This is an extra special edition of Dottie Smith’s Verbal Menagerie today.
To help alleviate the government shutdown, LKH has very thoughtfully provided her fans with a brand new short story to make themselves feel better. And make her feel more relevant. I am doing a very thoughtful sporking of this. As I was going in chronological order of the series, I have as of yet to read much of the latest Anita Blake. But this caused such a frothing rage in me that I had to stop the ongoing reviews and have a crack at this.
(If you wish to read the story first, the link is on her blog. Go on, I can wait.)
Have you ever had to do lunch with your lover’s fiancé?
I have no idea what is happening in the books currently, but this is what I have gathered: Richard is sleeping with Anita. He has a fiancée. They are all meeting because Richard has no intention of stopping sleeping with Anita, as he has no respect for the woman he purports to loves.
The story opens with a massive description of Dr. Ellen Radborne and how she utterly sucks in comparison to Anita. Guaranteed.
Dr. Ellen Radborne was about my height, 5′ 3″ with thick shoulder length brunette hair that I might have thought was black, but my hair was black, so I knew hers was really just dark brown. Her eyes were brown, like mine, though again mine were a little darker. She had a pale summer tan, to my nearly white skin, but then my skin never tanned, it just burned, and then went back to being pale. She was curvy, maybe not as curvy through the chest as me, but no man who liked breasts would complain that she lacked. She was in shape, though not as fit as I, but then I doubt she needed to hit the weights and cardio as hard for her job as I did for mine.
oh my god
I just got hit with a wall
a wall of sympathy for Ellen and how judgemental Anita is to strange women.
The four of them (Richard and Ellen, Anita and Micah) chat and talk casually. Ellen is a college lecturer and fits squarely into Richard’s type – short and dark haired. Fair enough, some people just have a type that they like to stick to. Of course, we’re not really learning about Ellen. For everything she does, Anita thinks a snitty little comment about how she is such a tough vampire hunter and has no time for hobbies and is so amazing and so much fitter and stronger than Ellen. Because of course a college lecturer is going to need to be athletic and know how to fight.
We sat across from each other smiling, but her eyes were a little uncertain, and I was trying very hard not to make my eyes look empty. Most women took eyes that were too neutral as unfriendly. Men understood that sometimes you didn’t want to smile, but you weren’t mad either, while women expect other women to be pleasant, and if you’re not they think you don’t like them. There are so many reasons that most of my friends are men.
All I got from that is ‘women suck and societal norms suck’. Obviously, women are such bitches to each other and expect other people to be nice to each other. If you’re mean to people, they might think you don’t like them – how stupid is that? It’s not logical that acting like a dick means that people think you are a dick.
Anita, I think there’s another reason most of your friends are men. I suspect it might because you are cruel and misogynist to other women.
LKH then gives us a long, long talk and describes Micah, Anita’s male companion. They share jeans, which I think is impossible. Men’s jeans have extra room for their junk, you see. Junk which cis women don’t have. It doesn’t matter how much Anita says that Micah has a slender waist. It just can’t work.
Oh, and he has amazing technicolour eyes. Of course he does.
Then Richard is described for the zillionth time, and Ellen is thoroughly shat upon.
I was wearing skinny black jeans tucked into some really nice boots, and a silk t-shirt that matched Micah’s except for color – mine was red, which matched my lipstick, and brought out the flame pattern in my boots. The boots were fun, and I figured I’d need some fun for the lunch. I’d been right, but Ellen had worn more ordinary blue jeans tucked into dressy brown cowboy boots, and a button up dress shirt in a blue that complimented the jeans more than her skin tone, or at least, that was my opinion, which I kept to myself.
Why is Anita suddenly wearing boots from Hot Topic? Is LKH bleeding even more into her character? And yeah, ugly old Ellen. UGH GOD ELLEN.
Anita then rhapsodises about Micah and Richard’s hair, and how Micah is looking super hawt today to convince Ellen that she doesn’t want to steal Richard. The easiest way to say ‘I am not interested in Richard’ would be to stop sleeping with Richard, but what do I know? I’m a boring whiner baby.
