Calendar Girl (October) Chapter 6: The Trauma Is Still Really Bad

Trigger Warning: Calendar Girl stumbles into yet another “this is a gritty, real-ass story, and nothing is more gritty and real than rape” trope-ass storyline. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

And if the use of the word “trope” seems weird, Anita Sarkeesian said it best back in 2014:

“sexuality or victimhood is [often] exploited as a way to infuse edgy, gritty, or racy flavoring into [fictional] worlds”

Calendar Girl October: Chapter 6

Wait, gritty? Calendar GirlYeah, so… remember how literally one week ago, I was like “it doesn’t matter that nothing in this story makes that much sense; it’s supposed to be a lighthearted, positive story”? Yeah, I don’t know why I wrote that. Get ready for the fucking duality of Calendar Girl.

The blood-curdling scream tore me from the sweetest dream. As this was the new norm, I hopped out of bed, hit the light switch, and watched as the man I loved tossed, turned, and cried out, lost to the demons lurking within the deepest places in his mind.

Ready for it?

The thick ridge of his cock tented his boxer briefs in a vulgar display of his virility.

Hey so today we’re gonna talk about how Calendar Girl doesn’t know what the fuck it wants to be.

This was probably really obvious last week when Ariel had to write about a whole chapter of Wes’s PTSD and in contrast I wrote a chapter about how whoopsiedoodles Mia stumbled into a absurdly great career move because of a wacky miscommunication and no one cares about how underqualified she is lololol. Calendar Girl wants to be both an uplifting feel-good story about personal triumph and a gritty story about the depravity of man, like its goal is a season of Parks and Rec with Game of Throne‘s rape scenes spliced in from time to time. And don’t forget it’s that but sexy, so add in a few scenes from a Parks and Rec porn parody too. What the fuck even is this story supposed to be?

And what’s worse is when a story is trying to be all these different things, it’s really obvious when a story isn’t good at any of them:

I checked my emotions at the door and pushed down my underwear.
Standing strong, I roared. “Wes!”
I stood naked, bare for him as his eyes opened in a flash. The pupils were almost entirely black, I couldn’t even discern a hint of green. He was an animal. Lost to his fears, he zeroed his eyes in on me.
“Mine!” he growled between clenched teeth and then lunged forward.

Mia is portrayed as an admirable, strong person who knows the healthy way to handle this situation. Is that the impression you’re getting from reading fucking any of this? And you know what doesn’t really sell gritty and serious? How PTSD apparently turns Wes into the sex Hulk.

“All this is yours for the taking. All you have to do is tell me why you love me,” I stated [trying to] make him remember why I was here. Bring him back to the present moment. […]
“I love fucking you!” […]
“But tell me what you love about me, and I’ll let you sink so deep inside I won’t be able to breathe.” […]
“You. Know. I. Do. Now. Give. Me. What. I. Need.”

There’s a super disgusting bit about how Mia’s glad that, even in his dissociative state, Wes would “never take me without permission”. We said on a bonus post on our Patreon a while ago that “Calendar Girl is a sex work fantasy in the same way that Fifty Shades was a BDSM fantasy. It’s like this dark fantasy at a super removed, save distance, but so removed that it’s unrecognizable.” Now it’s doing that with… PTSD-induced trauma-fucking?

“Loving you is as natural as breathing. I need you in order to live. You, Mia. You give me the breath of life.”
Tears filled my eyes as I rested my forehead against his. “Come inside, baby. Take what you need.” I gave the cue he’d been waiting for.

Fucking yikes, you guys.

The next morning, Mia wakes up in bed alone and changes into a skimpy white bikini to meet Wes on the beach, staring contemplatively out at the waves. All of these are important details. We got a lot of detail about that bikini that I’m sparing you all.

They make out. Wes talks about how good Mia is for him.

“No, sweetheart. Last night was eye opening. You took me out of hell like usual, but this time, I was in control in a different way. I wasn’t commanding your body to do my bidding or to allow me to lose myself in you. Instead, you brought me back from the nightmare and reminded me of what I had to live for. When you asked me why I loved you, the millions of reasons rushed through my mind, obliterating every evil thought and replacing them with something something beautiful. Something that was real, alive, and honest. My love for you.”

ok love is dope but please go to a real goddamn therapist both of you

Wes starts opening up about what happened to Gina, and it’s as horribly over-the-top as you already suspected. There’s gang rape, they made Wes watch it for some reason. Wes describes it as “like an evil line of destruction”, and yeah it feels a little weird criticizing a character describing their trauma with awkward figurative language, but can we agree that line about how a line was like a line shouldn’t have made it past a first draft?

Then they get super hungry for their housekeeper’s yummy yummy food. Seriously, this book is jarring as fuck. There is barely a page of space between this:

“Oh, God…Mia, they’d leave her hanging there for us to see. Blood dripping down her legs, pooling at her feet. Sometimes I wished they’d kill her, so she didn’t have to relive it time and again. They raped her every day.” […]
Tears that I didn’t know I’d been shedding poured down my cheeks.

