Monday, September 23, 2013

Let's Read Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter 3!

First, a (somewhat last-minute) ANNOUNCEMENT:

I will be speaking on "How To Have Sex On Purpose" at the University of Pittsburgh Rainbow Alliance this Thursday (Sept. 26)!  Members of the public are welcome; the event will be at 8:45 PM in the Kurtzman room on the main floor of the William Pitt union, on the corner of Fifth Ave and Bigelow Blvd (4200 Fifth Ave).  If I have any Pittsburgh readers... come say hi!



We continue with FSoG where we left off--with Splint ChestHair acting like an insufferably self-satisfied stalker, and Ana acting like she needs Giles to run in and yell "she's under some sort of thought control spell!"

This is probably the last chapter of the book that does not require a major trigger warning.  (It does feature stalking and general creepiness, but nowhere near as bad as it's about to get.)


Oh, and there's some kind of talk about Ana doing a photo shoot with Crunch ButtSteak, because obviously a student-paper profile requires an original portrait and not just something you could grab off his company website.
“I think that is one huge coincidence, Ana. You don’t think he was there to see you?” she speculates. My heart lurches at the prospect, but it’s a short-lived joy. The dull, disappointing reality is that he was here on business. “He was visiting the farming division of WSU. He’s funding some research,” I mutter.
WSU's agricultural programs are based out of Pullman, 350 miles from Vancouver.  This is a fairly minor research failure (although, geez, I bothered to look it up for a blog post and she didn't for the actual book she's asking actual money for), and frankly pales beside the everything failure of having Ana heartbroken that she might not have a stalker.
“Blast ThickNeck in Clayton’s. Go figure,” Paul snorts, amazed. He shakes his head as if to clear it. “Anyway, want to grab a drink or something this evening?” Whenever he’s home he asks me on a date, and I always say no. It’s a ritual.
I am no longer on Team Paul.

I'm starting to lean towards Team Why Don't You Just Focus On Your Studies For Right Now.
“Listen here, José Rodriquez, if you want our newspaper to cover the opening of your show, you’ll do this shoot for us tomorrow, capiche?” Kate can be awesomely tough.
"Oh yeah, absolutely, as soon as I call the student newspaper advisor and let her know you're trading coverage for favors.  Capisce?"
“Err – we’d like to go ahead with the photo-shoot for the article.” Breathe, Ana, breathe. My lungs drag in a hasty breath. “Tomorrow, if that’s okay. Where would be convenient for you, sir?” 
I can almost hear his sphinx-like smile through the phone. “I’m staying at the Heathman in Portland. Shall we say, nine thirty tomorrow morning?”
For such a busy and powerful businessman, Fist RockBone sure has a lot of free time available on short notice.
“Oh Kate, you know I blush all the time. It’s an occupational hazard with me. Don’t be so ridiculous,” I snap. She blinks at me with surprise – I very rarely throw my toys out of the pram – and I briefly relent.
Pram?  Seriously?  I mean, okay, it's not like I exactly had suspension of disbelief before, but... if you don't know where things are in Washington and you don't know how people talk in Washington, maybe writing a story set in Washington is not for you.
“José, I think we’ll shoot against that wall, do you agree?” She doesn’t wait for his reply. “Travis, clear the chairs. Ana, could you ask housekeeping to bring up some refreshments? And let SpeedChunk know where we are.” Yes, Mistress. She is so domineering. I roll my eyes, but do as I’m told.
Get it? Get it?  Oh my gosh it's like a secret little BDSM reference so clever do you get it?
Oh my… he really is, quite… wow. As I touch his hand, I’m aware of that delicious current running right through me, lighting me up, making me blush, and I’m sure my erratic breathing must be audible.
I'm only quoting about 5% of the times he does something incredibly minor and Ana flops and pants like a landed salmon, because even though they're all hilarious and unsettling, if I quoted them all we'd be here all day. Just assume that any time Rip SteakFace moves or breathes, Ana is having spasms, and we'll get through this faster.
“I wondered if you would join me for coffee this morning.” [...] “I have to drive everyone home,” I murmur apologetically, twisting my hands and fingers in front of me. [...] 
“Are they based at the university?” FistCrunch asks, his voice soft and inquiring. I nod, too stunned to speak. “Taylor can take them. He’s my driver. We have a large 4x4 here, so he’ll be able to take the equipment too.” [...] “There. Now can you join me for coffee?” BeefKnob smiles as if it’s a done deal.
This is not romantic. This is not sexy.  This is the sort of thing that... look, never mind what it is.  Just run. Run and for God's sake don't look back.

