50 Shades of Grey



There. I got your attention.

You were expecting an expose exploring the lurid, titillating details of the sexual escapades of Christian and Anastasia. Sorry. I misled you.

My 50 shades are shades of “gray.” No salacious sexual exploits, but rather the myriad of blurry shades of life. The way I’ve always seen it, this world offers very little in the way of black or white. I sometimes wish I could see the world in those stark, well-defined lines of demarcation. You know, like you’re either a racist, pro-gun, fundamentalist, deplorable Republican, or you’re an elitist, commie, snowflake Democrat. Seems to me that would make life pretty easy.  No thought required. No painful mind-bending internal strife about the possible merits of a middle ground.

But alas, my lot in life has always been to trudge through the dingy, murky, misty shades of gray. Not just in politics, but in pretty much everything. Male/female/transgender. Black/White/Latino/Asian. Southerner/Northerner. West Coast/East Coast. Rural/Urban.  Shit, it really hurts my brain to not find an absolute. I’ve always been a semi-tortured soul who can’t seem to settle on the black and whites, the rights and wrongs, the good and bad.

But it’s not like I didn’t try.

As a pig-tailed little girl, sitting in a hard wooden pew in the back of the Southern Baptist Church, cowering as Brother Cobb slammed his fist onto the pulpit and watching curiously as his VO5’d hair flew in his face, I tried to take in his diatribe about homosexuals and their “abomination” in the eyes of the Lord. I tried to follow his “righteous” condemnation of those sinners who imbibed in demon alcohol, fell to the depravity of dancing and God-forbid, indulged in the Devil’s card games. But that was on Sundays.

On Saturday nights, I floated through my parents’ parties, admiring couples swaying to Billy Vaughn records, while others clinked their high balls and whiskey sours in celebration as a pair triumphantly reveled in their poker winnings.  And it just didn’t look sinful. It looked fun. It looked alive. It looked happy. After all, my parents and their friends were pretty cool, in a Mad-Men sort of way. They weren’t black and white, cut and dried. Some were Republicans who marched for civil rights, while others were Sunday School teachers who frequented Saturday night VFW pool halls.

Oh, the angst of doubting the absoluteness  of life, of people, of politics, of everything.



And though it’s taken me 50 years, 50 shades of gray struggles, 50 self-help books and therapists, 50 ways of wrestling with the disconcerting feeling that I don’t belong on either side of black or white, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that God himself/herself is not black and white either. The beautiful and diverse collection of nature and humanity confirms this for me. It’s right there, in an unending myriad of shades. And I think they are all beautiful.