Friday, August 21, 2009

Mothers in Love with Twilight's Edward Cullen

Back by Popular Demand: I'm re-publishing this post from March. A new Twilight reader found it and posted a comment today. (See "BabyJenks," August 21. She mentions a Tracy Chapman album—"Telling Stories"—that reminds her of the Cullens. I need to check that out.) So in honor of BabyJenks, here's "Mothers in Love with Twilight's Edward Cullen," again. Maybe others out there can relate!
P.S. Only 3 months until New Moon opens in theaters on November 20th!
P.S.S. There's a fan page on Facebook now called, "Because of Edward Cullen, Human Boys Have Lost Their Charm." So true!


The original article follows:

One benefit of having been consumed by kids for years and being out-of-touch with pop culture is that when I finally got clued i
n to the Twilight series of bestselling vampire novels by Stephenie Meyer—as I did in December—I didn’t have to wait for the next book, or for the movie release, etc. All things Twilight were available and ready for this latecomer’s delight.

But now I’m feeling like a drug addict.

Before I explain my struggles with addiction, if you are a Twilight virgin, here’s a quick
introduction to all the fuss: The books are about the relationship between Edward Cullen, a 17-year-old vampire, and Bella Swan, the very human object of his affection and desperate desire. (The two are portrayed in the film by Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, above.) Edward, who stopped aging when he became a vampire in 1918, and his vampire family are “vegetarians.” (They crave human blood but only feed off the blood of animals.) He hasn’t had a girlfriend in his entire life and falls hard for Bella, an actual 17-year-old girl and classmate at the high school he attends. The four books—Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn—follow the travails of their forbidden, passionate, yet essentially chaste, love.

The books were written for teenagers, specifically teenage girls. But as I’ve learned from my friends and on the Internet, and experienced myself, mothers have fallen obsessively in love with Edward Cullen.

My friend Erin, who has had a long addiction to Edward,
essentially became my Twilight dealer. She lent me the books (I later bought them all) and took me to her second viewing of the film.

I’ve read the four books in the series—twice!

I read the online version of Midnight Sun, which is Meyer’s unfinished draft of the Twilight novel as told by Edward rather than Bella.


Note to Meyer: Please finish Midnight Sun and write all the books over in Edward’s voice. The stories are even better hearing them from him.

Note to interested readers: Go to Meyer’s website, www.stepheniemeyer.com, to download her official PDF of the draft.

After I read the books and all I could read about them, I picked-up Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, a classic Bella and Edward read and discuss. Although I kept Eclipse at my bedside for weeks, I didn’t open it again. I had kicked my Twilight habit and was sober for more than a month, until yesterday.

March 26: A half-dozen friends and I gathered to watch the Twilight DVD, which was released last weekend. I’ll be watching the film again tonight, as my 11-year-old son is now intrigued by the story, since I’ve answered with great enthusiasm and knowledge all of his questions about the good vs. bad vampires in the book. I’m sure the love story of the film will bore him silly.

Among the seven women present at yesterday’s DVD gathering, only Lia (I’m changing her name to protect the obsessed) and I had become consumed by the books. The others attended for the fun of getting together, and out of curiosity about the story and their own teenage daughters’ obsessions. (A couple of those girls wanted to attend our showing. We should have let them. It would have been an interesting intergenerational experience.)

When I had suggested to Lia that we recommend the series to our 15-member book group, she responded by saying, “I don’t think I want that responsibility. I don’t want to be the reason someone becomes so consumed by the stories that all she wants to do is read the books, and read about the books, and think about Edward Cullen.”

Well, that’s essentially what has happened. Three of the gathering’s five Twilight newbies announced they were now going to read the books. One emailed last night that she was looking at her husband and trying to imagine him as Edward Cullen.

Other friends have confessed to spending hours on the Internet, searching for more information about the stories and, in a couple of cases, looking into whatever happened to that long ago high school boyfriend. My ob/gyn and I got sidetracked into a conversation about the series during a recent appointment. I know moms who've left their husbands home with the kids so they could go to the movie alone. The books are easy reads (no great brain power needed) and great escapism. Even the most frazzled mother will be mentally whisked away from the physical and emotional chaos around her.

My husband looks at me in disbelief whenever my Edward crush surfaces.

“What’s wrong with you?” he asks. “It’s like you’re in love with a fictional character.”

My response: “He’s just such a good boyfriend.”

Although Edward Cullen could easily be described as an obsessive, controlling boyfriend, Bella doesn’t feels that way about him. And because she doesn’t, I don’t either.

Edward loves Bella enormously and protects her constantly. He’s smart, thoughtful, well-mannered, devoted. He cooks for her and takes her to restaurants, even though he doesn’t eat food. He cuddles her to sleep, even though, as a vampire, he never sleeps. Because vampires are super-strong, and their bodies are as hard and cold as marble, he touches Bella gently and tries not to chill her by touching his skin to hers. And despite Bella’s pleading that they go all the way, Edward won’t because he’s afraid he might hurt her. (And, it’s later revealed, he’s fearful of the soul-damning consequences of premarital sex.)

Edward might get some of his morality from his creator. Author Stephenie Meyer is a Mormon mother of three sons. But in reality, how accepted and successful would a book series for teenagers be if the main character was having wild sex with a vampire? The kids might like it but parents would howl.

In a way, Meyer has created the boyfriend we’d wish for our daughters and the cautious, responsible, gentlemanly son we’d be proud to call our own. Or, forgetting our age, she's created a character we wish could be our own love interest! (In the film, Edward is played by the strikingly beautiful British actor Robert Pattinson, 22, formerly Cedric Diggory in
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.)

The other connection the book likely makes for many of us older gals is that it takes us back to when we were 17, or whatever younger-than-now age we were when we had crushes, when the cute guy we watched from afar actually spoke to us (or didn’t), when we first fell for someone who felt the same about us.

I’m working on putting the books (and Edward?!) aside and getting back to my life, at least until the movie of New Moon opens on November 20.

Have you read the books? Seen the movie? Are you similarly smitten? Or, since we’re talking vampires here, have you been similarly bitten?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Is the 180-day school year enough?

Most U.S. Schools are in session for 180 days a year (with school lasting 6 hours, 5 days a week).

In most advanced European and Asian nations, school is in session from 200 to 220 days per year, often for 7 hours a day. (And in many developed nations other than the U.S., people speak more than one language.)

As I've posted about before, the 10-week summer break is based upon an agrarian lifestyle we don't live. As U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan notes in Time magazine, "Our children are no longer working in the fields, and Mom isn't waiting home at 2:30 with a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. That just doesn't happen in many American families anymore."

While having chunks of time off from school is important, having so much of it at once is challenging for employed parents (more child care logistics to manage, more money spent on camps and caregivers) and stay-at-home parents. (Have you ever had to keep bored-to-death school-age children occupied day after day for nearly three months without spending a ton of money or relinquishing control to the TV and computer?)

Also, the long gap is not good for children's brains. Educators estimate that "summer learning loss" causes low-income students, who can't afford academic camps and summer classes, to lose two months of math and reading achievement.

I wish our school year was a bit longer. And I wish regular foreign language instruction started in Kindergarten, or earlier.

Click here to read the Time magazine article "Summer School: What? No more vacations?" (7/29/09) The image used above is from that article.
 

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