Real-life talk: "I have to drive everyone home" means no.  It really does.  People don't say that kind of thing because they'd love to date you but there's just this one thing in their way; they say it because it can be intimidating and embarrassing (or even dangerous) to say "no, I don't want to, because I don't like you that way, and I don't expect I ever will, goodbye."  If someone really would like to date you except for a temporary obligation, they can say "I have to drive everyone home, but what are you doing later?" or "I have to drive everyone home, but here's my number, call me."  Otherwise it means no.

Anyone who answers that with "I took care of your little objection, now you must date me" is someone you cannot trust to listen to "no", and that is not hot and domly, it is fucking scary.
She grabs me by my arm and drags me into the bedroom that’s off the living area of the suite. “Ana, there’s something about him.” Her tone is full of warning. “He’s gorgeous, I agree, but I think he’s dangerous. Especially to someone like you.” 
“What do you mean, someone like me?” I demand, affronted. 
“An innocent like you, Ana. You know what I mean,” she says a little irritated. I flush. “Kate, it’s just coffee."
I am now on Team Kate.

Well, except I'm afraid Kate means "dangerous to your heart," instead of "dangerous like you shouldn't be alone in a room with him."
We walk together down the wide hotel corridor to the elevators. What should I say to him? My mind is suddenly paralyzed with apprehension. What are we going to talk about? What on Earth do I have in common with him?
I don't know either, lady.  ...Come to think of it, I don't know what you have in common with anyone.  You seem to have forgotten to have interests, attributes, quirks, history, or talents.  All I actually know about you is that you're clumsy and naive, and, um... you have legs?  Well, hell, Lump BeefBroth has legs too! I'm sure you'll get along great.
“I find you intimidating.” I flush scarlet, but mentally pat myself on the back for my candor, and gaze at my hands again. I hear his sharp intake of breath. “You should find me intimidating,” he nods.
God, what a douche.
He pops a small piece of muffin into his mouth and starts to chew it slowly, not taking his eyes off me. And as if on cue, I blush.
INTENSELY EROTIC MUFFIN-EATING.  Sometimes I love this book.
“My mom lives in Georgia with her new husband Bob. My stepdad lives in Montesano.”
And then there's an absolutely interminable "getting to know you" conversation in which all they do is recite how many family members they have, where those family members live, and what they do for a living.  At no point is anything remarkable revealed, nor are any emotions or opinions expressed.  I think this is supposed to be them bonding and building intimacy, but seriously all they do is read off their family trees while Ana twitches and pants every time Gristle McThornBody takes a bite of his muffin.

We do learn one sort of humanizing thing, which is that Ana likes classic British literature.  Knowing this--knowing something about her--is like a sip of cool water in the desert.  In that you won't be getting very many of them.
I walk forward, and I trip, stumbling headlong onto the road. [...] It all happens so fast – one minute I’m falling, the next I’m in his arms, and he’s holding me tightly against his chest. I inhale his clean, vital scent. He smells of fresh laundered linen and some expensive body-wash. Oh my, it’s intoxicating. I inhale deeply. “Are you okay?” he whispers. He has one arm around me, clasping me to him, while the fingers of his other hand softly trace my face, gently probing, examining me. His thumb brushes my lower lip, and I hear his breath hitch. He’s staring into my eyes, and I hold his anxious, burning gaze for a moment or maybe it’s forever…
Books can impose emotion in the narrative, and movies through music and camera angles, but in real life?  You'd see her trip, him yank her up, then she starts sniffing him and he almost sticks his thumb in her mouth.

51 comments:

  1. oh I can't breathe from laughing....!!!!

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  2. This series saves me the shame of reading the book and making the same sarcastic comments, alone, outloud, to myself. Awesome stuff!

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  3. Ana's love of classic British literature will soon stale, because James uses it as an excuse to shoehorn (horribly misinterpreted) references to "Tess of the D'urbervilles" into the narrative at every turn. Apparently "look I passed high school English but somehow missed the fact that TESS WAS RAPED" is her idea of trying to look clever and deep.

    To be fair, Ana's total inability to realize that Grey is a rapey stalker monster probably means that she really doesn't think Tess was raped and therefore that TotD is a luvverly romance about twue wuv.

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    1. Does Ana ever consider murdering him? Or is E.L.James unaware of the whole tragic ending as well?

