photo by Paige Gabert
Click here to read our article for New York magazine this week on area moms who take a bite out of the big Twilight apple. You can also read our “director’s cut” of the piece, which includes more quotes and info, after the jump:
Original, full-length draft of “‘Twilight,’ Take Me Away!” for New York Magazine:
To the uninitiated, the idea of a middle-aged mom swooning over the Twilight saga is unthinkably cheesy — or, if you live in New York, perhaps just unthinkable. “The only people obsessed with Twilight are teens and fat suburban moms from the Midwest,” said an anonymous poster on UrbanBabyNewYork when we dared to pose the question. “In either case, this is not your target demographic.” The unkind observer might say that a Twilight mom is the worst combination of predatory cougar and deluded teen fan. (Twilight film star Kellan Lutz said recently, “The moms are like, ‘Oh, we need a picture for my daughter.’ And I’m like, where is she? And she’s like, ‘Oh, uh, she’s grounded this week.'”) But, then, the unkind observer probably hasn’t read the books.
Don’t let the Y.A. label fool you: Author Stephanie Meyer, a mother herself, has said she didn’t have a specific demographic in mind when she started writing. And it is an undisputed fact that a large percentage of the devoted Twilight fans in this country — yes, even in New York City — are moms. Smart, sophisticated, well-read moms. Search for “motherhood books” on Amazon and “Breaking Dawn” (the fourth and final book in the series) comes up as the number one seller. And the love story at the crux of it all is not a conventionally teenage one.
“Bella [Twilight’s female lead] is a responsible caretaker: she cooks, she cleans, she takes care of her family. Those are maternal traits that a lot of moms can relate to,” says Kirsten Starkweather, Media Director of TwilightMOMS.com, a fan site with more than 34,000 registered members. And while Edward, Bella’s blood-sucking soul-mate, has the moony eyes of a 17 year old, he’s actually 107. “His impeccable manners, his sense of morality, his way of speaking, they’re all old-fashioned,” says Starkweather. “More like a man in a 19th-century novel than a modern-day teenage boy.” Plus, by the end of it all, [spoiler alert] Bella and Edward become incredibly dedicated parents.
But preternaturally wise protagonists take you only so far — the real appeal of this story is that Bella and Edward’s relationship is pure, unadulterated puppy love — innocent and intense, overflowing with sexual tension and promise, and taken life-or-death seriously. Ask any mom-fan what she loves about the series, and she will invariably mention first love…her first love. “The books made me feel like a teenager again,” says Eve Waltermaurer, professor of Sociology at the State University of New York in New Paltz, director of the documentary FIRST about women’s sexuality, and mother of two. “It’s been a long time since I got to feel that complete adolescent abandonment over a guy. It’s nice to remember that we were once able to fall so head over heels.”
For some, this trip down memory line can be kind of a bummer. “It really brought home for me the fact that, as a happily married 37-year-old mom, my days of crazy intense romantic love and sexual tension were over,” says Alison*, a Manhattanite who spent a few shame-filled weeks completely preoccupied by the first book and movie. “I’d never again experience that amazing electrified feeling of first love — and I think I was mourning it.”
But most mothers consider their Twilight experience a wholly positive one — and Edward an unrealistic, albeit inspiring, ideal of romantic love. After all, what guy gets a full century to perfect his rap while still sporting the abs he had in high school? For these women, the nostalgia Twilight inspires can serve as anything from fantasy fodder to a how-to guide to romance. TwilightMOMS.com members talk about how the saga has strengthened their marriages, reminding them not to take their partners for granted. Gabrielle Vitorria, one Brooklyn member who co-founded the NY-NJ off-shoot Volturi Ventures for local Twilight-themed charity events, read the first book aloud to her husband, a chapter a night, and now he sends her sweet texts referencing the book, like “Be safe.” And more than a handful of moms told us Twilight actually improved their sex lives.
“The books reminded me of when I first met and touched my husband — and I looked at him as if he was brand new to me,” says Dana*, a dot-com executive in the West Village. “He wasn’t new, we’d been together eight years at the time — nine now. But the charge from Twilight made me more lustful. I craved sex and craved it with him. I think we had more sex in those couple of weeks when I was reading Twilight then in the entire few months before.”
For one mom in the Hudson Valley, the impact in the bedroom was longer lasting. “I’ve always been shy, self-conscious and felt plain and ordinary,” says Karin Baker, a mother of two kids under 10 who works at a music licensing company. “And after seeing the way Edward saw Bella and felt about her, regardless of how she felt about herself, it kinda gave me a little more confidence in myself and my relationship. I’ve become more passionate, vocal, and bolder in the bedroom.”
So is Twilight the new Harlequin? Hardly — there’s scant sex in the books, and when sheets do (finally!) get rumpled, the details are vague and the consequences severe. Perhaps this is part of the appeal — Twilight taps into a time when “passion” meant making out for hours — or just making eyes across the lunchroom. An era before drunken college hookups, before booty calls and abnormal pap smears, before folic acid and obligatory sex, before trying to squeeze in a quickie during naptime to avoid becoming a depressing sex-less marriage statistic. In other words, Twilight reinvents sex for women who might have placed it at the bottom of a to-do list that includes laundry, competitive playdates, and researching healthcare plans. “When I look at Rob [Pattinson, who plays Edward in the films], I feel like I am 8, 14, and 31 — my actual age — all at the same time,” says a recent expat of Brooklyn who keeps a photo of Pattinson on her fridge.
Of course, for every fridge-adorning, convention-attending, TwilightMOMS.com member, there are a dozen more closeted fans (hence the asterisks) — the ones who refuse to read the books in public on the subway, who patiently wait for the films to come out on DVD, who stash copies under their bed to secretly read for the the second, third or fourth time when it’s their husbands turn to take the baby. Because, despite the comparisons to Jane Austen we heard from a few mom-fans, the majority agree that this is not great writing (made crystal clear with the Harvard Lampoon’s just-out parody “Nightlight”). But it is great storytelling, which has always been the great escape. Which should offer solace to adolescent Twi fans who fear that their moms are trespassing on teen territory. Quite the opposite, in fact — the books and movies are merely mother’s little helper. Twilight, take me away!
Via the forums on TwilightMOMS.com, New York–area members have gotten together for brunch, dinner, screenings, private DVD-release parties, public promotional events and conventions. A few of them even founded Volturi Ventures, an offshoot LLC partnership that organizes NY-NJ Twilight-themed charity events. Their first is a sold-out advance screening of New Moon (the movie based on the fourth book in the series) on Thursday, November 19th, at the AMC Loews Village 7 near Union Square — complete with donated swag bags, Team Edward/Jacob cupcakes, even the first book’s hand cover model as special guest — to benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for pediatric cancer research. “It’s a fun community of women, a sisterhood really,” says co-founder Gabrielle Vitorria. “These women used to be my Twilight Mom friends, but now they’re just my friends.”