What the Duck?

Last night the internet broke due to Phil Robertson being suspended from his family’s television show Duck Dynasty. It seems that Phil was interviewed by GQ and said some pretty distasteful things about homosexuality and the segregated south. Groups complained and A&E placed Phil, the patriarch of this family, on leave. Almost immediately my Facebook and Twitter blew up with posts about free speech, liberals, Bible quotes, and “Save Phil” fan pages. There was also a smattering of “faggots” thrown in as well. I was fascinated and couldn’t look away.

The first thing that popped in my brain was, “Why the hell would Phil do an interview with GQ?” Is Phil sitting in a duck blind covered in camouflage and flipping through the glossy pages of GQ, wondering what the new hot tech item of the week is? I seriously doubt that is the case. My second thought was, “How did Phil not know this was a bait question?” To that one I answered that he probably didn’t care. Then I thought that what the interviewer did was dirty. It was easy and he knew what the answer would be. The entire show is dedicated to this family’s Christian beliefs and home-spun family fun. Phil is a man of a certain age, who grew up in the Deep South before integration; he quotes Bible scripture from memory, and calls himself a redneck. It does not take a leap of logic to assume that Phil may not be down with homosexuality. He is entitled to his opinion and voiced it to that GQ interviewer. Sometimes free speech has a cost.

A&E has suspended Phil with no known date for his return. No one is telling Phil not to speak his mind, he has a large following and preaches and speaks around the country. He has a vast audience that he is more than welcome to speak to regarding his beliefs, both biblical and otherwise. Again, no one is telling Phil not to speak about what he believes. However, Phil is an employee of A&E and they have just as much of a right to suspend an employee. Free speech is not free. He said something and was disciplined by his employer. It happens to people everyday; while discussing this topic with a co-worker my own supervisor said, “No, more Heather.” There are rumors that I can be a bit much. There is no need to “Save Phil” as he is a duck call millionaire with a vast army of supporters. Trust me on this one, Phil will be fine.

In the comments Phil made to the reporter he listed homosexuality as a sin and then jumped to bestiality. “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he tells reporter Drew Magary. “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right (Chicago Tribune).” I would like to again mention, as I have in another blog, there is no jump from homosexuality to bestiality. I looked it up and it is not a thing. Homosexuality is not a gate way drug to loving a horse, it just isn’t. Why people can’t get past this, I will never know.

Phil also had something to say about anal sex, “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” I need to take this to a personal place for a minute. I am fearful that Phil doesn’t have a very good imagination or in the very least doesn’t know about the reach around. Nipples are also fair game on both men and women. As a general rule tight feels good to a penis, and an anus is tight. I am 38, have three kids, and pee on myself everyday. It is safe to say that shit is not as tight as it once was. Never in my 23 years of sexual activity have I heard a man say, “Man, I wish it was a little looser.” Phil is heterosexual and would not find homosexual sex to be pleasant just as a homosexual man would look at Kay and think, “Nope, I’ll pass.” This isn’t rocket science. Part of what concerns me is that there is a presumption by some heterosexuals that homosexuality is strictly about sex. It is about love, friendship, companionship, bickering, and compromising just like my “straight” relationship. Sex is important to most relationships, but it isn’t the most important part.

My DVR has every episode of Duck Dynasty on it and I like to watch it as I fall asleep. Trey and I watch it for the mellow vibe and the relationships between the families. I often gripe about Phil to Trey because I think he has a disdain for women. The controversy that surrounds this show right now has nothing to do with free speech as his rights weren’t infringed upon and A&E is well within their right to suspend him. There is no need to “Save Phil,” he knows what he believes in and stands for. I appreciate that this close-knit family has rallied together and released a statement saying they won’t continue without him. Phil said what he did and now has to face the consequences. The words we use have power and they needs to be wielded carefully. What we need is a call to be kind and to think before we speak, which is something I struggle with everyday.

* After I finished writing this, comedian Rob Delaney posted a video explaining the “tight” thing much better than I do. It was funny. I would suggest looking it up.

