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The Tween 'Twilight' Obsession

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: Two days. That's when "New Moon," the second movie in the "Twilight" series, comes out. I know this fact because I have heard my 11-year-old daughter say it today over and over again. I think she has given me a "New Moon" update today the same number of times as the average number of pages in a "Twilight" book. That's 611, for you novices.

tween obsessed with the twilight boys
When the "Twilight" craze first descended on my home, I was delighted that such literary tomes sat at the bedside of my fifth grader. There are 2,446 pages in the four-book series, and she devoured the first book in three days. Then we rented the movie and watched it together.

Having been warned by a few moms in the village, I was prepared to find many "teaching moments" in the screening. But I was pleasantly surprised. It was entertaining for both of us. It was a sweet love story clothed in the cinematic form of a fantasy thriller. The plot is simple: teen girl moves from Phoenix, Arizona, to Forks, Washington, and meets a family of vampires who live undetected in the community. The hunky, oldest boy vampire eventually falls in love with the girl. The problem is this: although they are driven by teenaged hormones, if they dare consummate their love, she will die ... or at least become a vampire with his bite. So the bulk of the movie is two love-struck teens, fighting their urges and showing enormous restraint. Cool, I thought. I can use that.

I made a point to compare Bella and Edward's dilemma with the real-life dangers of teenaged sex. My daughter listened attentively. I know that she was listening because she took one earpiece out of her iPod. She even glanced up from her laptop once. I told her that sex can be physically dangerous and someone can get hurt. I explained what a metaphor was, and then I used the "Twilight" metaphor. Edward loves her so much that he wants to protect her. He doesn't want to suck the life out of her just because he's so horny, uh, I mean hungry for her. Get it, kid?

Then onto books two and three. The action goes on. Plenty of evil, unrelated vampires also like the smell of Bella's blood, and she and Edward go on the lam and fight off villains. Her best friend, Jacob, becomes a sexy werewolf who also kills vampires. And, there's even a chilling female vampire named Victoria who is out for Bella. Bella survives it all until book four. By that time, she and Edward have all their ducks in order and consummate their love in a story that only a parent could write. They have graduated from school, and as legal adults, they get married, and their "first time" happens on their honeymoon. Whew. My daughter gets out safely with good messages about sex.

Now onto the obsession part. I wondered how healthy salivating over a young hunk could be for a tween. Since Jacob (played by Taylor Lautner) runs with a pack of werewolves with enough strapped-on six-packs to make a Chippendales dancer envious, I worried about the visuals. Then I looked at any fashion billboard in America and realized that our whole media culture is sexualized, too. "Twilight" is keeping up with industry standard, for better or for worse. So, I asked my little angel what she would do if she met T-a-a-a-ylor. That's how she draws out his name. She said she thinks she would either faint or, if she could stay conscious, she might like to kiss him on the cheek.

"The cheek?" I ask.

"Like, yah," she replied. "I'm only eleven, Mom."

Of course. Now I get it. She's looking at the actors through the eyes of a young adolescent. I'm looking at those abs with the eyes of a woman who will never see abs like that in real life again. My fantasies are but sweet memories. My daughter's fantasies are ahead of her -- when she's a legal adult and on her honeymoon.

next: Don't Pick on Picky Eaters
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