Little by little the pieces and squares began to come to life and exchange impressions … Everything had acquired sense and at the same time everything was concealed … Only in the final instant was their secret spectacularly exposed. – Vladimir Nabokov (Chess)
I may very well be the one and only grown woman on the planet who has never read E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey. If you think that’s a heaping bit of hyperbole, well, it probably is, but I can at least say without the slightest exaggeration that I’m the only woman in my immediate family who hasn’t read it. Truth. And having made that point clear enough, now let it be known that my thoughts on Jeffery Self’s 50 Shades of Gay are not at all being influenced by any sort of comparison between the two books. Let it also be known that I can say with utmost confidence, never having read the other, that this version of the story is probably at least…100% more gay than the original. Just a guess. I don’t know much about the other, but I do know it’s a boy/girl story, so there.
What’s most definitely not a guess, though, is that I thought Jeffery Self’s version of events was pretty darn fun, and funny, and erotic, and if it maybe—just the teeniest bit—satirizes the one that started it all, I’m pretty much on board with that, even if it does give Christian Grey fans a wee case of the snits, and that’s okay. I’m very protective of the books I love too. But they do say impersonation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all, right? And, oh yes, where Alex and Taylor are concerned, turn-about is also really, really fair play.
50 Shades of Gay is narrated by loveable virgin and aspiring writer, Alex Kirby, a Michigan transplant to LaLa Land, who’s making ends meet as a cater waiter until he gets his big journalist break, which, as it happens, comes when his reporter roommate and all-around best friend Matty gets sick and asks Alex to fill in for him in an interview session with über-hunkalicious movie star, Taylor Grayson. Okay, maybe it’s not a big break, but it certainly is pivotal, even if it’s not quite pivotal in a journalistic sense, and even if the ultimate lesson nearly turns out to be that sometimes fantasy and reality are things best left unmet; otherwise one tends to influence the other until neither is quite capable of measuring up, which eventually leads to a lot of pain of the decidedly non-sexy variety for these two guys.
Taylor takes a rather instant and intense interest in Alex during that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it interview, and really, why wouldn’t he? In a town and in a business that’s a constant stream of mouth-spewing and spinning various forms of artifice into truth, Alex comes across as a refreshing breath of sincerity, albeit a not so slick sort of sincerity in that particular moment, but genuine nonetheless, and Taylor’s not about to let Alex get away until he’s had the chance to get a better feel for exactly who Alex is.
You can all probably guess right here and right now that Taylor Grayson is hiding a big fat secret from the world. Two big fat secrets: one that he’s gay, and the other that he’s into a bit of the kinkier side of sex. But you know what? That’s not even all there is to the enigmatic Mr. Grayson— He also has a deep-seated aversion to intimacy of any sort. And the most gnarly secret of all, the one that puts paid to any of Alex’s hope for a relationship, is the one that he discovers in quite possibly the most humiliating and painful way possible. Imagine all the conflict that combination breeds when Taylor sets his sights on perhaps the only man in Los Angeles who’s not looking to be anyone’s contractual obligation, even if that anyone is gorgeous and sexy and loaded, and has been the object of plenty of Alex’s masturbatory fantasies over the years.
And imagine Taylor’s surprise when Alex won’t sign on the dotted line and play the good little submissive the way he’s expected to. There’s nothing quite like having the tables turned, when the master gets schooled, and having options thrust upon you that force you into making a choice and shows you the difference between giving up a little control, or risking losing it entirely. It’s not an easy lesson to teach a man who’s in the business of controlling every aspect of his life in a business that has little to no regard for personal boundaries.
And then I cheered, because this is the part where Alex gets total props for taking Taylor on, beating the Dom at his own game of control, and finally making the man see that love should never have to be a win-lose proposition. Or even worse, what was very close to being a lose-lose proposition. Sometimes love, like chess, is a game of strategy and sacrifice, except in this game, Alex and Taylor both win.
In case it’s not all that obvious, I was so rooting for these guys. If you’ve read E.L. James’ books and any of this plot sounds at all familiar to you, then I can’t guess how you’ll react when/if you decide to read 50 Shades of Gay. Maybe that’ll depend upon how much you liked the “Grey” series. One thing I can say for sure is that I have a very distinct feeling that Alex and Taylor’s romance progressed quite a bit differently than the one in 50 Shades of Grey. Again, just a guess, but again, hello, boy/girl. 50 Shades of Gay ends up a case of complete role reversal for Taylor and Alex, then in a system of checks and balances, and I liked it in all its erotic potential.
After all, truth isn’t always stranger than fiction; sometimes truth just becomes the fiction.
And this fiction was truthfully a lot of fun for me.