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Why I Believe Dolly Parton to Be the Most Universally Beloved Person in the World

In the 6th grade we had to pick a song to sing in front of our music class. There I stood in my awkward adolescence. My stomach was round and my breasts were insubstantial. My hair was a dirty blonde Prince Valiant. My stomach was in knots and there is a high likelihood that I had a fever blister. In my Sears “Pretty Plus” outfit, I opened my mouth and started to sing.

“Islands in the stream
That is what we are
No one in between
How can we be wrong
Sail away with me
To another world
And we rely on each other, ah-ha
From one lover to another, ah-ha”

This song was at that time the most beautiful and heartfelt thing I had ever heard. Kenny and Dolly were in love. You could tell by the emotion in their voices. These two people couldn’t stand to be apart. I assumed they were married and lived in a big Nashville mansion with mirrored furniture. Because, how could I have assumed otherwise?

Every time I saw Dolly with her tall blonde wigs, huge breasts, and tiny waist on the big screen I felt sure she was in a relationship with her leading man. She was too beautiful, too sweet, and too sexual for each of those men to not fall in love with her. Her impish giggle and business sense make for a powerful aphrodisiac. Now, I know that she is married and has been since the beginning of recorded time and it seems like Carl knows she is both powerful and beautiful too as Dolly once said, “He (Carl) says he’d think less of any man who didn’t fall in love with me. But he really respects what I do and would hate to stand in the way of that. He always makes me feel pretty, even when I’m not.” So, what I am seeing is a smart, powerful, talented, beautiful, sexual, and loving woman.

While Islands in the Stream is what introduced me to Dolly, what sealed my love is hearing Jolene for the first time. Jolene is for me a Nick Hornby moment. When I sing Jolene I absolutely must close my eyes; I must be fully engaged in the moment when I hear this song. If it comes on while I’m driving I have to pull over. Jolene is just that strong.

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can
Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene

He talks about you in his sleep
There’s nothing I can do to keep
From crying when he calls your name, Jolene

And I can easily understand
How you could easily take my man
But you don’t know what he means to me, Jolene”

That is some painful shit right there. Who hasn’t felt that about a relationship they were in? I know I have. That terrible ache of feeling that you aren’t enough compared to someone else. For some reason I do not fully understand (deep seeded emotional shenanigans, maybe?), I was under the impression that Jolene was a sister of Dolly’s. Think about that. Knowing you are losing your man to your beautiful sister ups the pain level to an eleven.

I have yet to meet someone who does not have a guttural reaction to hearing Jolene, and it doesn’t matter who is singing it either:

Olivia Newton John = heartbreaking

The White Stripes = heartbreaking + haunting

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes = heartbreaking + fast

Miley Cyrus = heartbreaking

Fiona Apple = heartbreaking

The list could go on forever, because everyone knows that this song is as beautiful and heartfelt as it comes. To put the power of Dolly’s writing in perspective I Will Always Love You has been a number one hit not once but three times. Twice with Dolly and once with Whitney Houston who helped it to be an earworm for the entire year of 1993. But, back to her business tactics for a second, Dolly was so savvy that she owns the publishing and copyrights on all of her songs. When Whitney Houston did that song for The Bodyguard soundtrack Dolly received all the writing and publishing royalties. She said, “When Whitney did it, I got all the money for the publishing and for the writing, and I bought a lot of cheap wigs.” I enjoy the quip, but with a booming theme park, a water park, The Dollywood Foundation, The Dolly Parton Imagination Library, and various other business ventures, I am pretty sure the money didn’t just fund her wig collection.

Dolly is at heart a writer, business woman, and a philanthropist. She takes her perceived stereotypes and breaks them up. You can’t help but love her.

So, out of curiosity, what are your favorite Dolly Parton stories?

Lord, don’t even get me started on my love of 9 to 5 and Straight Talk.

The Commute

She wore her anxiety like a name badge: Hello, my name is self doubt with occasional loathing and sadness. But really, deep down, Rachel wasn’t sad, morose, or languishing; she was just anxious. Sometimes she thought her blood felt like driver ants consuming her insides like they would cattle in an African village. When she thought of that comparison she smiled a guileful smile knowing that she was a pretender. The only reason she knew of driver ants was from an Oprah Book Club book she had read in her twenties. In the car on her morning commute Rachel would think back to the moments that she felt defined her; moments that if she had made a different decision would have possibly altered her life. It was her own personal butterfly effect and she knew that it was senseless.

