Saturday, November 29, 2014

I Used To Love Twilight

5:05 AM

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(When Gaby told me that the theme was Phases for this month, an anvil dropped inside my gut. I knew I had to write about this, come out of the Twihard closet, no holds barred.)

I’ve always had phases. I can plot out my entire life over periods of my intense obsessions with anything and anyone of interest. Whether it was the Great Naruto Summer of 2007 or even the strange Iliad season of 2011, I was always either neck-deep in my pit of ‘feels’ or slowly slipping into another newfound craze. Certainly my Twilight phase wasn’t my first or last phase, but of course, nothing was just quite like it, in the words of my dad in between chuckles.

“You were a such a Twihard,” my mom added.

And that just had to be massive understatement.

I used to love Twilight.

In a time and place I’d like burned (along with my 2009 Facebook statuses) and buried in a pretty little box six feet under the ground, my 12-year-old self is parading around the school corridors in her Cullenista shirt, proudly brandishing her plastic-covered, three-week-allowance-worth Twilight book, red apple glistening on the front, a weapon against the culturally uncool and a golden ticket to a ride on the bandwagon. Everything comes back to me in painful snippets—all the rides to and from school listening to the saga’s audiobook (my first online purchase), all my breaks spent rereading the entire series (16 times, yes, sixteen), all my money used on Team Edward merch (from a Cullen crest keychain to toy models of the Cullen cars), and countless other shameful acts, the worst being mass printed in official school paraphernalia (see below).

The only remaining evidence of my shame (and frankly, the worst one) sadly lives on in the pages of my grade school yearbook. Woe is me.

Basically, I was obsessed. Twilight was my religion. I poured over those books like they were scripture — I memorized entire passages; I named my (imaginary) kids after the characters; I prepared my Team Edward speech for the philistines on the other side (Team Jacob). Over a span of two years, this was my life. But I couldn’t understand why I liked it. I didn’t know why I loved it, but you couldn’t bother me to care.

Stephenie Meyer managed to write a female protagonist so empty and bland that my pre-pubescent self, along with millions of teenage girls, spent Friday nights slipping into Bella Swan’s shoes, crying over a fictional bloodsucker who had a whole load of sparkles and man pain. Looking back, it wasn’t because I identified with Bella (white, effortlessly attractive) — she was a million miles away from me. But who really read Twilight for Bella? Let’s be real, no one even read it for the vampires or the werewolves. It was the pallid, brooding Edward. The shirtless boy-next-door Jacob.

The idea that two superhuman men could fall madly in love with a complete Mary Sue baffled and fascinated me. I was in love with the idea of a doomed love, and Twilight happened to be in the way. But eventually, I also moved on to other phases (Austen and Brontë novels: guess what led to that), and I wouldn’t look back again.

I could try to justify my obsession, but I know that it couldn’t have been anything else. At one point in my life, I fell in love with a love story of a vampire, a human girl, and a werewolf. It all just sounds surreal and absurd to me now, but it happened, and even if I want to turn back time, I can’t. And I won’t anymore, because I’ve accepted it — I used to love Twilight, and I’m okay with it.

I’m okay with it because we all have our regrets and we can choose to live with them. I sure as hell regret liking Twilight, but if Kristen Stewart can still be cool and ironic about being Bella, then I sure as hell can suck it up and own my past. I was shameless, crazy, and obsessive — but that’s the thing about loving things! You shouldn’t be afraid to love what you love as long as you’re not hurting anyone. You have the right to be as shameless as you want when you like something, because who cares if it’s cool or uncool? Cultural trends come and go, but living in a culture that puts so much pressure on being hip or “cultured” (or mainly to not be “basic”) makes it incredibly difficult for anyone to freely and truly like anything. We’re afraid to be seen as uncool; we’re afraid to be seen as a bandwagoner, and frankly, we’re afraid to be anything n

Yet we always hear things like “just be yourself,” or “be authentic”—but what if you don’t know what ‘yourself’ really means? You may not know who you are yet (and truthfully, I don’t think we ever will), but you have the right to try to find out. It’s okay to like things. It's okay to shamelessly like things. It's okay to change your mind. But most importantly, it's okay to make mistakes. Because how else will you learn otherwise? I sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to distinguish good literature from bad if I hadn’t stumbled upon Twilight. 

As for my 12-year-old self, keep holding onto that Twilight book. Carry it like a trophy, go wax poetic about that lion and lamb quote, and keep dreaming about your Edward. Let me deal with the shame and the judgment. Because now I know better, and that’s all thanks to you—you, and your massive mistake. Thanks for that. (Silver lining: It makes for a good story!)

Article by Chili
Artwork by Gaby
Chili was into Twilight before. If she isn’t erasing any trace of her Twilight phase off the face of the earth, she’s trying to convince her mom to give her a cat. In the meantime, follow her on Twitter (@theroyalspice) as she crawls her way out of Econ, a drink in hand. Still, #noragrets.

Gaby is used to working quietly in the background. The Thing is her first big attempt at taking the lead. She isn't sure how it is going to go, considering that most of her time is spent trying to get her dog to listen to her. On most days, you would find her at her computer, excessively bookmarking links to DIY projects and articles about teenage wunderkind.


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