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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fifty Shades of Red

My husband is a teacher and every year we are invited to a faculty party. To spice things up they have a white elephant book exchange. If you have been living a life that is not filled with office parties then you may not be familiar with white elephant exchange.  Basically, you have a number, you pick a gift, unwrap it, and if someone wants your gift they can take it. Then you can take another person's gift. This could go on for all eternity.  I once went to a White Elephant exchange where some people got into fisticuffs over a pampered chef chopper.

This is a little different because the people who attend this party are really well read,  predominately catholic,  and I believe most of them have their doctorates in something that

a. I cant pronounce.
b. Didn't know existed.

We attended the same party last year, and because my husband was a new hire, we chose to bring a safe book on budget planning.  However, I remembered that someone had brought the Joy of Sex and it was a hit.  You know, the 70's version with a lot of hair that your friends parents had hidden in their basement.

Don didn't seem to recall this, but I was adamant in my recollection... now I'm wondering if I made the entire thing up. 
So this year we decided to take along a popular trilogy. As a joke of course, but yes in fact I did read it, maybe in record time, but who needs to know that anyway.

As I watched every other gift get opened I came to the realization that this was some serious sophisticated literature. Stuff that Barnes and Noble doesn't even carry.  Books about the Pope, others about dead presidents. Fasting, books about growing a sustainable garden. History.  The rules are as follows, when someone opens your book, you share why you liked it and why you chose to give it.

I was sinking deeper and deeper into the overstuffed sofa.  We are surrounded by my husband's colleagues. Why did we think this was a good idea?  As I looked around, none of these people were going to think this was funny. Even if they hadn't heard of the NY Times best seller, I'm sure the handcuffs on the cover was going to give it away. 

I wanted to run to my car and find any crusty book hidden beneath the seats and make up something about the sentimental value of it, but we all know I would only be able to find a coupon book with Moe's and Chinese take out coupon's ripped out of it.  There was no hope.  It was inevitable.

Finally, our gift was chosen and unwrapped in front of everyone.  Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.  For a moment frozen in time nobody said anything.  I couldn't see anyone because at this point I was covering my face.  My husband said... this is for a very sophisticated reader and people chuckled out of kindness. My face was the color of a strawberry. But the poor guy doesn't even really know what is between those well worn pages.  If he did,  he may have very well taken me into the Red Room... Fifty Shades humor, I doubt anyone will get that. I roll my eyes...again, Fifty Shades humor... I will stop now.

If you did get that, you are one of the million of other women who read it, but don't want to admit they did.   It got passed around a few times and it ended up with my therapist.  I didn't mention he was there too? Yes. And maybe I will have to start seeing him again after this soiree.

The truth is, I'm not an intellectual. I have two letters after my name B.A. , not 6 (or more).  And eating that wasn't an easy feat.  I admire people who find enjoyment in reading.  I admire the time they can spend reading.   I average about 4 books a year and the only reason is because I belong to a book club.  Ironically,  I love to write. I can get lost in that and there are times when I'm shocked that people like to read it.

I love films. I love plays, I love operas, I love audio books, and strangely, I still love to be read to. But the thought of sitting down and reading an entire book in one sitting would require the use the handcuffs...  I just can't do it.

I left the place feeling slightly embarrassed.  I should know my audience.  As we drove home I vented to Don.  I wished I had read more as a kid instead of watching sitcoms, then maybe I wouldn't have the attention span which requires a commercial break every 10 minutes.  He said, you are who you are, don't apologize for it. 

I find that I do that a lot. He is right. In the presence of what I perceive as brilliance I tend to become a wallflower and observe.  Fearful of saying the wrong thing and looking stupid.   But as I get older I have found that brilliance isn't just the amount of knowledge in your head, but the brightness you bring to the room which can generate from all sorts of other sources.

I don't have to look far to feel the warmth of my friends.   The only thing that extinguishes my light is the shadow of doubt and I'm the only one that is casting it.  I can only hope that the warmth I feel is a reflection of the light I give, weather it is Fifty shades of Grey or Red.

With that said, next year Don is picking the book. 


  1. When your therapist is finished with it have him pass it on to NEG.

  2. Noelle, i can relate o so well. Next party, we'll hang together as non catholics with only 2 letters behind our names

  3. It is possible I read the whole trilogy in a week.