On this morning drive Rachel flicked at her wedding band. A steady rhythm of nerves: flick, flick, flick, her thumb against the white gold band. A physical manifestation of her inner agitation. The radio played; the morning radio show did their ridiculous voices and callers called to discuss the topic on hand. The air conditioner was on three of four and blew her hair. For a split second Rachel stopped the flicking to pretend her hair was being blown by fans at an InStyle photo shoot. In the fantasy would be her smiling face, her hair shoulder length and artfully wind blown. On her thin wrists would be Jennifer Myer bracelets, each bracelet as dainty as the women in the picture. In this fantasy she was thin, dainty, and graceful, with the kind of beauty that was accepted by other women. She had originally found popularity as a twitter personality and eventually became a regular on Jimmy Fallon, who had offered her a cameo in an upcoming movie.  Another caller to the radio show breaks the fantasy and she moves on to thinking about her decisions. How many had been hers to make and in how many had she been just a silent participant?

The first time she had sex had been a misunderstanding; an ill attempt at talking dirty had led to the quickest sex ever on record. Sure, she could see how it happened. They had been making out for what seemed like hours, mostly naked and pressed against each other on a comforter that was beige with small pink roses.

“I love you,” he whispered.

“I love you too,” she whispered back.

Rachel was sure that more needed to be said.

“I wish you could be inside me,” she decided to add.

And with that her virginity was gone, him on top and pumping. Her body was scootched off the side of the bed. With the last pump she could see the digital clock; it read 3:48. Her virginity was gone in under a minute. Like any good control freak, the next logical step was to make him sit with her and read a pamphlet on teen sex and pregnancy. Which, of course, he did with no complaint, mostly because he was in love and a little sticky. Her accidental deflowering aside, sex was something that Rachel thought about often on her commute.

Now that she had recounted the accidental deflowering, the flick, flick, flick of her ring once again started and Rachel marked that experience into the her-mistake-to-make category. She had said the words that led to the act. This one was a clear mark in her column. The recalling made her smile; virginity was there to be lost and really there was no regret here.

The radio was pulling a phone prank and it made her skin crawl. The idea of intentionally making someone uncomfortable and angry made little sense. It seemed mean, but the intended victim always laughed in the end with an added, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Flick, flick, flick went the thumb against the wedding band as the pre-recorded laugh track played behind the gag. The insistent laughter saying, “don’t be uncomfortable; it is all in good fun.”

Every morning Rachel commutes and every morning she dissects her life events. In fourth grade she cried when her paper wasn’t perfect and the teacher mentioned it to the class. In the sixth grade she gave a boy her bracelet so he would like her. Each individual act probed for a better solution. This was her commute.

The idea behind this post is that I am interested in the small amounts of time that this character spends rethinking her decisions and fantasizing about what could have been. How many small, thirty minute periods, are lost to rehashing our old life events? 

In Defense of Kim Kardashian or the Time I Had Sex in a BP Bathroom

In Clarksville, Tennessee, there is a gas station that is known as “the porn BP.” Everyone calls it that: children going to church camps, truckers, Carvell and me, pretty much everyone. What makes the porn BP so special is not just that it is outside of Nashville traffic, or that it is the most convenient place to fill up, it is the fact that there is a magazine rack in the middle of the store that sells porn. This isn’t your run of the mill Playboy or Penthouse, this is real porn; the kind of porn that caused Julia Sugarbaker to run over the magazine stand in Designing Women. Sitting on the shelves, not behind the counter, are titles such as Black Tail, Barely Legal, and Buttman, mixed in with People and Star, as if these magazines are just as socially accepted. It has always been a game for Carvell to dare me to buy the dirtiest magazine I could find. I, of course, have remarkably little filter and would walk in and buy Hustler or some plus-sized porn mag with little hesitation. Never, however, Black Tail, as it felt much too exploitative.

