By Nicolle

For those of you living under a rock, Twilight is the ridiculously successful book and movie series about a small-town teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire. I’m ashamed to admit that I have read all four books. I was an outspoken advocate for avoiding the pop culture phenomenon for the exact reason I now lament: It provides young women (and young men) with an unrealistic paradigm of love and relationships.

I like to consider myself to be fairly levelheaded; my greatest strength, according to the StrengthsFinder test (if you haven’t taken it, go buy the book now – it will change your life) is intellection. “Intellection” basically means that I really like to think. I can’t turn my brain off as it internally processes conversations, ideas and reflections, and my lengthy thought process usually leads to a practical, pragmatic solution that is free of emotional confusion. I’ve even been know talk myself out of a panic attack if need be.

Photo by Kelly Cole

Because level-headedness abounds, I rarely let myself get sucked into idealistic dreaming. I focus on the present and the realistic, sometimes to my own detriment.

But, there is a hopelessly romantic side of me that my rational personality has successfully squelched. The main male (vampire) character of Twilight, Edward, mercilessly attacks this rational side of my personality and painfully lures my more idealistic, vulnerable feelings out into the open, creating an unnatural longing in me for some guy to sweep me off my feet.

Some days, I love to dwell in that place, to picture my own white knight whisking my heart away, fixing all my problems and making my life complete. But on most days, that fantasy quickly dispels into a kind of despair I know can’t be fulfilled by any one person – people are imperfect and to expect perfection out of a relationship is naïve.

In Twilight, the main female character, Bella, falls “irrevocably” in love with Edward within a few weeks of meeting him. Their relationship progresses at an unnatural, lightning speed as they begin to spend all their time together. Bella neglects her friends and her father as Edward consumes all Bella’s thoughts and feelings. Like Prince Charming, he rescues her from more than one perilous situation, and each encounter only leaves them more closely bound together.

Their relationship is built on the intense emotional feelings and connections they make in a very short amount of time. It’s an emotional lust that deceives each of them into thinking they physically can’t live without the other.

In the second book, New Moon, Edward attempts suicide when he thinks Bella has died. While I won’t disagree with the fact that separation from someone you love can feel unbearable, the implication of Edward’s choice presses false messages into the thoughts of Twilight followers. Succumbing to emotional pain to the point of suicide is a dangerous idea to hand to young readers who likely don’t know what love means.

Love in Twilight is presented as an uncontrollable and unquenchable physical and emotional longing for someone – and some parts of real love encompass hints of such desire. But, love can’t only be that fiery passion; it has to simmer at some point to allow for a deep, unconditional love to flourish.

The sarcastic fake news outlet, The Onion, recently demonstrated how Twilight has taken love too far. The story pokes fun at a fake vampire-human married couple who’ve lost their romance. The wife dives into the more “erotic” story of Twilight as an escape from her vampire husband who is no longer dark and mysterious and doesn’t often risk his life for her as Edward does for Bella.

The fictional vampire love story of Edward and Bella is just that: fiction. It doesn’t give enough credit to true love, love that realizes that life won’t always be full of adventure, and understands that the loss of intense, passionate feelings doesn’t mean love has crawled into a corner and died.

Twilight isn’t all bad. Its ideas just need to be balanced with realism in a way that promotes more of a discussion about what love is and how it manifests itself in healthy relationships.

The Twilight series is compelling and a great way to waste a weekend. What I didn’t enjoy was the aftermath of corralling a wave of emotions surrounding my love life and feeling forced to think about why my romantic relationships have never looked liked the one Edward and Bella share. And if that’s hard for me, a perpetual thinker, I can only imagine the difficulties is produces for a true romantic – or a young reader who doesn’t know any better.