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    2. But since Woody McTooByFore is a vampire, he wouldn't actually die... ;)

      -Fishgoat

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  4. I LOVE these posts. It's absolutley hilarious!! Only shame is my roommate walked into the kitchen as I started reading, and she's not the kind of person to approve of random laughter (especially not when she just woke up...) so I had to really bite my tounge not to laugh. It hurts.

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  5. As someone who has never and will never read FSoG, these make my day. Please don't stop.

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  6. Cliff, can we get a video, audio recording or transcript of your talk on thursday? I'll be about 6700 km away from Pittsburgh and really would like to hear it. :-)

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  7. "INTENSELY EROTIC MUFFIN-EATING"

    Help...I can´t stop giggling.

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  8. Like the chapter-by-chapter review of twilight I read, this has saved me the trouble, frustration, shame (for having touched the fucking book itself) and money of getting this literary atrocity and throwing it at walls/out windows/into on-coming traffic. I love everything that you do, but this is like putting neon sprinkles atop a 9-tier wedding cake of my dreams. You're an amazing human being. Thank you for existing. <3 <3 <3

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    1. There's a chapter-by-chapter twilight review? Is it easily accesible? I'd like to see that, assuming it's snarky.

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    2. I don´t know if Tallah meant the same thing, but i loved this review: http://markreads.net/reviews/2010/11/complete-mark-reads-twilight-archive/
      And yes, it is snarky ;)

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    3. Also this thing of beauty: http://m15m.livejournal.com/19551.html

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  9. I'm a graduate student with Pitt's School of Social Work and I am so excited that you're coming to speak! I've been reading your blog for about two years and your words have been among the most helpful I've read as a survivor of abuse in the queer community-- I can't really put my immense feelings into words that you'll be speaking here. Thanks for your terrific work!

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  10. "INTENSELY EROTIC MUFFIN-EATING"

    Further evidence that this book takes place in the Left Behind-verse and Ana is in fact exactly the same person as Chloe Steele.

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  11. If you haven't stumbled upon Tab Kimpton's comics before, I strongly suggest you take a look before continuing with the 50 Shades reading, if only to refresh yourself and feel there is still some good in the world. I recommend starting with the Khaos comics when you have more time (Christmas, maybe?) for all of the queerness, but read Shades of A for an awesome re-writing (and drawing) of 50 Shades. Here's a link: http://www.discordcomics.com/shades-cover/

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    1. Thanks for introducing me to this!

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  12. http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2013/09/e-l-james-launches-50-shades-of-grey-wine/
    I just went red reading the descriptions of this product. So embarrassing! Arg!

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    1. And I thought the "everybody is a winemaker"-times were left behind in the 2000s. Disgusting.

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    2. Oh and: Can somebody tell me why I instantly think of Christian Bale and trashy red satin bedsheets whenever somebody mentions SoG? Red wine does NOT make that images any better... :-P

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  13. So far this book is nothing short of completely ridiculous, and I applause you for sticking through it for the sake of your blog!! I would've thrown it in the giveaway-pile back in chapter 1!

    But the REAL gems of these posts are your commentary. Laughing is not the right word for my response to reading your comments. Just totally wonderful!

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  14. “I want to punish you,” he whispers. “Really beat the shit out of you,” he adds.

    does anyone in kink say this?? ever?
    no, then it's just abuse, cool.

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    1. Actually, my baby would totally say this to me. However, the difference is that a) my response would be unmitigated squee, and b) if for some reason it was anything else, I know I could stop the proceedings at any point. Unlike Ana, who response with worry and fear and who has zero control of the situation.

      So yes, people in kink would indeed say this and it doesn't have to be abuse, but context matters.

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    2. Yeah, people in kink absolutely say that, but as with "I want to fuck you," the difference between promise and threat isn't in the words but in whether they're willing to take no for an answer (and everything not a clear yes as a no).

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    3. But the primary difference, Neurite (your name makes me very happy btw!) is that you WANT your baby to say that to you, whereas Ana is clueless and ignorant and seems to think that that is what love IS. She seems to think that that is how people in love talk to each other and that is how you keep a man's interest. And Muff Studmuffinsons seems more than happy to take advantage of that.