Porn is here and it isn’t going anywhere. I feel sure that cavemen and -women drew naked ladies on the walls for either titillation or just giggles. The celebrity sex tape is what I suppose to be the new wave of porn as it does double duty, feeding our lust and our need for celebrity gossip. I have no issue with women making millions off of these tapes. What I do have an issue with is slut shaming. Slut shaming is defined as the act of making a woman feel guilty or inferior for engaging in sexual behaviors that deviate from the norm. And for some reason I think Kim Kardashian receives the brunt of the abuse. Every day I open Twitter to read joke after joke about how Kim is only famous for making a porn. How she only sleeps with black men. How stupid and materialistic she is. How fat she is, and now, that she may have given birth to the antichrist. I follow smart and funny people on Twitter, and sometimes I think that making a Kim joke is taking the easy way out and maybe slut shaming just a little.

If we were to openly talk about our pasts most of us can pull out at least one story where we have acted a little slut-like. It may be something as innocent as flirting with a married man or using your femininity to get out of a speeding ticket, but there is a better than average chance that you have one something that verges on sluttiness. Lord, knows I have.

Many years ago, while in a committed relationship, the relationship started to falter as relationships sometimes do. The stress of life and the future weighed the relationship down and it was on the brink of ending. It was an ugly and devastating place to be. We agreed to take a break from one another and then reconvene to see where we stood. Before we were able to take a break, we were involved in a car accident that should have killed us. We were battered and bruised, but left with no life-threatening injuries. That night I asked if he was still unsure of the relationship. He was no longer unsure as the jostle of the overturning truck had knocked the sense back into both of us. It was too late to stop the time-apart decision and I left on a week-long vacation.  We called and texted and declared our love for one another. Upon my return he picked me up at the airport and kissed me out of view. We drove and talked about the trip and the flight. We stopped at the porn BP to get something to drink and pee. I made my way to the bathroom while doing a slight pee pee dance. I had just locked the door and sat down when I heard a knock at the door.

“Let me in.”

It was obvious to me who it was and I figured the men’s room was full, so I pulled my pants up and let him in. Immediately after locking the door again I was pushed against the dingy wall. The kisses were desperate and the hands insistent (I know how bad romance novel that sounds). With me up on the tips of my toes and with my back to the wall, we had sex in the porn BP bathroom. It is on record as the second best sex of my life. After we finished we realized that we had no idea how long we had been in that bathroom, and we heard a woman’s voice say, “There is more than one person in there.”

I was horrified, not by the fact that I had just had sex in the porn BP bathroom, but by the fact that I was going to have to face a line of people. We got ourselves together and left the bathroom. The line of women was about six long and I kept my eyes downcast. I had little doubt that these women thought me to be a slut, and that wasn’t the case at all. “We have been together for years!” I wanted to yell at them. “This was recommitment sex!” But without a back story or context, I just looked like a slut, and there was no way to defend myself.

I wonder how Kim feels knowing the things people say about her. If she wants to defend herself against the haters or if she knows that by being famous for her indiscretions she has to leave herself open to the hate. My issue isn’t so much about Kim but about why people think it’s okay to hurl those kinds of insults at her, at anyone really. A female comedian recently spoke out against rape jokes and social media inundated her with “I hope you get raped” jokes. Lena Dunham was told that “I hope you get breast cancer.” As humans, I think we should just know better than to insult and slut shame.

Oh, and if I ever tell you the porn BP story in person, I almost always add, “Really, at its core it is a love story.”

What a Girl Wants: An Ode to Women

There are women in this world that I am jealous of. They are women who strike me as interesting, and they are built in all shapes and sizes. I sometimes find myself wanting in the interesting department. Now, my friends will disagree and tell you that I am sapid, but I would counter with – they have to say that because they love me. My jealousy isn’t Rachel and Leah or Cain and Abel in nature; it is more single white female without the killing and identity theft. These women are interesting in a way I want to emulate, which comes across a little creeptastic.