Ellen says she’s sorry for forcing the meeting, and it is mutually agreed that the situation is awkward. All she wanted was some reassurance, but she isn’t sure that she does feel reassured.
I knew with that small eye flick that I looked too good, had dressed too well, and she had done that girl thing where you compare yourself to the ex, and she didn’t feel like she was winning. This was so not my problem; I hadn’t asked for the lunch, I’d told her what I was wearing. It wasn’t like I’d shown up in a designer outfit after telling her I was wearing jeans. It wasn’t my fault that I dressed my jeans up more than she did.
Poor you Anita. Poor you indeed.
Ellen then explodes that Anita is ‘fabulously beautiful’ and makes her feel like an ‘ugly duckling’. Richard says that Ellen is beautiful (he would clearly never touch a munter) but Ellen sighs, as she’s just not Anita beautiful.
LKH, have you ever actually talked with women? No woman I know would explode like this at a lunch meeting. Sure, she may think this, but all the women I know behave like human beings and would consider it rude to say this in public. This is a talk in private, with partner or with friends.
Anita and Micah sigh at each other for they understand, while Micah keeps pawing at her thighs which is not appropriate in this sort of setting. Anita then says what Ellen should do to look good and how Anita looks so amazing now (ha!), even though Ellen says that Anita is just sooooo exotic.
Urgh. Urgh. No. Please, no. White as white bread painted white Anita, who never acknowledges her heritage, is not ‘exotic’.
Micah nods and gives off an air of a thorough understanding of the culture surrounding women’s issues, which pisses me off. I don’t mean that men can never understand women’s ‘culture’, if such a thing exists, but that the pressure of a patriarchal society makes women appreciate things in different ways than men.
And then this.
“Every woman knows how attractive she is, it’s ingrained into us as little girls.”
Whatever. What society were you born into, LKH? Because as much as my mother told me that I am beautiful, I have never felt attractive. Society and the media have told me that I am not attractive, and they are the most persuasive voice. I do not fulfil the narrowly rigid ideal. But I’m okay with that. I wouldn’t want to be what society wants.
This sounds like the viewpoint of someone who has never been on Earth.
“Not if one of the people raising you tells you you’re not as pretty as a little girl, and not of your father remarries someone that spends your childhood telling people, ‘No, she’s not mine, from his first marriage. Her mother was Mexican.'” I did my best imitation of my stepmother, Judith.
Your mother was Mexican! How is pointing out that you are half-Mexican a problem? It does nothing more than say ‘I did not cheat on my husband, and that this is my stepdaughter’s heritage’.
Plus, total evidence for my theory that Anita’s mother was totally abusive. It’s practically proof right there.
Ellen is horrified that – GASP! – people told Anita she was half-Mexican, and Anita goes on and on about how Judith is so hateful and that Anita is so white that she can’t tan.
Oh yeah, if you are white your skin is either like milk or you look like a lobster. There is no in-between.
I have no idea why Ellen isn’t saying ‘This has nothing to do with anything, and all we’re doing is listening to Anita stroke herself over and over and over again’. She apologises for making Anita tell the story, as if she ever minds talking about herself.
Anita and Micah kiss, and it leaves a mark. This is A Big Deal as it allows Anita to talk about Nathaniel and her harem. Ellen is not sure how to approach it all, and This Is Bad.
I’m not sure how being confused as how to refer to someone’s relationship is bad. Ellen is being polite. She doesn’t know how Anita and her men identify. She is not assuming knowledge that she does not have. She is trying not to offend anyone. But, no, she is vanilla, and This Is Bad.
Ellen does not understand polyamory so this is the perfect excuse for LKH to have a massive Author Tract on how amazing polyamory is and how being vanilla is icky and boring.
It is good and progressive to have a book series where the female main character is part of a culture and has a sexual identity that is not often shown in a positive light, or is not represented at all.
Polyamory is LKH’s sexual identity, and I think it is very important that authors separate their identities from their characters. I am not saying authors should never write characters with their perspective or identity, not at all, but the problem with LKH having herself as Anita so much is that it stifles the story and the characters. The short story is, essentially, about how awesome polyamory is and how all else is awful. This is not helping me, a hetronormative asexual, understand polyamory better. It portrays polyamoratic (?) people as being judgemental, cruel, and downright mean, something I do not believe is an attitude within the community at all. It’s LKH trying to show how amazing she is as a person, and it comes off as unpleasant smugness. I hope this makes sense, and I am certainly not judging anyone for their sexual identity.