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    4. Oh, I don't disagree, Anonymous! I also think a big part of it is not just that I want to hear it, but that my sweetie knows me and my tastes, and would say this with the full knowledge that it's something I'm into. Whereas at the time Fridgehunk says it to Ana, they barely know each other, and he has no indication that she would like this. This is definitely a well-into-the-relationship sentence, not a just-getting-to-know-you sentence. (Same with Cliff's example of "I want to fuck you".)

      (Actually, if I recall correctly, it's even worse in the book, because he says this to her after she has in fact explicitly stated that she is not into BDSM. Ugh.)

      I just wanted to chime in to say that the sentence itself can indeed exist in happy consensual kink. I figured some people reading these comments may well have spoken/enjoyed hearing something much like it, and there was no need to lump them in with Dysfunctional Mr. Abusivepants.

      And I'm glad my name makes you happy! Hooray for neuronal outgrowths of indeterminate dendritic/axonal identity!

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  15. Maybe I'm just super weird, but I am really over-analysing and judging this sentence:

    "He pops a small piece of muffin into his mouth and starts to chew it slowly, not taking his eyes off me. And as if on cue, I blush."

    Because... Am I being weird here? Because if you pick apart a muffin then you end up only eating half of it, the other ending up as crumbs on your plate which is why I stopped doing that when I was 12. And for that matter, how do you really chew a piece of muffin? I mean obviously you don't just gulp it straight down, but the way it's described (slowly, Ana can clearly see him doing it) makes me think that there's some serious mastication going on there. Is it a really, really stale muffin? Am I really overthinking this just to get a few more kicks into 50 Shades while it's down, or is this "INTENSELY EROTIC MUFFIN-EATING" even more dumb than I thought before?

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    1. The bran muffins at my work cafeteria are pretty darn chewy (and consequently don't crumble much either). They're also godawful and the least sexy foodstuffs ever.

      It adds a whole new angle to the scene if he's eating a bran muffin:

      "These keep me... *wink* *smirk* *eyebrow waggle* ...regular. They keep things moving, if you know what I mean. I like to maintain a certain degree of power over my... movements."
      *Ana swoons*

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    2. Well, if they're that regular, that would explain why they're flushing all the time.

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    3. My wife has been telling me for a while that I need to be reading this blog. Now I understand why.

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  16. All I actually know about you is that you're clumsy and naive, and, um... you have legs? Well, hell, Lump BeefBroth has legs too! I'm sure you'll get along great.

    I am now imagining Christian Grey as Eddie Izzard. "'Ello, Sue! I've got legs! D'you like...bread? I've got a French loaf! Byeeee! I love you!"

    Somehow this makes everything so much better.

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    1. That may the most charitable thing I could imagine being said about this godawful character.

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  17. Probing her face...is he trying to mindmeld?

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  18. About the "I have to drive everyone home" bit. This is remarkably similar to the techniques that salespeople use. "I've dealt with all your objections so now you must buy the thing" is definitely in their repertoire. I've learned a few techniques for protecting myself from them. I'd like to pass on some tips.

    First, recognize that that feeling of confusion and having no way to say no is something THEY are doing to you ON PURPOSE. They are deliberately misusing the norms of courtesy in order to trap you. Then GET ANGRY. Your anger will protect you.

    Second, remember that you don't owe them anything. That they approached you doesn't mean you owe them a conversation. That they spent time and attention on you doesn't mean you owe them a sale. THEY chose to do that, probably against your will, and that you were courteous enough to listen to them for a while doesn't mean you have any obligation to continue.

    Third, remember that "I don't want to" is a sufficient reason not to. You don't need to justify it. You don't owe them an explanation. You don't even owe yourself an explanation. You don't have to figure out on the spot WHY you don't want to. It's enough that you don't.

    Fourth, the final defense is "I'll think about it". Get away from them and make your decision on your own when you're not being pressured. Sleeping on it is good. If they respond by pushing you to decide right away, SAY NO.

    I don't know if this will help in dating situations but I've found it generally useful in protecting myself from manipulation.

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    1. A clarification, with "get angry" I don' t mean letting it show (unless you want to). I mean using anger to override the feelings they're trying to invoke in you and to widen your sense of acceptable options.

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    2. That might actually work when it comes to creeps hitting on you. One insisted on buying me an iced capp, and when I finally got away from him I felt a bit guilty that I had accepted the drink but had no intention of seeing him again despite smiling and nodding when he said we should. Then I figured, you know what? That iced capp he insisted on buying me was payment for him wasting my free time before work.

