Let me start with a disclaimer. I hate “Twilight”. I like to think this is an informed opinion, since I read all of the books in one sitting one weekend when our wi-fi was down. I teeter back and forth between mocking Stephanie Meyer and trying to figure out her formula for all those dolla dolla bills, ya’ll.
The book is rife with abusive themes, creepy stalker moments, nonconsensual kissing, boring prose, and heavy handed anti-sex, anti-choice messages, which pretty much sums up the opposite of what I want my daughter to absorb. Especially boring prose.
Still, I will let her read it—nay, encourage her to read it!--if she so desires.
My daughter is at that age. The age where “The Wheels on The Bus” and Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! no longer appeal, and I’ve been woefully unprepared.
She’s begun to like a lot of stuff I don’t necessarily approve of: pop music with suggestive lyrics that she doesn’t quite understand, crappy shows like Winx Club, and chapter book series that can only be described as inane considering that they revolve around either the entire thesaurus entry for “fart” or magical wish granting kittens.
I stepped into Justice for the first time ever and almost had a sequin-induced seizure from the way the lights hit a rhinestone emblazoned peace sign dress. Certainly, the One Direction techno-club-house remix radio edit didn’t help.
My first instinct was to try and figure out where I had gone wrong. After all, we listen to Metric in the car and I put on shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy and buy her Roald Dahl books. I like to imagine I perpetuate anti-suck in a world of sucky things. How had this stuff gotten in? More importantly, how would it affect her worldview?
I used to be obsessed with role models. It’s easy to blame the evil outside world for your kid’s changing personality and interests, especially if they don’t gel with what you find appropriate. Enter Stephanie Meyer. Twilight was published in 2005, the year I was pregnant, and after giving it a cursory read I swore I would never let my kid get her hands on such drivel lest she become confused about what constituted “relationships” or “literature”.
As my pregnancy wore on, I started a list of things I could not allow; sexless vampire romance novels, misogynistic music, and laughter. The inside of my uterus was like Bomont, Illinois.
My brother and I grew up together until I was seven and he was eightin a household with no TV, video games, or pop culture whatsoever. He is one of the smartest men I know and father to one of the coolest kids I’ve ever talked to, and I assumed he would validate my neuroses. I called him, distressed, about the little one’s newfound obsession with Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift.
“I can’t allow this kind of thing,” I told him. “It’s uncouth.”
He helpfully pointed out that I was well on my way to raising a very sheltered kid who would also be super lame at parties later.
“You don’t even care about the message,” he said, “You’re just pissed she’s listening to crappy music.”
Fair point. I am kind of a snob.
“But I listened to the Ramones when we were little,” I whined.
“Oh? That must have been after I lit your Hansen cassette on fire.”
Whoops. I guess I forgot about the summer of “MmmBop”.
“Kids like horrible stuff,” he said. “It’s part of the fun of being a kid, but it’s all fantasy unless you, the parent, let it become a reality. Trust me; you were way lamer as a kid than you remember.”
True. I listened to terrible music and cornrowed my hair and read Piers Anthony books and Amish romance novels. But I was also still me. I read all kinds of pretentious stuff too and did community service and slowly became awesome. I formed my own opinions and values and politics because every step of the way, there was a role model close to home that was hundreds of times more powerful than The Beastie Boys or Dawson’s Creek.
Not long ago, I talked about the way my own body issues were affecting my daughter, and how that was really sad. If you’re curious, she’s bouncing back wonderfully and thinks that my curly hair is “super gorgeous” straight from the shower.
I would have loved to blame Miley Cyrus’ teeny waist or my daughter’s Winx dolls or really anything else at all but the fact is that kids are actually pretty spectacular at looking close to home for their social cues and seeing pop culture as a kind of ephemera.
Since talking my brother, I’ve relaxed a little, and so far it’s promising. One night, during a Winx Club marathon, we watched an episode where a female character had cornered a chiseled male character for a smooch. My daughter crinkled her face in disgust.
“She can’t do that! You can’t just kiss someone without permission, seriously. Look how uncomfortable he is!”
So bring on the crap. Bring on the entire Barnes and Noble Teen Paranormal Romance section and all of the twerking. Send me your tired sexist clichés and your poor character development. I’m totally ready.
The thing that I’ve forgotten, probably due to lack of oxygen to my brain from clutching my pearls so tightly, is how stupid fun all of this stuff is. Our home has a constant flow of good conversation and positive messages. Everybody needs a little brain trash now and then. Let he who does not watch The Secret Life of The American Teenager throw the first stone.
(Image: getty images)