Lesley Kinzel is the senior editor of xojane.com, eats fresh ricotta, has brightly colored lipstick, and was named one of 40 under 40 feminist to watch. I was once named most likely to yell fuck in church. Nope, that is a lie. I was named class wittiest in high school, and I still wear the title with more than a little pride. I follow her on Instagram and Twitter and I check xojane.com to read any articles she posts. She has loudly fought for fat acceptance and appeared on multiple television round table discussions. You want to know what I did yesterday. I watched The Little Couple with Kiaya, went to Wal-Mart, and bought American cheese. I am actively searching for a way to make Kinzel my friend. She will say interesting things and I will nod and listen with near rapture. I need to know if she was born this way, born with a righteous indignation and desire to fight the fat cause or did something happen. When and how did Lesley Kinzel get to be interesting and fabulous?

I compiled a list the other day of things that would make me more interesting. The top two were more tattoos and bourbon. The third was developing a love of Elvis Costello. Interesting women drink bourbon; they swirl the amber liquid around in small glasses and look casual while doing so. Sometimes, when all the plastic glasses are dirty, I put my Diet Coke into a small glass and pretend it is bourbon. I leave it on the counter and let the sticky liquid harden in the glass. Who I want to be is part Julia Sugarbaker, all class, rants, and intellectualism, with more than a touch of foul mouthed tattooed Margaret Cho, calling herself mother to her gay following. Add in the hair and voice of Brittany Howard, the singer of The Alabama Shakes, and I would be the entire package.

Watching Howard play and sing is a thing of beauty. She appears powerful and relentless. Her mouth is wide and expressive. I think she is beautiful and her voice is strong; the night they played SNL, I fell in love. I watched her move, hips swaying to the music. Strong fingers played her guitar and I was jealous. I was jealous of her talent, jealous of her hair, and jealous of what felt like an overt femininity. These women appear strong and graceful. I have no idea what their lives are like nor do I know what insecurities lurk in the quiet spots of their brain. They are my modern day Rosalind Franklin and Sojouner Truth. They are smart and bold. Their femininity is not the womanish of Mad Men, pinched in waists and hands demurely at their sides. This is loud and calls to me; I want to make these interesting women my friends and introduce them to the strong and lovely women of my everyday life.

I want to soak in their intelligence, not just Kinzel, Howard, and Cho, but all my female friends with their stories, lives, and strengths. I want to thank them for being smart, interesting, and openly breathtaking.

Uncomfortably Fat

Sometimes, I make people uncomfortable. I am loud and cuss a great deal. I wear lots of colors all at one time. I tell stories that require wild hand gestures. My personality takes up space, but not nearly as much as my body does.  I am 274 pounds, and to some, I am uncomfortably fat.

As a chubby chick I have rules that I have to live by. My hair must be clean if I am to leave the house. No Tweety Bird shirts at any time. Never can I wear tennis shoes with no laces. If eating at a buffet, I will never be the first one in line, and if there is one left of anything I will not eat it. These are the unspoken but real rules of being fat in America. They were created to fight a stereotype which is often perpetuated by the media and TLC.  There is another stereotype that bothers me just as much as the chicken leg gnawing, off-brand Ked wearing, redneck one, and that is the “but she has a pretty face” stereotype.

The “but she has a pretty face” stereotype is what the Dove soap advertising campaign does. The women are lined up next to each other in white panties and bras, and while some of these women are bigger than others, they fall well into the average category. My body is not depicted. If this was truly an ad that was embracing women it would have me, Gabourey Sidibe, and Beth Ditto. Women who are or who have been truly plus sized, and have stretch marks and body flaws. One of my breasts is a cup size larger than the other. My stomach is a mess of stretch marks and my belly button is deep and wide. Tattoos and scars cover my skin. My double chin is near legendary in my mind. In the shower I soap my body and lift my heavy breasts. I open the shower door and prop a leg up on the sink to shave my legs. I lather and watch the puddles form on the bathroom floor. I am too big to shave my legs with the shower door closed. This is me. This is my life as a plus-sized woman. This is the life and body of a real women and not what Dove is trying to sell you.

I am many things, and I will admit that fat is one of them. I am never going to be in a Dove campaign hugged up against other women with a smile on my face. My head will never be thrown back in false glee as a photographer tells me what to do next. Dove is lying to you and selling you a false sense of confidence. They want you to believe that all women are beautiful, but they won’t show you my body, or Gabourey’s body, or Beth’s body. They want to be seen as inclusive but not too inclusive. That is the lie that is being sold.