And this:

“I’m certain Judi is whipping up something amazing right now.”
The thought of one of Judi’s special homemade breakfasts had me salivating.

“Uh, Matthew, that’s called a transition. What, are they gonna talk about trauma all day?” Sure, but if your story’s gonna get serious, give it some time to breathe.

The story’s “serious” side isn’t really new, of course, since this is a series that’s included her ex-boyfriend/mob boss beating her dad into a coma, kidnapping her best friend to blackmail her into fucking him, and another character’s thwarted attempt to sexually assault her (which only had narrative consequence for roughly another book when Mia just solved her PTSD). “Tonally jarring” is an insane understatement for this story.

“Mmm, Judi, you’re a goddess. These waffles are the bomb!”

Meanwhile, back in wacky wacky Mia’s career is really taking off land:

“Let me get this straight. You have to come up with the segment concept, write it, and tape it before next Friday?” Wes asked around a mouthful of homemade Belgian waffles.

WACKY WACKY

Mia explains she has an idea about a segment on stay-at-home mothers, the stigma around the phrase “stay-at-home mom”, etc. I’m honestly a little uncertain how to feel about the way she talks about it (and nobody probably needs a male feminist hot take on this one anyway), but it’s worth pointing out this is Calendar Girl after all, so the traditional gender roles and cis-heteronormativity are cranked up to 11.

“I was thinking about how all these moms pretty much give up everything for their kids, careers and hobbies, all to raise their children. That alone is beautiful. […] when I was with Max and Cyndi at their ranch, I watched how much Cyndi did. She cooked all the meals, did all the shopping, cleaned the entire house, took care of Isabel, all while pregnant.”

“Wait, Matthew, I thought you said ‘cis-heteronormativity’ specifically. What does…”

I rolled my eyes. “Really? Are you that much of a guy?”
Wes chuckled and pointed to his sculpted chest and raised an eyebrow. “Uh, yeah.”

“…alright never mind then.”

One salvageable moment from this garbage fire of a chapter is that Mia asks Wes if he’d help her out with writing and working on the segment, and he happily agrees. About time we see this couple… doing things together… sharing their lives and skills and interests…

I mean literally anything other than just more fucking.

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10 comments

  1. Rebecca Bauer Reply

    I think you guys might have need of one of my favorite phrases: dumpster fire of incompetence.

    It seems appropriate here, considering all the…..ew.

    5+
  2. Pip Reply

    This honestly reads like a 14 y/o trying to write ‘edgy’ fan fiction. It’s vile and tasteless. Hope Carlan gets slammed at ry possible turn for publishing this hideous abomination of a novel.

    3+
  3. Madeline Reply

    I don’t know what I’d do if my recently kidonapped boyfriend lunged for me and yelled “Mine!” But my instinct says I would run or call the police.

    This whole kidnapping/rape narrative is absolutely horrifying, especially in the way it’s handled. Who wants this in a romance novel?

    4+
  4. callmeIndigo Reply

    Yeah I mean…the thing about the stay-at-home mom thing is that this stuff she’s saying about the “stigma” presupposes that we live in a society where women are overwhelmingly pressured to work outside the home and not have children, when literally the opposite is true. Sure, sometimes people are nasty about an individual woman’s decision to be a stay-at-home mom, and they shouldn’t be, but that doesn’t mean that that decision isn’t the cultural norm. And the way Mia (Carlan) talks about it here has shades of that thing where a woman sacrificing everything for her family is considered infinitely superior to her doing what she wants with her life. Look at the things she describes Cyndi doing–domestic labor and pregnancy–and how it’s presented as a positive that she had to do all those things by herself while pregnant. It’s glorifying the patriarchal standard but wording it in a way that’s supposed to sound feminist.

    In case you did want a hot take on that.

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    • matthewjulius Post authorReply

      I truly did want this hot take! This absolutely resonates with my discomfort with the subplot. The way it holds up domestic space as a strictly feminine thing as an admirable thing felt so backwards to me. It absolutely perpetuates patriarchal standards. Especially when the chapter also celebrates Wes’s ignorance of all things domestic on account of his manly man chest. It struck me as faux-feminist as hell, but I wasn’t sure what to actually say. Your response here sounds right on the money.

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    • Andreas Reply

      Heavens, you are totally right … and it was there right from the start! January already had Mia telling people: “Want to solve your marriage problems? Have some babies!”

      It’s rotten onions: new layers of yuck all the time.

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  5. Lya Reply

    Wes’s possessiveness is scary. And why Mia and Wes believe that he using her in this way will somehow help him in his trauma?

    Also I’m sorry for Gina. She was punished for dating Wes

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    • Andreas Reply

      I really hope Carlan didn’t intend to write it that way, but for me it reads as if getting kidnapped and then seeing Gina getting raped lessened Wes manliness and now he has to brutalize and rape someone so he can reassure himself that he is no useless wimp.

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  6. wordswithhannah Reply

    Did the Generic Terrorists rape Wes, too? How on earth would his trauma translate to automatic anger fucking? “I was so scarred by seeing my former girlfriend’s brutal rape that I need to have sex with the first warm body I find” is a wild interpretation of coping.

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