Love in the way love calls to you best. Just don’t shit on everyone else in the process.
Micah, Anita, and Richard try to explain the various hierarchy of Anita’s men and then try to explain the difference between bottom and submissive and… Christ on a pogo stick, I’m not an expert, but none of it reads right to me. Either LKH does not know what she’s talking about, or she’s written it in the most fucked up way it’s impossible to get through the tangle and understand what the fuck she means. All I get from it is that Ellen is a shithead for not knowing what is going on.
And I don’t think talking about all this at a light lunch is good etiquette. I don’t know about you, but I am not comfortable talking about my sex life with people I have only just met.
I suddenly despaired of ever explaining this enough to her. It was like explaining color to the blind: they accept that there is such a thing as color, but they have no basis for understanding it as a reality. Either you enjoyed being tied up, or you didn’t, and if you didn’t you were just never going to understand it.
OH SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP
Not only is it insulting to use the metaphor of a blind man, fuck you and how fucking ‘special’ you are. It’s not an either or situation. I can understand sexual fetishes and kinks. I may not share them, but I am not so ignorant that I forget how other people work. I understand sexual attraction. I don’t feel it, but I am not stupid.
Micah starts talking about ‘rough sex’ (shocking) and Ellen winces. Anita is insulting about it an.d judges her for it. I would think that she is perhaps uncomfortable with talking about it in public, but no, Ellen is made into an immediate hag
I knew that Richard was capable of enjoying gentler lovemaking, but he was so well-endowed that there was an element of roughness in most of his sex. How could you enjoy sex with him if you didn’t like it a little rough?
Well, I guess you either get it or you don’t, Anita.
I stared into [Richard’s] handsome face with those high, perfect cheekbones, and male model face, and thought, he should have been able to have almost anyone he wanted, why Ellen?
How can anyone love a person who does not like sex in this one specific way you can have it?
I’m so glad polyamorous people are not judgemental at all. Not like those icky vanillas.
Ellen is actually willing to let Richard stay in the harem, which is pretty fucking good of her, and then Anita and Micah rub themselves all over each other.
“Richard explained that excessive touching in public is a sign of stress, or need for reassurance between lycanthropes.”
Okay, two things.
- Touching someone else for reassurance is not something that only lycanthropes do. Like, everyone else does that.
- ‘Excessive’ touching. Do they not realise rubbing against each other in a restaurant is, um, not really acceptable? Grope at home. Not in a place where food is eaten.
Richard is then incredibly patronising as this is not ‘excessive for Anita’, and I want to march into the story and tell Ellen that Richard is not worth the effort. He clearly has no respect for Ellen or how she might be feeling right now. He doesn’t say ‘can you not, it’s making Ellen uncomfortable’ or ‘can we not discuss my sex life in public, i don’t think it’s appropriate’. It’s all about stroking Anita.
Unfortunately, one thing I’d learned about being poly is that just because you’re not having sex with someone doesn’t mean they can’t screw it all up; everyone’s lover can affect the emotional side of things and Ellen had all the ear marks of being a pain in everyone’s emotional poly ass.
how dare Ellen, who is willing to bite the bullet and accept Richard’s lifestyle, feel uncomfortable.
How dare she expect people to be nice to her.
How dare she expect Richard to respect her.
Anita demands to know what was so wrong about how she groped Micah. Ellen says that it is a bit intimate for a light lunch date.
“I’m petting his thigh, Ellen, that’s all. My hand may be close to his groin, but I would never do that sitting in public and especially not in a situation where I’m trying to help convince you that this is all somehow normal and okay. That would be rude and stupid. I’m trying not to be the first, and I’m not the second if I can avoid it.”
Sniff this paragraph.
You know what it smells like?
A Scary Sue smackdown.
mmMMMMMmmmm smell that waft of self-indulgent bullshit.
Ellen apologises and tries to leave.