Check out this article by Erin Keane for more conversation about Dove and their advertising campaigns. http://www.salon.com/2013/04/18/stop_posting_that_dove_ad_real_beauty_campaign_is_not_feminist/

Stranger than Fiction

I know what I was wearing when I had my first orgasm: A V-neck purple shirt, a black skirt, and black and white panties pushed to one side. I thought that the outfit had something to do with the orgasm. I wore it again the next time I had sex to try to re-create the magic. It didn’t work. Unlike the characters in my Grandmother’s romance novels I did not start my sexual life being agile and able to have multiple orgasms my very first go around. There was no tearing at my bodice and sweeping me off my feet. I never said no when I meant yes like the women in books. There was nothing even close to rape. Sex was something that I wanted. My virginity felt like a dress that was too tight and ill fitting. I wanted to shed my virginity and I did in a clumsy coupling of groins and lust. I didn’t orgasm the first time I had sex or the seventh. It wasn’t until the fated day that I wore the purple shirt and black skirt that I had that orgasm. I was sixteen and my life has at times been dictated by the sexual decisions I made.

This summer my reading was dedicated to erotic fiction. I enjoyed the world of wealth and privilege, and even had a few not erotic at all dreams regarding a helicopter named Charlie Tango. But I noticed while I was reading the books that my mind often wandered. The main characters have sex multiple times in one night and I think, “God, the chaffing would be terrible.” They have sex in a bathtub and I would say to myself, “No one has ever had good sex in water; it’s too damn drying.” Somewhere near sex scene number 63, I say, “She has to have a rocking urinary tract infection.” It was at this point I couldn’t help but think I had wasted a good deal of my sexual whimsy on a misspent youth.

Like many people I had a false sense of my own sexuality in my late teens and early twenties. And I have little doubt that that false sense was related to a belief that I could do anything without being hurt. Everything was an adventure, whether it was sex in less than desirable places or moving out on my own with nothing more than a minimum wage job and a raging ego. Now, if I was asked to have sex underneath a train trellis I would throw my head back and cackle, but from age 16 to 25 it seemed like a great idea. The fog of hormones and need led me to places that I now would never consider. That fog made me brave and more than a little stupid. The same fog led me to curled toes and fevered kisses.

In my twenties I, without fear, met people on the internet. “Are you going to kill me with an ax?” was the extent of my vetting process. On a night I drank a great many margaritas, I had reckless (although somewhat safe) sex with a virtual stranger. He turned out to be a nice guy and we ended up in a kind-of-pseudo relationship for a few years. Now that well over ten years have passed I recognize it for what it was: a long standing booty call. What I reminisce about is not the sex but the bravery and sureness of my sexuality. My body issues existed but not in the way that they do now. I don’t remember concentrating on the heaviness of my breasts and the rolls on my back as much as I do now. I was naked in both a literal and figurative way in my twenties. I was a part of my very own short-lived sexual revolution. These relationships gave me a chance to be sexual and at the same time live independently due to the long-distance aspect of the relationships. It was “playing house” and practicing for my next real relationship.

My next sexual relationship took place under the watchful eyes of Meg Ryan. I was now in my late 20s and embarking on my first real relationship since being divorced. Above his bed was a large cut-out of Meg Ryan; she was witness to many rounds of Music ADD which was a game that Carvell and I would easily play til two in the morning. Meg Ryan, the patron saint of new relationships. It was in the bed, under Meg, that I fell in love and what Meg didn’t witness, Frank Sinatra did.

Now in my late thirties, my priorities have changed. Instead of becoming surer of myself, I have regressed. I am full of doubt and worry, and most days I question my place in the world. It’s not that I miss the sex of my youth. I miss a world where I wasn’t afraid all the time. I miss the brave me. I miss the escape that sex offered if only for 10 minutes in the front seat of a car. Life and responsibility are too real now and I sometimes want to escape this reality. Books like 50 Shades offer women like me an escape. They offer a world where you know that in the end the characters come out on top (no pun intended). The books offer a world where there is always a happy ending (pun intended). The decisions of my youth are just that, decisions of my youth, and I made the decisions with a sureness that the adult me now admires.