"You've never read it!?" she says, aghast, as though I'm from Mars because I haven't read Fifty Shades of Grey.
"I know the premise," I say, "it just never caught my eye."
"Here, read this chapter," she says, thrusting the paperback into my hands.
As her husband walks by the table, he sees me holding it.
"Great book," he says with a sly grin. "I've never read it, but it always treats me right." He throws me a wicked smile and winks at his wife.
On my morning drives through L.A., billboards for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie have begun to appear. On them, the word "curious" is paired with a slightly provocative photo of the actors, placed on opposite sides of the board.
Since I'm in traffic for what seems like eons, I begin to think about the book and society's fascination with sex -- and specifically, other people's sex. Articles about rocking your sex life litter magazine covers while porn is a $10-$14 billion/year industry.
Yet something is missing.
Many people haven't found a way to get -- and keep -- what they want in their relationships.
We all possess a fascination with lust and love and the ways the two intertwine. Some of us indulge in the fascination. But for some it's a hidden, and often guilty, taboo. Yet it's within this bubble of pleasure and shame that sex finds itself a hot, little home.
I sit at my friend's table and read the earmarked pages. It's not my thing, but I can see the appeal. What strikes me though, is how this book has taken off. The actor who plays Christian Grey will not doubt be fantasied about by vast numbers of women around the globe.
As women read the book, (and I say women because let's face it, they are the predominant readership), there are two different paths we might follow.
Both paths address the lovely quote about the greenness of grass.
The first path tells of a grass that's always greener in the neighbor's yard, or in some magical place other than where we reside. Our attention is pulled toward the "other" and we obsess over things we find "there" that we perceive as lacking in our current life or relationship.
This is the path a majority of women will traverse. As much as we like to think of ourselves as positive individuals, reality shows us that the tendency of our brains is to gravitate towards the negative, towards lack, towards the one black dot on the otherwise white wall... until the black dot drives us insane.
In the context of our relationships, this means that without training and awareness, our brains conspire to trip us down the staircase of unhappiness.
I have a friend who's a handful of years older and wiser. She personally knows three women whose families have been destroyed by the choices they've made after reading the book.
This isn't about putting blame on a book or a person, but rather about using both to gain awareness into our lives. In my friend's case, she observed these women read about lust and sex. Inevitably they began to think on those things, lust and kinkiness shadowing their brains. It became almost easy to trip down the stairs, fall on another man, and forget they had a family or life with someone else. This new person made them tingle, and they hadn't felt that in a while.
Adventure is fun, and lust is powerful. It's naïve to underestimate them both.
If you've been dating or married for some time, you know that things aren't hot and bothered on a 24/7 basis. You can still have amazing sex and try anything you both consent to, but with time comes a different level of relationship.
Most people end up sharing a life of day-to-day mundane, with a sparkle of extravagance. Over time, as we consistently see our partner in these mundane tasks, the sexy sparkle often fades. If we're not careful to nourish the relationship, other people begin to look appealing. Other people suddenly show up to fill the holes.
What I love about my friend who handed over her copy of the book, was that she had taken the other path, the road less traveled.
She was immersing herself in the book, getting hot and bothered, and then going to her husband to sex it out. In case you missed the point: She was going to her husband!Not away from.
She was acting on a simple, logical fact by Robert Fulghum:
"The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. The grass is greener where you water it."
The full quote says:
The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. No, not at all. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be.
Simple, right? Water the grass that you want to grow.
At one point in my life, I found myself teetering a few steps down the staircase. Fortunately, the guardrail caught me before I landed on my face with my life sprawled out in disarray.
What I realized is that it's naive for any of us to think we aren't capable of tripping a few steps, or slipping, tumbling, and plunging all the way down.
There's a spider web thread that separates those at the top of the staircase from those at the bottom. We are not that different. We all want similar things -- love, adventure, validation, appreciation, and yes, even lust.
The dishonesty arises when we're in a relationship but find ourselves looking for or fascinated with something else. If we're in a relationship, it makes sense to place our energy and focus into that relationship rather than outside of it. If you're not happy with your current relationship (and it's not abusive or destructive), do everything you can to shape it into what your heart desires. Only then, walk away peacefully.
Ask yourself: "Have you done everything you could possibly do?"
It's a crappy feeling to look back and wonder.
But there's a profoundly awful and lingering sensation when you trip down the staircase and find yourself left with 50 shades of something you never wanted.