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  19. The Effeminate FeministSeptember 27, 2013 at 8:10 PM

    "I can almost hear his sphinx-like smile through the phone."
    Ah, yes. Those infamously smiley sphinxes.

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  20. " Real-life talk: "I have to drive everyone home" means no. It really does. People don't say that kind of thing because they'd love to date you but there's just this one thing in their way; they say it because it can be intimidating and embarrassing (or even dangerous) to say "no, I don't want to, because I don't like you that way, and I don't expect I ever will, goodbye." If someone really would like to date you except for a temporary obligation, they can say "I have to drive everyone home, but what are you doing later?" or "I have to drive everyone home, but here's my number, call me." Otherwise it means no."

    I agree with most of the things you write but I have a lot of trouble here... You seem to implicate that this is a way everyone communicate and I feel really really erased because I don't work like that and I hate when I just say things and people interpret it as to mean another thing...

    If I said that it would really means that not no...
    I'm quite upset now.

    I agree that he is entirely being a creep here though.

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    1. "Anyone who answers that with "I took care of your little objection, now you must date me" is someone you cannot trust to listen to "no", and that is not hot and domly, it is fucking scary."

      I entirely agree with this part though

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    2. I don't necessarily think this is the way everyone communicates, but there is a large portion of the population that is socialized to never just say no. They are told that saying no is rude, and that they have to couch their no in reasons, and they have to be polite about their no.

      That's why you have stuff like post from Captain Awkward, "The Art Of No."

      Does that make sense?

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  21. As Usual I comment when it's too late and no one is paying attention anymore

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    1. I saw your comment, I just don't know quite how to respond, because I stand by what I said.

      In matters of sex and dating, it's best to assume that everything that isn't obviously a "yes" is a "no." (This is because some people have difficulty saying "no" flat out, and whether that's right or wrong of them, it's not justification to force things on them.) "I have to drop off my friends" is not obviously a "yes." So.

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    2. I agree with this I'm really sorry I'm very bad at words
      Of course any person taking it as a yes is an abusive assholes... and I was not talking about Chris Gray who obviously understood all the situation and is a scary abusive masnipulator in his reaction and in general
      It's the phrase thing that arrrrrrrgghhhh i hate how I suck at words
      I'll try to be more precise in another comment arrggghhhh

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    3. I think I get what you are saying – that you don't want people to assume that when you say one thing, you mean another, which is totally valid! So "I have to drive everyone home" means exactly that.
      Like Cliff said, it would be wrong though to assume that you meant "… and afterwards, we can meet up." So uhm, what am I saying? You have every right to expect people to take you at your word and in this instance, your word would be neither refusal nor agreement to meet up – so if people care about consent, they would go with "I don't have a yes, so I'll just assume it's a no." Not because you gave a hidden no – which you didn't – but because of the absence of a yes. (I don't know if I am adding anything here. I'm just going to finish this comment now. ^^)

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  22. This it lots of fun to read, but my favorite mockery is still "Gilbert Gottfried reads Fifty Shades of Grey" on Youtube.

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  23. I think it's in this chapter that the closest thing to a "Fuck Yeah, Ana Steele!" moment happens: the bit where she drunk dials him and goes "Why the fuck are you such a creepy stalker?" and then when he starts demanding where she is she just hangs up on him.

    In a just version of the book's fictitious universe, Ana would then order another round for her friends, they'd have a blast getting wasted and shit-talking Big McLargeHuge, nobody would get sexually assaulted, and Ana and Katherine would spend the next day nursing their hangovers with Netflix, The End.

    But I dream.

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    1. D'oh, this was supposed to go on chapter 4. Oh well, I stand by it, regardless.

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    2. That's beautiful. Sadly not to be by the looks of it, though.

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  24. So, I know I'm late to the party here, but I read that article linked in a comment on the review of chap. #2 suggesting that there's a pedophilic subtext going on, and I'm pretty sure that it's probably not as literal as that person made it sound, but, this -

    "She blinks at me with surprise – I very rarely throw my toys out of the pram – and I briefly relent."

    - makes me seriously wonder. I hear "pram" and I think stroller/baby carriage. I honestly can't think of another meaning for this sentence, but a baby in a stroller throwing their toys.

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    1. no, that's literally the only meaning it could have -- she is comparing herself to a fussy, tantrum-throwing baby (because she was overtly rude to her friend, rather than just THINKING rude things about kate inside the safety of her own head). it's exactly as weird and creepy as you think it is.

      (and lol i'm even later to the party oh well)

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