doesn't just seek out the pain bit - for example I always think of my 18 year old emo cousin that has equated love with pain, and how in her mind, to suffer is real love. She has a very tragic view of how and what love should be, which leads to a lot of heartache, unnecessary drama and pain for her. Also, she indulges way too many assholes and people who are not worthy of her because of it. There is nothing healthy about her outlook. And I wish I could show her a holistic healthy view of love, not these tragic toxic obsessions that frequent her world.

    Well, we're old... anyone who knows who Marty McFly was is old LOL!

    I understand what you're saying :) It's about wanting to focus on the positives and not the negatives. Even though you know the negatives exist. Best of luck to you guys!

  19. "Are we supposed to buy into this idea that we're all just lambs waiting to be slaughtered by Cupid's machete, and more importantly, why is it that we think that it can only be real love when it hurts?" - That there is brilliance!

    I have to admit, I succumbed to reading these 50 Shades books because curiosity won me over. I actually dislike the lead character, Christian. I find him abusive and controlling. What's more, the books perpetuate the notion that if you find a broken man, no matter how abusive he is, your love will save him! What hogwash!

    I read these hilarious reviews, which mirror my thoughts:

  20. Prixie
    Thanks for the links! :D I have all three books on my computer but haven't read it yet. I have a problem with the idea that publishers sell that broken people can be saved/fixed. That really bugs me because there is no accountability on their part... how about sorting out your own issues instead of expecting someone else to sort it out for you? The world just doesn't work that way, and selling these false heroic notions is further damaging an already deluded society... especially if they internalise the novel and if they don't take it for what it is - which is fiction.

  21. Dear ANONYMOUS Fucker


    Kind regards,