Jillian and I debated the Twilight series in the Perpetual Post. Don’t judge me. Read her side here.
I never intended to read the Twilight series, but a friend of mine sent a copy to me in the mail. Really. I’m not making that up to defend myself. She called and asked if I’d read them yet, and a week after I answered “No, why would I?” an Amazon.com box with the first book landed on my doorstep. As is the case with many addictive substances, the first one is free because once you’re hooked you’re willing to pay anything. ANYTHING. Lucky for me the next two books were already in paperback, but I actually forked over $24.95 for book 4, which at the time was only available in hardcover. I’m not proud to admit that I elbowed a tween in the face to grab the last copy at my local Borders.
Now, I don’t like to get off my high horse as far as books are concerned. It’s smug and comfortable up there, and I get to say things like, “This novel is devastatingly honest and luminously haunting”. Movies are a different story; I love trashy movies and I live for Lifetime movies of the week. But where books are concerned, aside from the occasional pulpy bestseller, I like reading good books. So finding myself becoming drawn into the rainy vampire world of Twilight left me feeling conflicted, namely because it invited my long-obscured twelve year old self out of the shadows to frolic. While reading all four books (in about a month), the war in my head sounded something like this:
28 Year Old Molly: “I’m extremely skeptical of this series. It’s a like Sweet Valley High meets Count Chocula cereal. The main character is a whiny brat and I don’t care if she lives, dies, or gets laid, which she probably won’t, because the author is a Mormon. Why am I reading this? It just reminds me of high school, and I don’t need to remember high schoo—“
12 Year Old Molly: “SQUEEEE!!! She’s the new girl in town and the hottest boy in school is in loooove with her because even though she seems like an average girl to everyone else he knows she’s SPECIAL and he can TELL.”
28 Y.O.M.: “Yeah, right, he thinks she’s special. He thinks she’s a pork tenderloin in converse sneakers. This girl moves to a new town and the only friend she can make is some creepy loner who becomes fixated by her and watches her sleep at night? Why are we teaching young girls that it is acceptable for them to date controlling men who isolate them from their friends and family? Obsession isn’t love! It’s a warning sign! And what does he even love about her? She’s a drip!”
12 Y.O.M.: “OMG! Bella is lonely and angsty and feels like she doesn’t belong—kind of like me! I bet that if Edward went to my school, he’d totally fall in love with me and watch me sleep because deep down he can tell that I’m not like other girls.”
28 Y.O.M.: “Their relationship is based on nothing! He’s weirdly dominating and discourages her from hanging out with her best friend! She gets injured in every other chapter due to hanging out with him and his family and then hides the bruises from her father! How is this ok?”
12 Y.O.M.: “He doesn’t want her hanging out with Jacob because he’s a werewolf and they’re natural enemies. But Jacob is also hot, even though he’s younger than her. Jacob is in love with her too and she kind of loves him even though he’s not Edward, kind of like how I love Jonathan Taylor Thomas but I also love Zachary Ty Bryant. And then she has to choose between two guys! Just like I do! Sort of! In my head! Are you on team Edward or team Jacob?”
28 Y.O.M.: “Team Jacob all the way. He has the best one-liners. Also he treats her like an actual person and not some fragile collector’s item. But I sort of think Edward is hotter in the movie, but Jacob is hotter in the book—you know what? We are not talking about this.”
12 Y.O.M.: “I wonder if that really quiet boy in my physics class secretly realizes how special I am and is in love with me. I wonder if he can smell me from across the room and it makes him weak and his life didn’t begin until he first saw me. I wonder if he’ll invite me to prom.”
28 Y.O.M.: “Remember how she ends up not going to college because she’d rather hang out with her sparkly vampire boyfriend and lie to her parents? Remember how she feels like her life is empty if she’s not with a boy?”
12 Y.O.M.: “Boys are yummy.”
So I guess you could say that I can see both sides here.
Looking back, I shouldn’t have been so surprised that I didn’t make the basketball team my freshman year in high school. It probably wasn’t my lack of talent that mattered so much as the fact that my high school was well known for being athletically competitive and always “winning” games; the coaches apparently only wanted people on the team who were “capable” of “physically exerting themselves.” I took the failure personally, however, and underwent the sort of transformation usually reserved for comic book characters who become super-villains after their dreams of social acceptance are thwarted. Cackling gleefully from my secret hideout in an abandoned locker room deep within the school’s core and across from the cafeteria, I aspired to be the anti-athlete. I couldn’t join them, I sure as hell couldn’t beat them, but I could laugh at them from the bleachers while eating icing from the can. Twice a year the Phys Ed Department rounded up all us team-sports deadbeats and made us take fitness “tests,” which involved seeing how many crunches we could do in a minute (or in the case of me and my cronies, how many we could avoid doing…because you don’t miss 100% of the crunches you don’t do). Together my friends and I pushed each other to depths of laziness and ineptitude that I wouldn’t have dreamed possible. We ran forty-minute miles. We fainted after two push-ups. We tripped and fell and then let ourselves go limp when anyone tried to offer us assistance. I truly believed that my Phys Ed teachers were personally insulted by my utter lack of coordination and endurance. I would imagine them thumping their chests in fury or punching the wall in impotent rage as they read over the wretched results of my fitness tests.
