I haven’t seen Twilight nor have I read any of the books. After reading Caitlin Flanagan‘s December 2008 Atlantic article “What Girls Want” describing this series of vampire novels as a reflection of young adolescent girls’ longings and desires, I am suddenly reminded of what it was like to be a young girl. Flanagan writes:
The salient fact of an adolescent girl’s existence is her need for a secret emotional life—one that she slips into during her sulks and silences, during her endless hours alone in her room, or even just when she’s gazing out the classroom window while all of Modern European History, or the niceties of the passé composé, sluice past her. This means that she is a creature designed for reading in a way no boy or man, or even grown woman, could ever be so exactly designed, because she is a creature whose most elemental psychological needs—to be undisturbed while she works out the big questions of her life, to be hidden from view while still in plain sight, to enter profoundly into the emotional lives of others—are met precisely by the act of reading.
And I suppose that time in my life is when I fell in love with books and reading. Flanagan writes later:
One of the signal differences between adolescent girls and boys is that while a boy quickly puts away childish things in his race to initiate a sexual life for himself, a girl will continue to cherish, almost to fetishize, the tokens of her little-girlhood. She wants to be both places at once—in the safety of girl land, with the pandas and jump ropes, and in the arms of a lover, whose sole desire is to take her completely. And most of all, as girls work all of this out with considerable anguish, they want to be in their rooms, with the doors closed and the declarations posted. The biggest problem for parents of teenage girls is that they never know who is going to come barreling out of that sacred space: the adorable little girl who wants to cuddle, or the hard-eyed young woman who has left it all behind.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I am very seriously considering reading The Twilight Saga books. Flanagan describes the series as a true story of teenage love:
The Twilight series is not based on a true story, of course, but within it is the true story, the original one. Twilight centers on a boy who loves a girl so much that he refuses to defile her, and on a girl who loves him so dearly that she is desperate for him to do just that, even if the wages of the act are expulsion from her family and from everything she has ever known. We haven’t seen that tale in a girls’ book in a very long time. And it’s selling through the roof.
This isn’t to say that I miss being a teenager. I’d hardly call it the best time of my life. But it was a wonderful time when all things were possible, responsibilities were few, and we were too naive to believe the cold hard truth of the world.
And Flanagan’s January/February 2006 article “Are You There God? It’s Me, Monica” (linked from the article about Twilight) about the rumored oral sex craze in teenagers today is shocking. I was so innocent in my teen years. So were most of my friends. My how times have changed.