Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year, you know that the Twilight book and movie series is a pretty big deal with teenage girls. Beyond the brooding, angst-ridden vampires and good-looking werewolves, I am trying to figure out why these movies have been so successful. Actually, from the "oohs" and "ahhs" I hear from my daughters' friends, the "beefcake factor" may be enough. ("I'd like two tickets to the seven o-clock showing of Taylor Lautner's abs, please.")
But I've got to think something bigger is going on here.
About six months ago, Jenifer and I were in a ladies clothing store and I noticed a Twilight book sitting behind the checkout counter. While Jen tried a few things on, I struck up a conversation with the young woman who owned it. She told me she was on her third reading of the series. I asked point-blank: "What's the deal? Why do you like these books so much?"
Her response was eye-opening. She shared with me that the books describe a wonderful, yet impossible scenario: a romantic, too-good-to-be-true man whose pursuit of the woman leaves her feeling cherished and not used. She summarized it this way: "He loves her so much that he will sacrifice everything to take care of her." As she said those words, her eyes expressed the sad reality that she had come to embrace in her own life: it's not real.
In her mind - and in the minds of most young women - men always want something. And in our over-sexed culture, that usually means some form of "putting out." The guys from Twilight are just the opposite of that.
As we talked, she shared that she currently lived with her boyfriend and that while it was a good relationship, she yearned for something more. How many girls like her are settling for second best in their relationships? I insisted to her that there were still guys who think like that out there. But honestly, I don't think she believed me. Apparently, I've officially entered my "clueless old fart" life-stage.
I read a recent article by Jonathan Zimmerman that affirms some of my theory here. In Hooking Up's Gender Gap, Zimmerman writes that the current sexual climate of "friends with benefits" results in women who ultimately lose out. It's worth a read.
Parents must train their daughters to wait on Mr. Right, even if they have to wait a very long time. And they need to be taught that when they give sex away before marriage, they are removing the primary motivator the man needs to commit. After all, why should he pursue her when she's giving him what he desires most?
Likewise, sons must be trained to love like Jesus loved: strong and sacrificial. The guy with the six-pack abs may make the girl say "oooh and ahhh" but it's the righteous and selfless young man who ultimately gets the girl. Even if he is a bit of a geek. I know this from personal experience.