Around the time I decided that I had fully explored all the wonderful things inertia had to offer, a friend introduced me to the sadistic field of intramural teams. I was hooked, probably because intramural sports involve only a little more teamwork and a slightly greater group dynamic than you find during your average city riot. Intramural soccer in an all-girls high-school is beautiful in its brutality. Rules are irrelevant. Assigned teams are of little importance; grudge matches are the order of the day. Whether or not you and the girl who corrected your pronunciation of the word “bourgeoisie” in history class are on the same team, you’re going to confuse her shins with the soccer ball as often and as hard as possible.
Rather than regret my days of aggressive inactivity, I prefer to consider myself an activist in the field of passive resistance at an early age. I refused to let my shortcomings push me into doing something that might have resulted in personal injury, humiliation and, at the very least, sweating. I can’t condemn someone who decides to overcome athletic incompetence through determination and hard work. It’s their choice. But I can be proud that I stood my ground and refused to take part in a struggle in which there would have been no winners.
When I mention the fact that I went to a girls’ school for high school, I get a full range of responses, varying from an “Oh, really?” that means, “So that explains it” to an “Oh, really?” that means, “I pity you.” While I was still young and inexperienced, these responses bothered me. I would hide in my room, rock in my chair and cry to my cats. But my high school soon taught me to stand proud. Now when someone implies that there’s anything wrong with single-sex education, I shout “NO!” at the person loudly and forcefully, knee them in the groin, then crush his or her instep with my heel and run away. Nobody can tell me my four years at an all-girls’ school didn’t fully prepare me to deal with the real world.
It isn’t as though I spent four years looking around and wondering, “Where are the boys?” (Although I did that at the prom.) On the contrary, I liked the fact that I could sit at a table full of girlfriends at lunch every day and not be afraid to say what was on my mind for fear that I would be mocked, ignored, or asked on a date. I could walk the halls without fear of having my looks or figure judged; just my clothes and shoes.
It’s a magical experience when a teenage girl realizes that she, along with a pack of malicious, giggling friends, can make life a living hell for a young, nervous, twenty-three year old male graduate student who is trying to teach them history. Looking back, Mr. Capazzola, I feel your pain. Sitting in a small, dark, enclosed space with a class of fourteen-year-old girls who are watching a documentary film on the Vietnam War and hooting at the shirtless soldiers, is enough to bring out the fight-or-flight response in anyone. The things we did to our teachers may have been obnoxious and cruel, but they were always subtle, which made them worse. It is one thing to turn all the chairs in the classroom to face the wrong way, but it is quite another to say to a teacher in the middle of class, “What are those little patterns on your socks supposed to be?”
It wasn’t always fun and games, though. I would read Seventeen magazine articles that advised cozying up to “that hottie who sits next to you in English class,” and sigh mournfully. Worse still were the “Is He Right for you?” quizzes which I took dutifully despite my utter ineligibility, chewing my pencil thoughtfully and making up a composite boyfriend.
What I disliked the most about the entire experience were the opportunities to mingle with the opposite sex that were forced upon us by the administration once or twice a year. These happened on designated “Special Days”, in which half the population of our ‘brother’ school came to my school, and half the population of our school went to theirs for an afternoon of mixed classes, fun and unspeakable awkwardness. I can’t imagine what kind of incestuous values our school was promoting by calling the boys’ school across town our ‘brother’ school-since the relations between students at the two schools were often much more than familial.
I didn’t find it a difficult transition from high school to college. It only took me a few weeks to stop pointing and giggling. I’m truly grateful for those boy-free four years that allowed me to devote myself to my studies and to put my education first. And now that I’m in college, I can put all of that learning stuff behind me and focus on what really matters in life: catching a man.
In high school, my friend Karen, who now goes to Yale (which may or may not be relevant), once told me as we approached the subway station that they had raised the price of a token from $2 to $2.50 “I’ll buy your token,” she said, as I spluttered with the indignant outrage appropriate to an occasion when the price of standard transportation has been raised by fifty cents in a single day with no warning. I gave her the money, she bought my token, and as we stood waiting for the train, she gave me my fifty cents back in disgust. She said she couldn’t keep the money because it reminded her that she was friends with someone like me.
My prank-prone friends quickly learn that they have no need to concoct elaborate schemes in order to fool me into believing ridiculous lies. Why go to the trouble of enlisting others to help persuade me that you have an identical twin when you can fool me just as easily by pointing to a photo of yourself and saying, “And that’s Lisa”?
It seems my extreme gullibility dates back to not-so-early childhood, when I believed in the Tooth Fairy, possibly the least interesting and most blatantly phoned-in of all childhood myths. Even my parents’ obvious lack of enthusiasm in discussing the Tooth Fairy’s sordid and slightly creepy pursuits failed to dampen my spirits. Possibly, on a certain level, they were disappointed in me for believing their story, and I can’t blame them. I, however, gleefully counted the rest of my baby teeth, pondering the profits they would bring in one day and considering my mouth to be a sort of trust fund. I decided that a fairy who gave money for teeth would be a valuable ally to have on my side, and went about befriending her in the only way I could think of. My next lost tooth went under my pillow with a note that said: “Tooth Fairy, do you want to be my friend? Check one box for yes or no.” At the bottom were the two corresponding boxes. The chance that this note still exists curtails the possibility of my ever going into public office. To add insult to idiocy, the tooth fairy did not check either box. Perhaps this is a large part of why, even now, I suffer from a crippling fear of rejection.
I would like to think that being gullible is not something to be ashamed of. It suggests a kind of innocence that not everyone is proud to admit to. A willingness to take others at their word, to trust them when they tell you that ‘lite’ beer is called so because it has less alcohol, or that there’s a salad bar in the basement of the public library. I’m hoping it has raw spinach.