Rated R.  125 minutes.
Drama / Romance

English Literature major Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is studying for finals at Washington State University Vancouver, just weeks away from graduation. As a favor to her friend and roommate Kate (Eloise Mumford), suffering from the flu, Anastasia steps in to interview the man giving this year’s commencement address, 27-year old billionaire businessman Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan.)

In a matter of a few minutes the quiet girl with little dating experience and still a virgin is swept up in his charisma. He’s handsome, intelligent and intimidating. She’s intrigued. So is he. She’s shy, intelligent and not afraid to challenge him on his answers. He wants her for his “playroom.” She wants him as a boyfriend. And their strange relationship of seduction and dominance begins.

I managed to tolerate only 143 pages of the book. My 21-year old daughter called it “mommy porn.” That’s not why I stopped reading. I found the writing horrible. I envisioned some 8th grade girl learning about BDSM on the internet, writing this story with a pornography site open on her computer and a thesaurus in her hand. The story just wasn’t believable to me. How could a bright, confident albeit quiet college woman, so easily fall into the trap of this control freak? But look who’s laughing. Author E.L. James’ life will never be the same. I know more women who’ve read the book than who haven’t. Over 100-million copies of the book have been sold.

The film was more believable to me. It removed the chatter in Anastasia’s head the booked revealed and instead let the pictures and minimal dialogue tell the story. Smart move! It was a better experience than the book for me. It is expected to gross at least $60-million in the opening weekend alone.

Dakota Johnson was amazing and believable – much more than the Ana in the book. Jamie Dornan was, well, gorgeous, but didn’t show the range of emotion Dakota did which was likely part character choice – Christian is controlling. I appreciated Dakota’s ability to turn Ana’s line for humor which added to her character’s intelligence, confidence and innocence. That and the film’s musical soundtrack, which is perfect by the way, were the best parts of this film to me. It didn’t take long to turn into a mama bear, fearful for this 21 year old’s decisions and heartbroken for the young man’s tragic past.

I was relieved to see that the film “50 Shades of Grey” was really less about erotic sex (it’s rated R after all) and more about a tragic story of grief, child abuse, and lost love. Not to be misleading, there are more than enough boob and butt shots to last a while, and plenty of sex scenes. Yet in the end, I just felt sad for the pain so many people have suffered at the hands of another hurt human being. A difficult cycle to end. I felt proud of Anastasia for challenging and saving herself. Every one makes mistakes but no woman needs a white knight. She needs a strong sense of self and a safe, loving place to be.

Do I think you should see it? Not if watching sex on the big screen bothers you and not if you plan to sit for two hours and laugh. It doesn’t  deserve THAT treatment and nor do the other people in the theatre . Don’t judge. If you liked the book, you should like the movie. (Know that several scenes are missing.)  If you tolerated the book, you may find the movie better than you thought it would be.  If you hated the book, don’t bother with the movie. After all, you know how it ends.

Arruga! – 2!
Fidget Factor – 1
Age Range – 17 and up
Overall Grade – C

How to Bring Romance Back into Your Relationship

What is romance?     It’s anything from watching a sunset together to libido on steroids.

But I think we can all agree that having a genuine connection with our partner is what makes the sunset more beautiful and makes the sex not only hot but meaningful. If we aren’t connected as a couple, we don’t feel safe as a couple, and romance takes a back seat. Example: If my husband hasn’t kissed me all week, hasn’t asked me about my life nor I about his, I don’t feel connected. When I’m not connected any romantic gesture will likely just piss me off. I have to feel connected before I feel romantic. I think a lot of women are like me.

But that’s not what qualifies me to write an article about putting romance back in your relationship. I’m qualified to share my opinion because I’ve been happily married to Rick for 29 years. Has every day or even every year been wonderful? No! Not for me and absolutely not for him. But we’ve stayed in love with commitment, with laughter and with connectedness. For those who say real love doesn’t require work… they’re full of it. That’s why for the last 26 years we have set aside time at least once a month to talk about our relationship. We joined Better Marriages (bettermarriages.org) in 1989 to teach us communication skills we never learned growing up. Since then, we’ve nurtured our marriage as much as we’ve nurturedour kids and nurtured our careers. It means that much to us.

Our 29th wedding anniversary
Our 29th wedding anniversary

I WANT ME SOME ROMANCE!   Touch. Talk. Tomfoolery.

Touch. Every day, couples should give each other affection. Non-sexual affection. We just need to be touched and who better than our partner to give us that gift everyday. A hug. A kiss. Holding hands even if for a few seconds or minutes will keep us better connected with our partner. If you’re uncomfortable touching chances are you’re not connected.

