A few months ago, my husband went out of town suddenly on a Saturday night. Rather than cancel our babysitter (God forbid) I went to the movies alone. Twilight was the movie I chose, figuring my husband would not moan over missing a teenage chic flick.
To my surprise I was entranced. On the way home I bought all four of Stephenie Meyer’s blockbuster bestsellers (42 million copies sold worldwide). The series catalogues the adventures of an awkward brown-haired teenager named Bella, a modern day Juliet who falls for a vampire version of Romeo. This week, I finished reading all four – over 2,000 pages total – for the second time.
Now before you groan about another Twi-Mom who loves brain candy as reading material, I admit the writing falls short of stellar. But the storytelling works (even the second time around). To me, the enchantment of the Twilight books comes with their exploration of girls’ transformation into women. While managing to avoid the heavy handed “yuck” of maxi-pad commercials, the books explore the thrill and responsibility of girls’ seductive powers that accompany our bodies’ adolescent transmogrification. Caitlin Flanagan dissected this teen-girl angle brilliantly in “What Girls Want” in last December’s Atlantic Monthly. “The Twilight series is not based on a true story, of course,” Flanagan explains. “But within it is the true story, the original one… a boy who loves a girl so much that he refuses to defile her, and a girl who loves him so dearly that she is desperate for him to do just that.”
But in Book Four, Breaking Dawn, the series goes on to plumb the inherent magic of being able to bear, nurture, and protect children and other loved ones– the rewards and challenges of the almighty feminine. Serious stuff for moms. I wasn’t surprised to learn that Stephenie Meyer gave birth to three children during the evolution of the Twilight books.
Shortly after becoming a legal “woman” after her 18th birthday, the main character, Bella, unintentionally gets pregnant. The pregnancy is complicated and dangerous, and she risks death by bearing the child (pretty much how I felt facing my first childbirth). Then, in a dramatic delivery, she transforms from human to vampire at the precise moment of giving birth. Sound familiar? ‘Cause this is, metaphorically at least, exactly what happened to me: the moment my first baby was born I transformed into a creature as unfamiliar to me as a vampire. I suddenly had superpowers I’d never dreamed of.