Horror descent into a shady nightmare world

Under the Sky Tower

KATHRYN CALVERT
Last updated 08:09 16/01/2013
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Kathryn Calvert's husband is hooked on the erotic novels Fifty Shades of Grey

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Good morning everyone. My name is Kathryn, and I have a terrible secret. Yes, that's right, I'm an alcoholic . . . or at least I would be if I actually drank the stuff.

Wine or whisky, you must understand, would be a welcoming anaesthetic from the dark secret I bear.

It might dampen the guilt, the humiliation, the gut-wrenching abject horror that has plagued me and my family for the past four or so months.

It could release me temporarily from a shocking reality that has no apparent end, from a horror story that my children have been particularly affected by.

They cower in public, have stopped inviting their friends around, shy from making any concrete plans for the future and wait with dread for what is just around the corner.

I try desperately to tell them there is a future that's brighter. Just hold on, I tell them 100 times a day, there is hope, a place where light will shine through, where the sun will bathe them in redeeming warmth and hope, where things will return to normal, whatever that will be in the aftermath of their current hell.

I have to believe that myself, otherwise what life is there to look forward to? One where we'll always be looking over our shoulders, where the nightmare could return at any moment?

I can't tell them now that things will never be the same again. It would be too cruel. And admitting that it is somewhat my fault is so difficult that it makes me sick thinking about it.

Yes, my name is Kathryn and I have a problem, or at least my husband does.

Since September 29 at about 8.55pm, he has been reading the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and our lives have been shaken to the core.

While I take some of the fall, frankly, it's my sister who is most at fault.

"I'm going to buy the three books so we can see what all the fuss is about," she gaily revealed during a phone call last year.

"Mum will read them second and then I'll send them to you."

What carefree words they appeared to be then.

I don't think she fully understands the addiction she inadvertently stirred up, the hell my children have endured from that moment on, merely by three books about naughty, kinky behaviour that took the world (or at least the female half) by storm.

The irony is that when I eventually received the books from New Plymouth in the mail, all dog-eared and covers worn, I tried and failed to read even the first 50 pages of the first one. It went against all reasoning that a young virginal woman would sign a contract with a handsome, wealthy weirdo to do dastardly things, and I threw the trilogy down in disgust and didn't think about it again.

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That is, until I found book one loitering nonchalantly in the lavatory.

"Who's been reading this in the toilet?" I demanded of my immediate family, worrying that it had got into the hands of the one once known as Little Weenie.

Hubby shrugged.

"I just wanted to see what all the fuss was about," he said simply, eyes glued to late-season games of rugby on Sky Sport.

It seemed plausible at the start. I accepted his words and carried on with my life as usual.

I should have seen the early signs.

One day, out of the blue, he used the word "panties" instead of undies. I heard him discussing with a friend the prevalence of handcuffs in typical Kiwi bedrooms. He started mentioning contracts around the house and, when he found out that the third book had been lent to someone who had then lost it, he was quite distraught.

At times he was nowhere to be seen, found curled up in a foetal position on the swing chair or in a sunny spot in the lounge deeply immersed in the lives of Christian and Anna.

It wasn't unusual for him to spend several hours on the couch reading, regular exercise patterns, everyday diets and household chores all but forgotten in this terrible addiction.

He didn't shower, he let his hair grow into an awfully similar style to Krusty the Clown and he lost all interest in New Zealand cricket which, as you would know, is unprecedented.

Then the children started noticing. "If Dad asks me from the bog to get his Fifty Shades of Grey book one more time, I'm going to set fire to it," she who was once known as Little Weenie threatened with exasperation.

"Please make Dad stop leaving those books hanging around," Quiet Middle Child pleaded.

"I don't want any of my friends seeing them. It's just so embarrassing."

I thought Christmas might be the answer we were looking for. For as long as I've known him (and that's since 1984), my husband has been a big Bryce Courtenay fan, so I bought his latest and last, handing it hopefully to him on the big day, praying it might mark the end of the obsession.

"Thanks," he said, looking uninterestedly at the cover.

"I'll start this the moment I finish the last Fifty Shades.

"That should be . . . aww . . . about late February."

The day I heard him explaining to a friend that the second and third books had a real plot, and his choice for actors to play the two main characters in an upcoming film adaption were Scarlett Johansson and the Australian bloke who is marrying Hannah Montana, I knew we'd never be the same again.

In that moment, I don't mind admitting I cursed the fact that I didn't drink alcohol - anything to blot out the reality of what was ahead.

I even briefly considered staging a burglary where the only things stolen were the Xbox, the daughter's cellphone and all three of the Fifty Shades books - all the things that my life would be better without.

Earlier this week, as we paused at Otorohanga on our way back from New Plymouth, Hubby caught sight of the last book in the back window of the car.

"I'm in the epilogue now," he announced. "Only a few pages to go."

We all breathed a sigh of relief, until he continued. "If Oprah is right, and there's another trilogy on the way, I'm going to be the first down at Whitcoulls."

People, my name is Kathryn , and I have a problem husband. In my struggles, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Thank you.

- Taranaki Daily News

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