Even if you don’t feel like touching or kissing or hugging, do it anyway! Often the act reminds us of the feelings. With enough practice it can rekindle good feelings and reconnect us again.

Talk. Every day couples need to take a few minutes to check-in with each other. Ask each other to rate their day on a scale from 1 to 10. Give your partner a number and explain why it was an 8 or why it was a 3. Then it’s the next guys turn. Celebrate their positive events that day. And when they’re not so positive simply listen and empathize.

So often spouses come home at the end of the day and one is in a terrible mood. Sometime spouses decide that the crankiness is aimed at them or about them. They’re likely not! We can all get out of sorts because of something that’s happened outside of our relationship. We have to have a safe place to share. It’s key to connecting. And please don’t be a fixer upper! Don’t try to fix their problem or fix their feelings. Be a sounding board so they can fix their own damn feelings, after all we’re all responsible for our own feelings. Be an active listener. Letting them know they were heard, that you’re here for them and ask how you can help. Guys, we women typically just want to vent. And ladies, guys may not go into all the juicy details, especially when we commandeer the conversation. If we can learn to keep our mouths shut and simply listen, the more safe he’ll feel to share more feelings.

When I’m feeling connected to Rick emotionally (that verbal connection) and physically (that touch connection) I feel safe. And when I feel safe, I’m ready to take the romance to the next level which is all about the fun!

Photo booth "goof off"
Photo booth “goof off”

Tomfoolery.   Rick and I are playful in everyday life. Humor is one of the key characteristics that drew us together in the first place. Providing each other with space to be funny or silly without making each other the butt of the joke, is a huge connector for us. And occasional surprises adds to the romance!

There are all the usual ways to surprise your partner with a little fun like placing a love note in their pocket they will find later in the day. Or greeting them at the door with nothing on but a smile (assuming children aren’t around!)

A pricey idea.
My husband will tell you that his favorite romantic date occurred on his birthday. I made dinner reservations at the Peppercorn Duck Club at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. At the end of that beautiful meal, after a couple of bites of dessert, I excused myself for the restroom. Unbeknownst to him, I had made an overnight reservation. I jumped on the elevator and called him from the room. All I said in a dramatic, sexy voice was, “pay the bill and meet me in room 1123.” That got his attention! I had pre-ordered wine and chocolate covered strawberries, and in my very large purse I had packet a sexy nighty, candles, bubble bath and toothbrushes (we like clean teeth.) I was running around like a crazy woman setting up the romantic elements before the birthday boy arrived! Laughing at myself when I opened the door with a silly sexy girl pose. He loved it.

A budget friendly idea.
You don’t have to pay for an expensive dinner or night in a hotel to be romantic. You can create fun right at home by playing romantic games. You’ll find many ideas online or you can purchase “An Enchanted Evening Game.” When the children are clearly asleep or staying at grandmas or when you check into a hotel for an overnight getaway this game is so romantic!

It’s an actual board and starts by giving us an excuse to say nice things to one another and ends with the two of us feeling closer to one another. At first you have questions like “In what way is your partner supportive of you?” Then progresses to the steamy ones like “What part of your body would you like to have massaged?”Or “Caress something of your partner’s that casts a shadow.”  Yowzah!  My husband and I have yet to finish the game!

You’ll find other game ideas on the internet like Dirty Scrabble, Strip Poker or other games that require clothing removal and laughter. Romance doesn’t have to be sappy and gushy unless that’s the way you two connect.

1986. Tall hair. Big glasses.
1986. Tall hair. Big glasses.

A totally free idea.
A fun exercise with your partner this Valentine’s Day – reminisce about how you fell in love to begin with. Remember the first time you saw each other, how you met, what sparked the romance and what made you want to commit to one another. Pull out old photos. Laugh at your hair style and awful outfit. Tell him how handsome he is, then and now. Remind her that it was her brains and personality that made you fall in love.

Romance was there in the beginning… right? When we are first dating we give each other a lot of attention. We want to know all about them. What are their beliefs? What was childhood like? What are their dreams? We woo each other by touching, talking and for some us tomfoolery.

Then we get married, pop out a couple of kids and our career is taking up more time then we imagined. We wake up one morning to realize we don’t feel so romantic about that person lying next to us and they don’t feel it either.

Don’t panic, just get back to the basics. Give her a kiss before she leaves in the morning. Give him one when he walks through the door at night. Touch her hand or hair when you’re watching TV. Smack him on the butt when his favorite team scores! Listen when she’s had a bad day. Don’t judge when he tells you about his meeting. And don’t try to fix the others problem. Just listen with compassion, appreciate all feelings, lend a hand and let romance return. It will if you let it.