“No, Richard, she’s deliberately trying to make me feel stupid and rude, and just… I can’t do this.”
“For the love of God, Ellen, if you don’t tell us what upset you we can’t fix it,” I said.
You mean how she didn’t like your PDA and that you’re trying to make her feel stupid and rude? Like how she just said what is upsetting her?
Ellen says that she simply doesn’t feel comfortable with this, which is fair enough. If she can’t accept that Richard is poly, then they are not going to work as a couple. It’s an issue that they should discuss like adults, and without Anita there, but part of being a couple is being accepting and understanding of what the other person needs for their emotional health.
Ellen thinks that Richard just wants to continue to sleep with Anita, which he does, and then Micah adds nothing to the discussion by going about how rough Anita and Richard enjoy their sechsy times. Even though it does not fit into the conversation and is only about satisfying Anita’s snowflake status: she does bondage harder and rougher than any of you!
Then Anita talks about rape fantasies and I want to strangle her. She complains about how ‘anti-feminist’ it is, which is so so so gut punching from a character and an author who hates women as badly as these two.
Anita and Ellen have an argument about whether BDSM is abuse and it adds nothing but further shit upon Ellen’s hair. But we get this gem:
“This is my sexuality; it’s what makes me happy. You saying it’s abuse is insulting; it would be like me saying that your idea of sex is boring.”
Which you have done, by branding Ellen as A AWFUL MEANIE VANILLA. Anita then decides Ellen’s sex life is her business.
“It’s none of your business.”
That was it for me. “You sit there and demand that we tell you intimate things about our sex life, our relationships, but you share nothing. You get all embarrassed, why can’t we be embarrassed, too?”
Um, no, Anita. She didn’t demand intimate things about your sex life. She just wanted to know how it would all work so that she could understand, for Richard’s sake. And when where you embarrassed? You started telling intimate details without anyone asking or wanting those details. You wanted to shout aloud about your wonderful kinky life five minutes ago.
“I guess I assumed that if you were this open it didn’t bother you to talk about it.”
“It doesn’t bother me to talk to my sweeties, but to someone who I’ve just met and who is judging every word I say, yeah, it bothers me.”
Who is judging who in this scenario, Anita?
and eugh the word ‘sweetie’ is like nails on a chalkboard in this context for me
sweetie is the pet name my grandmother has for me and it’s creepy to talk about it being sexy
Micah and Richard rush to assure Anita and pet her and cast out Ellen for being a wicked meanie. Ellen, on her battle to being BEST WOMAN EVER, says how can she not feel threatened in this scenario… so Richard says that he can’t want anyone who is uncomfortable with Anita.
“It’s just sex, not his whole life,” she said.
This is not a good thing to say. Obviously, sex should be your whole life.
On a more serious note, it’s fair for Richard to say they can’t be together if they are not sexually compatible. You have to be with someone who makes you happy.
Ellen calls Richard a ‘selfish bastard’ and is understandably upset with being dumped for ‘perverted sex’. Calling it perverted is a bit much, but she is upset and quite angry.
then ellen finds out that Richard has sex with JC and he was lying about this to her and richard announces it in the most offensive and cruel way he possibly could and Ellen slaps him.
Richard hadn’t done anything to protect himself, he’d just let her hit him. If a man had done the same thing to a woman someone would have been calling the police.
This is tricky.
I do not approve of any violence between couples. Violence from a man or a woman is equally unacceptable. But LKH gives it a taint, just a faint taint, of ‘men should be allowed to hit women in the same way’ and just… sorry, no. I can’t accept even the faintest hint of approving domestic violence. There’s too much baggage in my family luggage for me to accept even tacit approval of violence.
Richard proclaims his love (yeah, whatever) and Ellen screams that she hates him and Anita. She runs out, but she keeps looking back, expecting him to run after her.
This relationship was not going to work, but did Richard have to be such a knob?
This is not a good story. This is not a good present. LKH took a dump on your doorstep then ran away.
ETA: In my original review, I made some comments about Micah. Without knowing it, I made some cissexist comments. Ignorance is the sister of prejudice. I am deeply sorry for the things I said and I honestly did not intend to cause any offence. I am not full of hatred, I just use terrible phraseology.